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Lake Mead – Song Dog Native Plant Nursery

dsc_3249-2This past October 2016 an ACE Arizona crew, in partnership with the National Park Service, was working at Song Dog Native Plant Nursery in Lake Mead, Nevada. The scope of the project was to prepare the greenhouse and nursery to host new plants.30588307046_f23f35f14a_k

The crew was a compilation of corps members from ACE’s California and Arizona branches led by crew leader, Morgane Rigney

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The goal is to get over 30,000 seedlings to a plantable size by next year for restoration projects. ACE’s efforts were focused on helping the nursery reach this goal by assisting with an array of different tasks.dsc_3705

The nursery salvages plants that have been saved from natural disaster or construction sites, as well as raising their own plants. The crew helped clean up plant storage areas, washed pots for new plants, recycled soil from plants that didn’t make it and sowed Joshua Tree seeds.30507395192_bfc779aa64_k

Crew members prepared the cartridges for the seeds, mixed the soil, and then placed the Joshua Tree seeds into the cartridges. The nursery has a goal of over 10,000 Joshua Trees for the future. In the past crews have also assisted in the cleaning and drying of plant seeds. 30624321805_e45d52ab18_k

This project will continue into next year with crews weeding, planting and building fence for the nursery.

 

 

 

San Andres National Wildlife Refuge

p1000492-2An ACE crew assembled from Utah and Arizona just finished a month at the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge. San Andres National Wildlife Refuge’s was established in 1941 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt ‘for the conservation and development of natural wildlife resources.p1000510-2

In the beginning the refuges main focus was on the declining population of big horn sheep. In 1941 there was an estimated 31-33 animals left in that area. This refuge is unique as it is within the boundaries of the 2.2 million-acre White Sands Missile Range, which restricts public access on these pristine lands.

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The crews main objective was to cut and treat Salt Cedar. Salt cedar Tamarix chinensis is a tree that is from Central Asia. It was introduced into the western United States for erosion control purposes in the early 1900’s and has spread throughout the western United States. Once established on the refuge it out competed and eliminated all other trees. It is found primarily along the refuge springs and streams. Large density of of these trees uses large amounts of water and will take over a spring to the point that the surface water often disappears. This can be detrimental to all native species that depend on the limited water in a desert environment. To combat it, refuge staff cut the trees and applies an herbicide.

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#IamACE | Lauren Bernas

[ACE]: Can you tell me a little bit about your background?

[LB]: I was born and raised in Tucson, AZ and I stayed there for undergrad at the University of Arizona where I studied Biology and Marine Science. I just graduated in May of 2016 and moved to Sedona,AZ to enjoy the awesome hiking in my gap year before graduate school. The job I had set up in Sedona fell through and so I scrambled and find any job I could quickly, I ended up working in a hardware store in Sedona for a little bit. In the meantime I kept looking for other opportunities and quickly found ACE!

What got you interested in conservation? Can you think of a specific moment in your childhood that inspired this path?

My earliest conservation related memory is a “Donate Now to Save the Pandas” commercial presented by WWF. I was probably about 7 years old when I saw it on television and my little sister and I were horrified that the pandas could be in danger. We set up a lemonade stand in our neighborhood and mailed the couple dollars we made to WWF.

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Little Bear

I became really interested in marine science when I was a little older and a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium opened my eyes to the problems our oceans face. Ocean conservation is something I am really passionate about today and I am so glad I got to study it as part of my undergrad minor even living in the Arizona desert.

Can you tell me about one highlight and one challenged you faced so far?

The very first day of my first hitch I was in Yarnell, AZ. The rain seemed to be coming at us sideways all day due to extremely strong winds that were sending our hard hats flying and nearly knocking us over. During all of this we were benching out brand new trail on the side of a mountain. For a second I thought, what in the world did I sign up for? But then the next day the sun came out and I got to hear the story behind the trail we were making. It was being built in memory of the 19 hotshots who died while fighting a huge fire on the mountain a few years prior. Being able to look down and see their memorial site, and think about all of their family and friends to whom this trail will mean so much made me so excited to keep working on it.

The food on hitch gets an A++ rating in my book and is honestly a big highlight. My family doesn’t like to cook when we camp, we stick to a strict diet of hot dogs on a stick and cliff bars, so I get so psyched about the awesome meals we cook on hitch!

Little Bear

Little Bear

Where are you hoping that this experience leads you in the future?

Being a part of ACE, surrounded by so many like minded people who care about helping conserve our environment just as much as I do is an awesome feeling. Often it seems like so few people care about what happens to our planet so it is refreshing to work with lots of people who actively care enough to do something like volunteer in this corps. After ACE I want to go for my Masters in Sustainability, I am interested in outreach and education, specifically how to get sustainable habits to be common place in the average household. Although I am still relatively new to ACE I have already learned so much. It’s one thing to talk and learn about conservation tactics and another to go out and put them into action. ACE makes me so appreciative of all the people who have come before me and done the hard work it takes to help conserve our beautiful outdoors. I am so grateful for the opportunity to help as much as I can!

#IamACE | Alex Sloane [video]

In our ongoing series #IamACE we are very excited to bring you a new format…VIDEO! Thank you to Alex Sloane for featuring in our first #IamACE Video Blog.

Trail Maintenance | Tonto National Forest

Tonto National Forest comprises three million acres of diverse landscape located in Arizona, spanning from Phoenix in the south, the Mogollon Rim to the north and the San Carlos and Fort Apache Indian reservations to the east.

Crew Leaders Joel Marona and Josh Rosner, and Trails Trainer, Keean Ruane recently led a project on a six mile section of the Barnhardt Trail, which leads into the Arizona National Scenic Trail and the Mazatzal Wilderness. Due to the remoteness of this area it has seen very little maintenance in the past but now that the Arizona Trail leads to the Mazatzal Wilderness gaining better access to that trail has become very important.

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The Mazatzal Wilderness is a popular destination for equestrian users that require wider trails, with more brush removed, and fewer large obstacles such as rock ledge steps or off camber slick rock sections.

Two crews worked on this project, one crew starting from the top of a six mile section and the other crew towards the bottom. The main objective was to make the trail accessible to stock animals by brushing and tread widening, with the occasional step being built to accommodate stock animals in places where very large steps were present.

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In the future, ACE will have four more hitches in the backcountry area of this trail. By working on the Barnhardt trail we are hoping to re-establish this trail as one of the main access trails in the Mazatzal Wilderness that can be used by Arizona Trail through hikers for re-ups, day hikers, backpackers and equestrians.

#IamACE | Theadora ‘Thea’ Doyon

[ACE]: Tell me about your background.

[TD]: I’m from Connecticut. I went to school in LA for english actually, so I’m sort of out of my element here but in a good way. At school I just had this realization that I needed to get back out into the wilderness. Instead of getting an editing job after graduating like I had initially planned, I went to work for a nonprofit doing graphic design. I just wanted to get back to nature. I don’t have the normal background of a lot of ACE corps members–many have degrees in environmental science or something similar. It’s helped me to decide what I want to be in life. Before this I thought i’d just do an editing job and maybe work for a magazine or publishing company but then I came out here, and now I’m really focused on getting an environmental education job. I definitely feel like I can shape my experience here for my future.

What motivated you to get into the field of conservation?

When I was little I was always camping and hiking and I loved being outdoors. When I was living in Los Angeles I was really starved for contact with the wilderness and I just really didn’t feel fulfilled. On my days off I’d go on hikes and those always made me feel a little bit better. So I realized what makes me happiest is being outdoors. So when I was thinking about what to do after college, I talked to a career counselor. My counselor told me about his girlfriend who had done an Americorps conservation program and it just sounded so cool, like exactly what I wanted to do. So I looked into it because I knew I needed a change.

Can you tell me about one highlight and one challenge during your internship?

I think my challenges tend to also be highlights, because when you push through the difficult things you’re just so satisfied. For me, rock work has always been one of the greatest challenges but also one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done at ACE. I still carry around this photograph of this beautiful staircase we built on a project in Holbrook, so when people ask me “What do you do?” I hold that up and I’m like, “THIS is what I do!” I love seeing a finished rock work project. It makes you feel so good about what you’ve done. Because you’re moving tons of pounds of rock. Halfway through it you just wanna punch a boulder.

Do you think this position has helped prepare you for the future?

Yeah, I think it has. One of the great things about ACE is you have all these people who are recent college graduates and are just trying to figure out what to do with their lives. It’s fun because you’re not only doing this manual labor that teaches you hard skills, but you’re living in this community that’s really supportive and motivating. People will tell you about jobs they heard of, or you’ll do applications together, you can help each other out that way. I like that.

What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?

I would say it’s the passion of the people that I see every day. I’ve never had a bad crew leader or a leader who wasn’t excited about the work they were doing. I think that really helps, because even on your worst days the people around you are still there and still enthusiastic about getting you motivated. And you can always say, “Hey, I’m not feeling great,” or something and they’re there right away to help you and to excite you again.

Do you have any advice you’d give to someone who’s looking to join ACE?

I’d say don’t doubt yourself. I came in worried that I’d be the least prepared person in ACE. I thought everyone would have all this experience and be really physically fit, like backpacking huge distances every weekend or something. I thought I’d be so exhausted I wouldn’t be able to swing a pick. And yeah…The first few days it’s a little hard. But you see pretty quickly how easy it is to get into the rhythm of things. One of the biggest problems I had was worrying if I would be ready for ACE. But I’d say just give it a shot!

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#IamACE | Rae Robinson

[ACE]: Can you tell me about your background? Where are you from?

[RR]: I’m from Maryland, just north of Baltimore. I went to college in Virginia at the college of William and Mary. I studied biology and graduated in May. I joined ACE in August.

What motivated you to get into conservation?

In school I really enjoyed classes that focused on conservation, but I’d never actually done any hands-on work, and I wanted to try it.

How did you find ACE?

I found ACE while I was looking for jobs after I graduated, on the Society for Conservation Biology job board.

Can you tell me about one challenge and one highlight of your work with ACE so far?

Both my challenge and my highlight would be my very first project in Lake Mary. It was a month long project. Initially I struggled with getting into the physical work that’s involved with trail building. But my biggest highlight was that by the second week of that project I felt so much better, I knew how to use the tools, I was able to deal with the heat much better, I had made friends…I went from low to high really fast.

How did you motivate yourself during that initial period when you were struggling?

I just related it back to when I first found ACE online. It just looked so cool to me because it was so different. It’s not sitting in a classroom, reading a book or on the computer—you’re out there making trail with your hands and doing all this cool new stuff. So I told myself, “Okay. This is why I’m here. It’s gonna be hard, but I’m up for the challenge.” Just a personal pep talk. And of course, all the other corps members were great. They’re all going through the same challenges so they really help lift you up.

Do you have any plans for when you’ve finished your term with ACE?

Yeah. I think I want get into the field of ecology conservation. I’m applying to biology technician jobs right now, so I’d like to work either with Fish & Wildlife, or with a college—a lot of colleges hire techs on to help with their research.

Do you think ACE has helped you prepare for your career goal as a biotech?

I definitely think so. When you go to fill out these applications online, they ask you about your schooling and your background, but they also ask you about your experience with fieldwork. And that was the one thing I was missing at first. I couldn’t prove that I could hike in the backcountry or that I could work long hours in extreme conditions. Now I can say that I do have that experience. I definitely feel prepared for camping and hiking and doing all that stuff outside that would be part of a biotech job.

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about becoming corps members with ACE?

I’d say don’t stand in your own way. If you’re interested in being outside and doing this work, I’d say just go for it and apply!

Would you recommend ACE to anyone?

Yes, I already have! I have friends who like camping or hiking but maybe haven’t done the extent of what we do out here, or maybe they’ve never been out west. I’ve definitely encouraged my friends to apply.

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Restoration | Bitter Lake NWR

A crew of 6 just finished a month long hitch doing restoration work at the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The Bitter Lake Refuge sits above an aquifer, running down from the Capitan Mountains to the west of Roswell NM, and eventually feeds into the Pecos River. ACE Corps member Peter Schaffer was part of the project and shared his experiences of the project.

Being monsoon season in the south west, the crew would watch storms form over the solitary peak outside of Roswell. Sadly, the rain rarely reached the refuge to cool the crew. However even though the rain was not always there to cool the crew, they did get to witness firsthand how the water falling in the northern range would be absorbed into the system, before being pushed up towards the surface forming brackish sinkholes and leached through spring-like vents and feeding creeks and rivers throughout the refuge. ACE Corps member Peter Schaffer stated that this refuge is “truly an unsuspecting place, and, as the refuge’s visitor center tour heavily emphasized, it really is an oasis in the desert. It may seem cliche, but a closer examination of the geographical properties of this place helped put this project’s importance in perspective for me.”

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The ACE crew worked with US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) refuge staff on many of the projects and began to understand how complex restoration work is. Peter explained: “Bitter Lake struck me as a great demonstration of how uniquely balanced the desert (or any ecosystem for that matter) can be for creating a plethora of life that has evolved in congruence with the terrain. The flora in the area love the brackish water; the bugs certainly don’t mind either. There are 5 endangered species on the [Bitter Lake] refuge, most of which live in and around these vents and sinkholes. They are dependent on the land and water with which they are so uniquely intertwined, and ACE’s efforts in the past few years have been within these areas, which had been heavily affected by invasive flora. While I have worked on other restoration projects that were in the early or middle stages of treatment, I began to see how this multi-year process of hard work can pay off in truly restoring and balancing these incredibly unique area around the refuge.”

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During the final days of the project, Corps members were able to plant native grasses along one of the creeks, and within the next year or two these species to proliferate. “It’s a good example of that tortoise/hare (or jack-rabbit) mentality, which has been hard for me to learn how to accomplish and improve upon while being in ACE. It seems that good restoration work requires an innately slow, careful touch in order to be successful. Missing a plant that can pollinate and spread seed over an area means that the end goal gets pushed back further. Treating ten miles of river in a day may sound good on a project report, but it may mean that the true goal of these kinds of projects was missed. I could see how ACE had fulfilled that necessity at Bitter Lake, and I hope that our crew continued in producing that high quality of work and diligence”, Peter added.

Thanks to the crew for their hard work on the project, and to Peter for taking the time to share his experiences.

#IamACE | Mercy Iyere

This week’s IamACE features Mercy Iyere, ACE Arizona Corps Member. Mercy had very little outdoor experience before coming to ACE and now she has learned so much during her time at ACE.

[ACE]: Can you tell me about your background?

[MI]: I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. I spent a good chunk of my life in the metro Atlanta area. Right before I came to ACE I graduated with a degree in geology from Georgia State University. I’m 23 and I’ve been with ACE since October, so about 5 months.

What motivated you to get into conservation?

Right after high school I considered doing Americorps NCCC for a while, but for various reasons decided against it. Having completed college, this is my next chance to do something like that, but I didn’t want to do NCC anymore, I wanted to do something more specifically related to the environment. And that’s when I found ACE, through the corps network.

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Can you tell me about one highlight and one challenge of your term so far?

My challenge was my first physically demanding hitch. My first few projects were seed-collecting and we didn’t use that many tools. But my third hitch was a fencing project in Saguaro. It was the first hitch I’d been one where we needed to use tools, we had a lot of hiking, it was very physical. The beginning was definitely a struggle because I wasn’t used to doing that kind of work. Before ACE, I wasn’t very outdoorsy. I’d only ever gone hiking a few times.

A highlight was when I was working on the Pinal County trails project. It was the first night that I made a fire 100% on my own. It was like, “Oh my gosh! I’ve learned so much about being outdoors and being independent and proactive.”

Any plans for the future when you’re done with ACE?

No concrete plans right now. Hopefully I’ll get a job in environmental geology.

Do you think ACE has helped prepare you for the future?

Absolutely, because a lot of entry-level geology jobs are outside doing fieldwork. I think after ACE I can definitely handle working with equipment outside.

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What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?

From other jobs that I’ve had and from other corps that I see, the thing that sets ACE apart is the variety. Not just the fact that there are new people coming in every single day, but we’re not limited to projects just in Arizona—we can work on projects all over the southwest. It’s unpredictable. That makes it pretty exciting.

Do you have any advice to people looking to join ACE or who are interested in conservation?

I’d say be adaptable, and be prepared to look on the bright side. For example, sometimes you have to wake up early in the morning and it’s cold and you’re annoyed. But if you’re focused on being annoyed, you’re not going to notice how beautiful the sky looks.

#IamACE | Katt Lundy

For this week’s #IamACE, we met up with Katt Lundy, an Assistant Crew Leader (ACL) with ACE Arizona, working on the Meder Canyon Trails Project in the City of Santa Cruz.

[ACE] Can you tell me about your background?


[KL] I’m from Brooklyn, New York. I’ve been with ACE for a year. I graduated with a degree in geology.

What motivated you to get into conservation?


The whole outdoor aspect of studying geology got me into it. I wanted to continue the fieldwork aspect and do more physical practical work.

How did you find out about ACE?


The Internet, and I’ve got some friends who had worked for ACE who recommended it.

Can you tell me about a highlight and a challenge you’ve had during your internship?
A highlight for me is all the chainsaw related work I’ve gotten to experience. We’ve been on a lot of cool projects involving felling hazard trees and I’ve really enjoyed that.

A challenge has been learning how to live a different lifestyle. It can be very busy and chaotic at times. But this can be positive, because when you go on project you’ve got all this time to get to know people on a very personal level, and it adds a really nice teamwork aspect.

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You began your term with ACE as a crewmember, but you’ve recently become an assistant crew leader. Can you tell me about the transition between the two positions?
Well, I want to be a part of ACE more seriously. Being an ACL is a stepping-stone to do that. The position is different from being a crewmember because you have more responsibilities including more office-based work and driving an ACE vehicle. The transition has been pretty easy for me though.

Do you feel that the staff at ACE has been supportive of your desire to achieve a more supervisory role?
Yeah, definitely. I use the phrase ‘mutual respect’ a lot to refer to the relationship between the staff and the crews. They are really communicative and supportive.

Do you have any plans for the future after ACE? 

I’ve been thinking about going to graduate school for forestry eventually.

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Do you think that this position has helped prepare you for the future?


Absolutely. It’s given me a lot of experience with a leadership role, working with other people, technical skills. It’s been all-encompassing.

What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?


I think there’s a lot more communication and freedom to choose to do what you want…If you apply yourself you can get a lot out of it.

Do you have any advice for people looking to get into conservation or join ACE?


Keep an open mind. You can get a lot of positive things from this job if you strive for it.

Rock work | Rogers Lake (Part I)

A crew from ACE Arizona partnered with Coconino County to build a stone staircase to an overlook of Rogers Lake County Natural Area, just south of ACE Arizona’s home city of Flagstaff. This crew is also responsible for the maintenance of two trails leading to the lake: the 2-Spot Trail and the Gold Digger Trail. The latter trail is named after 1890s folklore in which outlaws, on the run from the local sheriff, dug a hole in the then-frozen Rogers Lake and deposited their barrels of gold. To this day, people come treasure hunting — some even come from out of state — according to Geoffrey Gross, Natural Resource Supervisor for Coconino County Parks & Recreation.

Coconino County purchased the Rogers Lake County Natural Area in 2010 and began trail work to improve access for visitors in 2013. Although the lake often fills with water in the spring, it remains dry most of the year. “I think the goal is to make the area more accessible destination,” said Joel Marona, an ACE Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family (GOYFF) intern.

Geoffrey Gross said Coconino County Parks & Recreation is planning to have a grand opening of the overlook by the end of summer. Over the coming days we will feature a 3 part photostory on the progress of the project to construct the stone staircase at Rogers Lake.

Crew Strategizes leverage points with rock bar

1. Rogers Lake

The Rogers Lake project includes a variety of responsibilities, but the top priority is to construct a five-step staircase, providing an overlook to Lake Rogers, its wildlife, and a view of the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff. In this photos, the ACE Corps members strategize the best leverage points for adjusting the top stair with their rock bars.

Communicating with Project Partners

2. Rogers Lake

Project partner Geoffrey Gross, Natural Resource Supervisor at Coconino County Parks & Recreation, visits the ACE crew to check on the progress.

“This crew has been great to work with and has already accomplished a lot. We already knew ACE crews are really good at stonework – they’re our go-to for stonework — and thats important as want this staircase and overlook to be a showpiece of the area.”

Gross said the overlook will have interpretative signage and spotting scopes for wildlife viewing. Elk, deer, antelope and migrating waterfowl are frequently spotted in the area, Gross said.

Look out for Part II and Part III of this photostory on Friday June 17 and Monday June 20 – links will be posted on our Facebook page.

Rock work | Rogers Lake (Part II)

Part II of our photostory following the construction of a stone staircase to an overlook of Rogers Lake County Natural Area, just south of ACE Arizona’s home city of Flagstaff.

Breaking new ground

3. Rogers Lake

Sarah Komisar begins drilling the first of five holes, the initial stage of several in a process to crack the large bedrock that’s inhibiting the placement of anchors for the staircase. Komisar said this staircase is especially challenging because it needs to be aesthetically pleasing. Komisar described searching distant rock piles for potential steps — four feet wide and two feet back — as “shopping at the rock store.”

“I’ve done a lot of rock work since being at ACE” Komisar said. “It definitely tests my patience, cause it’s so time-consuming and it’s just problem-solving all day. But I think it’s the most rewarding type of trail work, because there’s such a massive result. It’s pretty satisfying.”

Placing the feathers

4. Rogers Lake

Joel Bulthuis places feathers into the holes drilled by Sarah Komisar. Once the feathers are securely wedged into the rock, the crew will repeatedly hammer them with a single-jack, gradually stressing, and eventually cracking the bedrock.

Checking on Progress

5. Rogers Lake

ACE Corps member Joel Marona assesses the headway made on the rock staircase. Marona said that for him, this project has been a “dream hitch,” requiring technical rock work, tread work and even some chain-sawing. “I started conservation work so young, and I idolized the culture and crew leaders, but I thought it was just seasonal. Coming to ACE and being able to work in conservation year-round — it’s a dream come true.”

Part 1 of this photostory can be found here and Part 3 here.

Rock Work | Rogers Lake (Part III)

Part III of our photostory following the construction of a stone staircase to an overlook of Rogers Lake County Natural Area, just south of ACE Arizona’s home city of Flagstaff.

Feather Pitch

6. Rogers Lake

Sarah Komisar laughs as she strikes the feathers with the single-jack. Each feather has a different pitch when struck. “It’s so beautiful!” she exclaims.

Rock Chiseling

7a. Joel chiseling

After a team effort to crack the bedrock, Joel Bulthuis chisels away at the base.

Establishment of a rock staircase

8. Rogers Lake

Within just a few hours, the bedrock is mostly chiseled away, Caryn Ross and Nikki Andresen work on crushing rock beneath the third stair, for the foundation. This is Andresen’s last hitch. She said she’s most sad to be leaving her crew mates – her friends and newfound community, but that she’s grateful for her time at ACE.

“Feeling the public’s appreciation for what we do was probably the most rewarding part,” Andresen said. “In Yarnell [another ACE Arizona project], people would come up to us and say, ‘Thank you so much for building this memorial trail.’ In Apache [Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest], they’d come up and say they were so grateful for our help to save the Douglas Fir Trees. Here — I plan on coming back some day. And I know I’ll use these trails and see other people using them… I know I’ll be back.”

Drilling and crushing

9. Rogers Lake

The crew continues work on the staircase, facing Rogers Lake. We’ll revisit this story once again when the trail is finished!

Kochi Removal | Pecos National Historic Park

A crew of six Corps Members successfully finished a project at Pecos National Historic Park, a park unit that preserves the ruins of Pecos (Ciquique) Pueblo close to Santa Fe, New Mexico

The aim of the project was to mechanically remove Kochia scoria, often referred to as Kochia, a large annual herb native to Eurasia. Within the United States, Kochia is an invasive species, particularly in the desert plains of the south west. Kochia is able to rapidly spread and competes with native vegetation for nutrients, light, and soil moisture. Furthermore, Kochia releases chemicals into the soil that can suppress the growth other plants, preventing the native plants from germinating.

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While at Pecos NHS, the crew learned about the importance of restoring the park’s land in order to preserve the archaeological sites which included pottery shards and burial sites. To contribute to this restoration effort, the Corps Members used brush cutters to remove the Kochia. After 8 day of hard work the crew had covered 7.48 acres of the park, which had about 80% invasive coverage.

The crew’s favorite part of the week was working with the knowledgeable NPS staff who constantly provided them with information on the culture of the people who once inhabited the land we were working on, allowing us to put the restoration work into context.

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Bark Beetle Pheromone Installation | Apache-Sitgreaves NF

Two ACE crews are currently working on a project to protect Douglas-fir trees from Bark Beetle infestations in the Apache- Sitgreaves National Forest. The crew’s mission is to install pheromone bubble capsules to large Douglas-fir trees in campgrounds and recreation areas in the Alpine and Springerville Ranger Districts – areas affected by The Wallow Fire, a wildfire in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico that occurred in 2011.

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Preparing the MCH pheromone bubble capsules for installation

The MCH pheromone is a naturally occurring anti-aggregation pheromone of the Douglas-fir & Spruce beetles. MCH works by replicating the beetle pheromone that tells other beetles the tree is full and that the food supply is insufficient for additional beetles. Arriving beetles receive the ‘message’ that they should look elsewhere for a suitable host, thus preventing beetle infestations. The approach is environmentally safe and non-toxic to humans, pets, birds and even the beetles themselves.

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Tree identification

In past years the crews have used the grid treatment, creating a pheromone buffer around valued sites. This year the crew has switched methods to individual tree treatment.

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MCH capsule installation

Prior to starting the project, Corps Members completed a full week of training with Forest Service staff covering tree identification, compass and GPS use, pacing, tree Diameter at Breast Height (DBH), and proper capsule installation. Due to the complexity of the project crew members have learned how to fill out paperwork which captures the data for this project​.

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Feedback from the project has been extremely positive. Corps Members said that they have really enjoyed the project and all the technical skills that they have learned. They enjoy working with our project partner Monica Boehning, and appreciate her passion for the project. The crew has also enjoyed the amazing camping at Big Lake Campground and East Fork.

Restoration Work | Lake Mead NRA

ACE Arizona Corps Members have recently been working at Lake Mead National Recreation Area on a variety of restoration projects that have sought to restore native desert habitats to the surrounding shoreline.

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Seed Collection

Lake Mead is technically the largest reservoir in the United States, measured by water capacity. Lake Mead traverses the Arizona-Nevada state line, southeast of the city of Las Vegas. Formed by the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead is 112 miles (180 km) long when the lake is full, and has 759 miles (1,221 km) of shoreline. Lake Mead was named after Elwood Mead (January 16, 1858 – January 26, 1936), who was the commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation at the time when the planning and construction of the Boulder Canyon Project led to the creation of Hoover Dam, and subsequently Lake Mead itself.

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Corps Members treat invasive plant species.

The work of the ACE Corps Members Project has included native plant salvage and seed collection, native plant propagation and planting, and removal or treatment of invasive plant species that form monocultures in and around native plant locations. As part of the project, the Corps Members have learned native plant identification and a variety of desert restoration techniques.

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Desert Restoration

#IamACE | Stephany Ninette Gonzalez

Our latest installment of IamACE brings us back to our headquarters in Flagstaff, Arizona. When we caught up with her, new Corps member Stephany Ninette Gonzalez was working in one of the most magnificent parks, Grand Canyon, National Park.

[ACE]: Can you tell me about your background?


[SNG]:I’m from California. I went to school at the university of La Verne. I graduated this past January with a bachelor’s in biology. I have a concentration in pre-health, but towards the end of my studies I decided to focus more on the environment, because my senior thesis was about environmental work. Since I really didn’t take too many environmental classes during my studies, I decided when I graduated to just experience a lot of different environmental work. I’m 22, and I just started with ACE—this is my first hitch.

What motivated you to get into conservation?




I was looking for jobs and found this one through usajobs.org. It sounded really cool, it seemed like I’d be able to get opportunities in experiencing a wide variety of projects. That’s what I wanted, so I could figure out what path I want to take for my career.

Any goals for the future when you’re done with this position?




It depends on what type of work I fall in love with here. We’ll see!

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Do you think this position is helping you prepare for the future?




Yeah, definitely! Experience is a big thing in the workforce. So after ACE when I’m looking for a job, I can say, “look at all the projects I’ve worked on!” It’ll give me a foot in the door.

What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?



Other organizations that I applied for had a specific objective that you’d work on for a few months to a year, and that’s all you would learn. But with ACE, it gives you this big variety of things you can learn.

Do you have any advice for people looking to join ACE or get into conservation?


Have an open mind. You’re going to meet a lot of different people with a lot of different opinions. Be flexible.

Restorative Trail Maintenance | Grand Canyon National Park

We recently visited a crew working at Grand Canyon National Park which lies just north of Flagstaff, where ACE’s Intermountain Region Headquarters are located. The crew was performing routine maintenance on the Bright Angel Trail, the most popular hiking trail within the Grand Canyon.

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Each year, melting snow and ice cause erosion that can render parts of the trail unsafe for visitors. ACE partners with the National Park Service annually to perform restorative maintenance. “For this project, we are working on clearing a specific drain about 1.5 miles down Bright Angel Trail,” explained crew leader Isabel Grattan. “The drainage ditch on the inside of the trail was covered in rocks and boulders that were washed down after the snowmelt. This prevented the water from draining properly and caused it to destroy a retaining wall.”

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The crew began the hitch by using wheelbarrows to haul all the rocks that had fallen into the drain down the trail so that NPS staff could use them to repair the retaining wall. Safety is always imperative during any ACE hitch, but it was even more important for this project because of the numerous hikers and equestrians traveling up and down the trail throughout the day. The crewmembers had to be very alert and communicative to each other and to park visitors to ensure a safe working environment.

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The corps members worked hard throughout the hitch to move all the rocks from the drainage. The NPS employees then crushed the rocks with sledgehammers for use rebuilding retaining wall. By the end of the 9-day project, the crew and NPS had replaced a significant section of the wall with crushed rock that was 2 feet wide, 30 feet long, and 6 feet deep.

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ACE will continue working with NPS throughout the spring to maintain the popular hiking trails in the park. The Bright Angel Trail is accessible from the south rim entrance of Grand Canyon National Park.

Upper Raptor Trail, Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino NF

Recently, ACE caught up with one of our crews in the field working on multiple reroutes of the Upper Raptor trail in the Red Rock Ranger District of Coconino National Forest. ACE partnered with the USFS for this project. There are area total of 12 reroutes planned for different areas of the Upper Raptor trail, in order to re-direct visitors from unsustainable and eroded sections. The path is primarily intended for mountain bikers, but it is also useable by hikers and equestrians.

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“The project is going well so far!” Said corps member Emma Nehan. “Since the trail is meant for mountain biking, the project partner wants it to be very narrow. The soil is really sandy and easy to move, so it’s not as physically demanding as some other projects. But mentally it’s challenging because we’re going against everything we’ve been taught so far about trial building. We even used a broom to create parts of the trail!”

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The method for creating these reroutes differs from traditional trail construction because of the soil type in the area. In certain sections, the crew used a push broom to establish the tread. “On all the trails we create in the Southwest, our goal is to make the most minimal impact possible,” explained Jordan Rolfe, director of ACE Arizona. “Sometimes using a pick or shovel to dig out a trial isn’t necessary, because it will take out too much dirt and turn the trail into a water chute when it rains. In some cases we want to visually create the presence of a trail, but don’t want to move a lot of dirt if it’s not necessary, so we use brooms. This is a newer technique that we are implementing with our trail building.”

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However, more physical labor is required in different areas. The crew is also armoring sections of the trail, creating drains and retaining walls, and brushing the corridor. Another step in the process of rerouting the trail is naturalizing the old path. By doing this, the corps members help return the initial route to its original state and prevent bikers, hikers, and equestrians from accidentally using a potentially unsafe portion of trail.

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The project will span six four-day hitches throughout the spring. The Upper Raptor Trail is accessible from Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, Arizona.

Trail building | Yarnell, AZ

On January 27th, ACE crews began work on a precipitous hillside just outside of Yarnell, Arizona, to build a trail that upon completion will stretch 2.5 miles across the rocky landscape. The project is huge in scope—3 crews of 8 members will be working diligently alongside numerous crew leaders, staff members, and state parks employees for the next few months to complete their goal. However, there is another aspect of the project that gives it much greater significance. The 320-acre swath of land that includes the trail will soon become the Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial State Park, to commemorate the 19 hotshot firefighters who lost their lives while battling the 800-acre Yarnell Hill fire on the morning of June 30th, 2013.

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The trail initially traverses a very steep slope, and once crossing the ridge, descends into a boulder field with an overlook that will allow visitors to view the fatality site. They will also be able to descend further into the actual area where the firefighters lost their lives. The rocky and harsh landscape means that the building of the trail is highly technical, and crews are using a variety of hand tools, power tools, and griphoist rigging equipment to eradicate large rocks from the path of the trail and build sturdy, safe staircases to make the ascension easier for hikers. This is a big undertaking, but ACE has tackled many large-scale projects in challenging environments with tight timeframes. However, the Yarnell trail is unique because of its emotional factor. “Every project in ACE matters, but we’re not just approaching this one from a conservation point of view like we normally do,” explained Project Field Coordinator Jack McMullin. “It also has this heavy human aspect. The community has been so supportive of our work. We visited a museum last hitch because we were rained out of work one day, and speaking to the people who worked there about the fire and the work we are doing was a really amazing experience. One man who talked to us was almost in tears. It’s that emotional.”

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On Wednesday the 17th, crews were nearing completion of the first .42-mile section of the trail up to the ridgeline. “Once we cross the ridgeline, it’s boulder city. There are massive rocks everywhere. It’s going to be awesome, and so technical. The way the trail is situated is great, because this first half mile has given everyone time to get used to rock work and get some practice in, and then once we get over the hill they’ll have to really put their skills to the test,” said McMullen.

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When creating trails, ACE strives to make sustainable routes that provide a corridor for the public to safely enjoy the beauty of nature, in turn protecting the landscape itself. “We’re still focusing on those goals with this project,” Trails Coordinator Mark Loseth affirmed, “and we’ve done bigger projects than this logistically. But the product of our work here will be a dedication to the 19 men who lost their lives in the Yarnell Hill Fire. So when you think about it in that respect, it’s the biggest project that I’ve undertaken with ACE.”

ACE will continue to cover the Yarnell project until its completion. Stay tuned for more upcoming blog posts!

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Horseshoe Ranch Volunteer Service Project

Earlier in February, several ACE Corps members participated in a Volunteer Service Project (VSP) at Horseshoe Ranch Pond, part of a 200-acre ranch of expansive desert grassland transected by streams and riparian habitats that is managed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

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During the project, the Corps members installed a total of 700 feet of protective fencing.

“The crew was absolutely amazing and so efficient,” said Sharon Lashway, an Arizona Game and Fish Aquatic Wildlife Specialist who worked closely with the crew during the VSP. “Their help cut our work load down!” Corps members are required to complete either one or two VSPs depending on the length of their service term.

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#IamACE | Daniel Reyes

In the second installment of our series #IamACE, we’d like to introduce you to ACE corps member Daniel Reyes. Daniel is a crew corps member based out of our Flagstaff, Arizona branch. We caught up with Daniel, hard at work at our Yarnell project in southern Arizona.

[ACE] Can you tell me about your background? Where did you grow up?

[DR] I grew up in Central Valley California, and I went to school at Humboldt University in Northern California. I studied environmental management and protection with an emphasis in natural resources planning. I just graduated in December.

What motivated you to get into conservation?

There’s a local preserve by a land trust near my house and the use of land always fascinated me. I didn’t go out into nature much as a kid–my family didn’t do much hiking or camping or anything. But when I got the chance to get out and be exposed to it, I realized I wanted to work in nature.

How did you find ACE?

In the summer of 2014 I was wondering what to do between semesters of college. I looked around online and found a 450 hour position with ACE. It coincided perfectly with my summer break. I liked it so much that I wanted to come back!

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Can you tell me about one highlight and one challenge of your time with ACE?

My highlight would be the people. We all come from so many different backgrounds but we all have the same mindset of working hard in the field of conservation. A challenge from my last term with ACE was the heat–working in extreme temperatures in the Grand Canyon. This project we’re on right now in Yarnell is more mentally challenging. We have to use the materials that are around us to build staircases for the trail. It requires a lot of planning.

What do you think sets ACE apart from other organizations?

I think the difference I notice working for ACE is the people it attracts. The corps members in ACE seem a lot more prepared, motivated, and willing to do this type of work.

Tell me about your goals for the future when you’re done with ACE.

I’d like to work for the city or the county. I love hard manual labor and getting outside. I’m not totally sure what I’d like to do, but I think ACE has been helpful in preparing me for my future. ACE provides you with experience in the field, helps you form an applicable skill set, and you have to work together with many other people which helps you develop your teamwork skills.

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Invasive Species Removal | Saguaro National Park

Recently, we met with our crew at Saguaro National Park in southern Arizona, where 8 corps members have been stationed for a month long project. The crew has been performing invasive species transects alongside employees of the National Park Service, among other tasks. Last week, the group was specifically focused on locating the Matla starthisle, a plant listed as a noxious weed in Arizona. However, they also kept an eye out for other invasive plants such as sow thistle and buffelgrass.

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To begin a transect, the crew forms a line with about three meters between each member, and then they proceed through the desert and hunt for the specific plants. If a plant is discovered, its location is noted on a GPS unit. The primary goal of the crew during this project is to focus on the removal of invasive species, but they will also help to perform saguaro and border impact surveys and attend informational lectures. “The NPS staff we are working with are great. Working closely with them provides us a great opportunity to learn about the area from professionals,” explained crew leader Marianne Keith, “and staff at this park in particular has been great about incorporating that educational aspect into the work, which is really important to me.”

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The removal of these species is important because an invasive plant has the ability to spread aggressively outside its natural range, which can disrupt natural habitats by choking out native plant life, altering ecosystems, and thereby reducing biodiversity. The work required to remove invasive species can be repetitive, but an intimate knowledge of all the plant species in the area is imperative in order for the corps members to be as efficient as possible. Identifying plants can be especially difficult in the Sonoran desert, which is the most biologically diverse desert ecosystem in North America with over 2,000 native plant species!

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Corps members find this kind of work very rewarding. “This is my favorite project I’ve been on so far.” said corps member Autumn Rooks. Autumn started her term with ACE working for our North Carolina branch, but briefly relocated to the Arizona branch for the remainder of her term. “We’ve been learning how to identify so many different plant species that I’ve never seen before, like creosote, London rocket, palo verde, and many types of cholla.”

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ACE at The Corps Network Conference

Six ACE staff members are currently in Washington D.C. attending The Corps Network Conference. Representing ACE this year are Director of Utah, Jake Powell; Southeast Director, Adam Scherm; Director of California Operations, Eric Robertson; AmeriCorps Program Coordinator-California, Carolyn Getschow; National AmeriCorps Program Coordinator, Bradley Hunter; and National Restoration Program Manager, Afton Mckusick.The Corps Network National Conference is an annual gathering of national, state, and local leaders in the fields of youth development, community service, and the environment. Attendees include approximately 200 Directors and senior staff from Service and Conservation Corps across the country; officials from federal agencies; representatives from philanthropic foundations; and friends and supporters of the Corps movement.

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ACE is a proud partner of The Corps Network and a member of the 21CSC.

Maricopa Trail, Arizona

ACE staff and crews have returned from the holiday break and are hard at work once more restoring and maintaining public lands throughout the country. Our ACE Arizona crews have started work in central and southern Arizona where the temperatures are a bit warmer than those in Flagstaff and the surrounding area.

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The first project of the year brought our crews to Maricopa County, just outside of Phoenix. The goal of the project is to perform maintenance on the Maricopa Trail, which stretches 240 miles and connects the 10 regional parks in the area. ACE is partnered with Maricopa County for this project, and the crew has been working with John Rose, who is the trails supervisor for the region. The county boasts an extensive trail network that far exceeds many public land areas.

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The crews are performing routine trail maintenance in order to prepare for the inaugural Prickly Pedal race, which will span 40 miles. Proceeds from the race will benefit the Maricopa Trail and Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization which strives to provide sustainable financial support to the newly constructed Maricopa Regional Trail System. Preparations for the event began six months ago, and this maintenance is the final step in ensuring the safety and accessibility of the trail for the racers. Corps members are doing everything from moving large rocks (tripping hazards) off the path to re-establishing the slope, brushing the corridor, and clearing drains.

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“An important aspect of trail maintenance is clearing and repairing drains,” said Trails Coordinator Mark Loseth. “We want to create a clear path to move water off the path to prevent erosion and improve sustainability.”

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Making a route sustainable enough for continued long-term usage assures that recreation will be safe and enjoyable, which brings more people out to enjoy the land, and in turn can renew interest in nature and create new job opportunities. “This trail embodies the idea that public lands should be safely accessible for the public to enjoy and appreciate,” explained crew leader Bryan Wright. “On this trail, as with all trails we work on, the goal is to localize traffic, minimizing the impact on the vegetation and wildlife in the area.”

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The Prickly Pedal Mountain Bike Race will be held on the 23rd of this month. More information can be found at www.pricklypedal.com.

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