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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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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.

Arizona Trail Association Seeds of Stewardship

ACE staff and Corps Members recently attended a local community service project in Flagstaff, where they partnered with the Arizona Trails Association and the Coconino National Forest to teach a large group of 75 students from the local Mount Elden Middle School about the importance of trail work.

ACE were awarded a plaque recognizing their exceptional commitment to the community and continued support of the Coconino National Forest Trails Program

ACE were awarded a plaque recognizing their exceptional commitment to the community and continued support of the Coconino National Forest Trails Program

The students arrived in the morning and gathered at the Little Elden trail head for an introduction from Coconino National Forest’s Trails and Wilderness Coordinator Sean Murphy. At this time, ACE was presented with a plaque recognizing our exceptional commitment to the community and continued support of the Coconino National Forest Trails Program. Sean also conducted a safety briefing, and demonstrated the tools that the students would be using which included Mcleods, shovels, and pick mattocks.

Tools in hand, the students hike to work led by an ACE leader

Tools in hand, the students hike to work led by an ACE leader

Th​e ​students were split up into groups of four and assigned a leader, either an ACE​ Corps Member or an Arizona Trail Steward. The groups began digging drains and check dams to direct the flow of rainwater off the trail and to make it more sustainable. “It’s important to get kids invested in the structures that they use for fun, and to teach them that trails don’t just happen–it takes a lot of hard work,” said Sean Murphy. “They will feel a little more ownership for the trails they use after this project.” The students spent a half day (about 4 hours including a lunch break) at the Little Elden Trail, alternating between working and participating in educational hikes in the area.

A.J. Conrad demonstrates techniques to the students

A.J. Conrad demonstrates techniques to the students

The event was part of the Arizona Trail Association’s Seeds of Stewardship initiative, a youth outreach, education, and stewardship program that aims to encourage youth participation in the Arizona Trail through experience, education, and service learning. “I think it’s important for younger people like myself and other ACE Corps Member to help teach these kids because we can relate to them and connect with them on a more personal level,” explained Gavin Monson, ACE Crew Leader. “I think it’s crucial to instill these conservation goals in the minds of these children. They’ll be in charge someday. If we can show them that this kind of work is important, we can help make a difference for the future.”

Students learn about tool use

Students learn about tool use

The students were enthusiastic about the work, and it was evident that they truly cared about the impression they were making on the land. “I like this kind of work because I like being outdoors,” said student Corbin Cuff. “I think it’s important because we can help the environment.” Corbin went on to explain that he would certainly be interested in doing more trail work in his future. It has been said that we will conserve only what we love, and we love only what we understand.

Everyone at ACE thoroughly enjoyed the event and we hope to participate in future events.

Hazard Tree Removal in Los Alamos, NM

A crew of 5 ACE sawyers just returned from a project removing 2 miles of hazard tress which posed a risk to ski trails around the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in New Mexico. This area had been affected by the 2011 Las Conchas Fire which burned 150,000 acres and threatened the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the nearby town of Los Alamos. After five days of burning it became the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history, although this record was broken in 2012 and the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire.

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So what makes a tree a ‘hazard tree’? The US Forest Service describes a hazard tree as ‘…a tree with structural defects likely to cause failure of all or part of the tree…” Effectively, hazard trees are dead but remain standing. They pose a danger to the public as they can fall without warning. It is therefore important to remove them from the vicinity of the trail, or ski run, to ensure the safety of the public.

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ACE sawyers are selected for Hazard Tree Felling based upon several criteria: Positive feedback from project partners and ACE Crew Leaders, demonstrating that they are interested and capable of progressing their saw skills, and, most importantly, having ample experience with the saw so that they can complete hazard tree cutting techniques safely and efficiently.

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The hazard tree training includes a review of different tree species that they may find, tree fiber structures and their effects on the felling of a tree, how to size up a complex tree, advanced cutting techniques and cuts, cut selection, and advanced wedging techniques. It’s also important the sawyers know a ‘walk away situation’ – a tree that cannot be safely felled at that time.

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At the Pajarito Mountain Ski Area the ACE sawyers felled a total of 109 hazard trees over 9 days, helping to secure the area in advance of the 2015 ski season.

Hazard Tree Crew

Hazard Tree Crew

ACE receives American Trails Award!

We are proud to announce that ACE and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) have received the American Trails Partnership Award (Level One) at The International Trails Symposium which was held in Portland, Oregon on May 19-22.

ACE - LTBMU Partnership Award

ACE – LTBMU Partnership Award

The American Trails Partnership Level One award is granted to a partnership which benefits agencies or services within the field of trail planning, design, or implementation. ACE and LTBMU of the US Forest Service have partnered on projects since 2009. Most recently ACE and LTBMU partnered worked closely together on the Eagle Falls Trail Reconstruction Project, a 2.5 mile sustainable multi-use trail. This project alone has provided more than 50 young adults with valuable trail-building and conservation experience.

AmericanTrailsNationalAwardSeal

American Trails National Award Seal

The American Trails Awards Program aims to recognize the tremendous contributions of volunteers, professionals, and other leaders who are working for the betterment of trails both nationally and internationally and in both rural and urban settings.

A big thank you to our staff and corps members who worked on this project, and to our fellow award winners and partner Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. Click here to read the full press release of the American Trail Awards.for a full description of the award and the ACE-LTBMU partnership visit the 2015 Partnership Award – Level 1 page on AmericanTrails.org

California Trails and Greenways Conference

The 30th Annual California Trails and Greeenways Conference was held at Yosemite National Park on April 22-24 2015. The conference is a 3-day training venue for trail professionals and advocates to learn practical, up-to-date trail skills; and provides a forum for collaborating on accessible and quality trail systems. The conference also acknowledges and shows appreciation for worthy individuals, organizations, agencies and businesses that, through their hard work, integrity and social responsibility, have made outstanding contributions to promote, enhance or expand public awareness and use of trails and greenways in California during the year.

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) Eagle Falls Trail Reconstruction Project, on which ACE Crews worked between April and October 2014, won the Merit Award for project development. Garret Villanueva accepted the award on behalf of LTBMU and took the opportunity to talk about the positive relationship with ACE, which has developed over the previous 6 years.

Steps on the Eagle Falls Trail - before and after

Steps on the Eagle Falls Trail – before and after

Another highlight of this year’s conference was the session hosted by ACE’s National Trails Trainer Patrick Parsel and National Trails Director, Mark Loseth. The session was titled ‘Maximizing Volunteers for Trail Work – recruit, train, retrain’ and aimed to provide land management agencies and “friends of” groups, who often rely on volunteers to perform a majority of their trail work, with the knowledge and expertise to effectively utilize the volunteer resource.

Mark Loseth presenting at the California Trails and Greenways conference

Mark Loseth presenting at the California Trails and Greenways conference

Patrick and Mark tapped into their extensive experiences of recruiting and training hundreds of volunteers at ACE, and explained how to make the most of a volunteer’s valuable time and contribution. A particular emphasis was placed on leadership skills, training methods, and methods to ensure volunteers keep coming back.

We at ACE are so very proud of Patrick, Mark, and all of the ACE corps members who worked so hard on the Eagle Falls Trail Reconstruction project last year. Thank you! We would also like to extend a thank you to the Lake Tahoe Basin Management team for your support and partnership. For more details about the California Trails and Greenways Conference please see their site.

ACE @ California Trails and Greenways Conference

ACE @ California Trails and Greenways Conference

ACE in The Corps Network Crew Leader

The latest edition of The Corps Network Crew Leader features an interview with Michael Muckle, the Director of the New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg. In the interview Michael talks about his excitement about developing a partnership with ACE, in particular putting ‘Waders In The Water’ trained corps members to work in New Jersey. The nationally recognized Waders in the Water training provides corps members with the skills and capacity to professionally complete aquatic restoration projects while preparing them for careers in the private restoration industry. Trout Headwaters Inc provides ACE Corps Members with the ‘Waders in the Water’ training that is instrumental to the project.

We at ACE are also very excited to be a part of this partnership, and to work alongside the corps members of the New Jersey Youth Corps. ACE and New Jersey Youth Corps are currently working side by side on the Mullica River headlands restoration project in New Jersey, planting native plant species.

Sunrise along the Mullica River

Sunrise along the Mullica River

For the full article please visit The Corps Network Crew Leader, or The Corps Network’s website.

Partner Showcase: Ventana Wilderness Alliance

This week we feature our partnership with the Ventana Wilderness Alliance (VWA), a non-profit grass roots organization dedicated to the protection, preservation, and restoration of the wilderness areas within California’s northern Santa Lucia Mountains and the Big Sur Coast (Featured header image. Photo credit: Brandon. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Generic License).

ACE Crew working on the Ventana Wilderness Trail System

ACE Crew working on the Ventana Wilderness Trail System

ACE’s partnership with the VWA began with the opening of ACE California in 2007. Since then ACE corps members and volunteers have contributed tens of thousands of hours of work to the protection of the Ventana Wilderness, and to the maintenance of public trails within the Ventana back country. One of the stated purposes of the VWA is to nurture effective and cooperative relationships with similarly concerned organizations, and ACE is proud to find itself within this category.

The Ford F150 truck which ACE donated to the VWA in December 2014

The Ford F150 truck which ACE donated to the VWA in December 2014

In December 2014, ACE donated a Ford F150 truck to the VWA. The vehicle is of particular benefit to Youth In Wilderness, VWA Trail Crews, and Volunteer Wilderness Rangers as they continue their efforts to preserve, protect, and restore the Ventana Wilderness. Rich Popchak, Communications and Development Director at the VWA, expressed his gratitude to ACE President Chris Baker:

“The Ventana Wilderness Alliance greatly appreciates the 4-wheel drive pickup that the American Conservation Experience donated to our nonprofit organization. Not only will this vehicle simplify the administration of our stewardship activities, it will also improve employee happiness and retention since our staffers will not have to use their personal vehicles nearly as much as in the past. This is a win-win for our organization and our education partners in the Youth in Wilderness program. The VWA is very thankful to ACE for this donation and we look forward to working together to improve trail access in the Ventana and Silver Peak Wilderness areas in 2015.”

At the time of writing, ACE Crews are at work on the network of trails in the Silver Peak Wilderness (just south of the Ventana Wilderness). The crews are performing maintenance on the Cruikshank and Buckeye Trails. In April efforts will focus on the Black Cone Trail, part of the Tassajara Trail network.

ACE would like to thank the Ventana Wilderness Alliance for their continued support and partnership!

To read more about the Ventana Wilderness Alliance please visit their website, and check them out on Facebook.

Featured Project – Mullica River Restoration, New Jersey

ACE is currently at work in the state of New Jersey, restoring a wetland area along the Mullica River. The project is a collaboration of for-profit and non-profit organizations: GreenVest LLC is the sponsor and experienced leader in ecosystem restoration projects; Trout Headwaters Inc is a Montana-based industry leader in sustainable stream, wetland, and habitat restoration; and the New Jersey Youth Corps, a ‘second-chance’ program which offers youth aged between 16-25 the opportunity to both earn a high school-equivalent qualification, and gain work skills, through meaningful community service.

ACE AZ Director Jordan Rolfe, ACE Southeast Director Adam Scherm, and ACE volunteer Bhriana Malcolm complete an 'H' brace

ACE AZ Director Jordan Rolfe, ACE Southeast Director Adam Scherm, and ACE volunteer Bhriana Malcolm complete an ‘H’ brace

ACE is working with GreenVest to install over 4,000 ft of perimeter fencing to protect future plantings in a restored wetlands area at the headwaters of the Mullica River, in the heart of the Pinelands of southern New Jersey, just west of Wharton State Forest. On March 19, the crew will complete the perimeter fence which stands 8 feet tall, which will prevent deer from eating future plantings, and restrict the access of UTV traffic that would otherwise disturb the area.

The ACE Crew secure the fence to the posts.  ACE is installing 4,000ft of perimeter fence in the Murrica River headlands.

The ACE Crew secure the fence to the posts. ACE is installing 4,000ft of perimeter fence in the Murrica River headlands.

Trout Headwaters was instrumental to this project by providing ACE Corps Members with ‘Waders in the Water’ training. The nationally recognized Waders in the Water training provides corps members with the skills and capacity to professionally complete acquatic restoration projects while preparing them for careers in the private restoration industry.

In April, after the perimeter fencing is complete, ACE crews will work alongside youth from the New Jersey Youth Corps to plant native species in and around the wetlands. After 5 years, the fencing will be removed and the restored wetlands habitat will be a thriving ecosystem.

Partner Showcase: National Park of American Samoa

Ricky Misa'alefua plays the role of ricky the Crab as the 'turtle' students of Olosega Elementary School dash from their nest to the ocean. This game aims to demonstrate the benefits of synchronized hatching and predetor swarming.

Ricky Misa’alefua plays the role of ricky the Crab as the ‘turtle’ students of Olosega Elementary School dash from their nest to the ocean. This game aims to demonstrate the benefits of synchronized hatching and predetor swarming.

ACE is proud to serve as a convergence of cultures, where American youth and their international counterparts contribute equally to important restoration projects. When the National Park of American Samoa (NPSA) asked ACE staff to visit the US territory to help develop an American Samoan corps creating jobs and promoting economic self-sufficiency for local village youth, we were honored and excited. The resulting partnership, launched in October of 2011, engaged 25 American Samoan youth who were trained under the mentorship of NPSA biologists and deployed in NPSA’s longstanding efforts to purge American Samoa’s verdant native paleotropic rainforests from the ravenous invasion of exotic Tamaligi and Red Seed Trees. ACE’s American Samoan corps members accomplished 21,000 hours of restoration work during 2012 alone.

DNA testing is conducted to increase the understanding of the population structure of the sea turtles, and how the sea turtles of the Ofu region fit into that structure

DNA testing is conducted to increase the understanding of the population structure of the sea turtles, and how the sea turtles of the Ofu region fit into that structure

Since then this partnership with the NPSA has continued to flourish. ACE has more recently been involved in further efforts to eradicate the Tamaligi trees, and also in a project which aims to mitigate further decline of the endangered Green and Hawksbill sea turtle populations in the Ofu region of the park. The sea turtle project is featured in our winter edition of ACEbook which can be read here.

The common theme of all the projects in which ACE is involved in on American Samoa is the recruitment, training, and continued mentoring of local American Samoan youth. Through ACE’s partnership with NPSA, unemployed local youth are converted into conservationalists, working to protect their native environment. To this day ACE is honored to be a partner of the NPSA, and to be involved in efforts to conserve American Samoa.

For more information about NPSA and their valuable contribution to conservation on American Samoa, please visit their social media outlets on Facebook, Instagram, the blog sphere, and the NPS website.

Installation of informational billboards such of these play a vital role in educating the public about the scarcity of native sea turtle populations

Installation of informational billboards such of these play a vital role in educating the public about the scarcity of native sea turtle populations

8 things you didn’t know about…

…AmeriCorps.

Next week, March 9 – 13 2015, is AmeriCorps Week, a time when the commitment of AmeriCorps members and alums, and the extraordinary impact AmeriCorps makes across our nation every day, is highlighted and recongized.

With AmeriCorps Week just a few days away we thought it was time for an education on AC. So here were present ‘8 things you did not know about AmeriCorps’. Thanks to Ben Pohl, our AmeriCorps Program Supervisor in Salt Lake City, for sharing his knowledge and experience of the AmeriCorps program!

  1. You can join AmeriCorps Alums BEFORE you finish up your program and reap the benefits of the group such as networking with 10s of thousands of AmeriCorps members, receive free online tax prep, and utilizes their free online resources. Click here to find out more and join!
  2. AmeriCorps was formed with a bipartisan effort from former Republican President George Bush Senior and former Democratic President Bill Clinton.
  3. There are over 75,000 AmeriCorps members each year and more than 900,000 thousand AmeriCorps members have contributed over 1.2 billion service hours
  4. AmeriCorps serve on projects in the issue areas of environmental stewardship, disaster services, economic opportunity, education, healthy futures, and veterans and military families.
  5. Some schools will match your Eli Segal education award! Click here to see a list of schools that will match your award. Contact the school directly for more details.
  6. If you’ve ever wanted to learn a new specialized skill, your Ed award can help pay for the classes towards your new hobby. Alums have previously used their ed award towards specialized classes, such as photography, EMT training, and even SCUBA certification. With all of these options, make sure to check with your education institution or student loan companies to see if they accept the Ed award as a form of payment.
  7. You can wait to use your education award until 7 years. If it is cutting is close to the 7 years you can apply for an extension!
  8. The Eli Segal Education award can be transferred to your spouse or children. Click here to find out more information.

If you know of additional little-known facts of the AmeriCorps program please feel free to share them in the comments below.

Partner Showcase: Pacific Crest Trail Association

American Conservation Experience has become a national leader within the corps movement due to the amazing partnerships we have forged. Over the coming months we will proudly showcase our partners, and help spread the word about their organizations and the work they do. This week is dedicated to to the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA), the Pacific Crest Trail’s champion and steward.

Corps members on the PCT. Courtesy of Andrew Fish.

Corps members on the PCT. Courtesy of Andrew Fish.

The PCTA is a non-profit singularly focused on the preservation, protection, and promotion of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the long distance trail that travels between the US-Mexico and US-Canadian borders, traversing the states of California, Oregon, and Washington. Stewardship of the PCT is no small feat: The PCT is 2,663 miles long with a cumulative elevation change of 402,880ft, or to put it another way, 80 miles!

View from the PCT. Courtesy of Andrew Fish.

View from the PCT. Courtesy of Andrew Fish.

ACE is into it’s 3rd year of partnership with the PCTA. The partnership is particularly noteworthy for several reasons.

First is the far-reaching geographical and temporal extent of the project. For up to 26 weeks of the year, an ACE crew works on sections of the PCTA from southern California, right up into Washington. Projects are scheduled so work is completed at the lower elevations during the winter months, and the higher elevations during the summer. In 2015 we will have 2 crews working on the trail, for 26 and 14 weeks.

Second is the level of partnership and engagement involved in each project. Along its course, the PCTA travels through public and private land. Therefore on any project there is the interest of a land management agency, such as the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management, or land owner. Furthermore, the PCTA provides a trail advisor to work alongside the ACE crew on each project. And finally, there are often some PCTA volunteers who join the ACE crew for up to 9 days at a time. This makes for a very positive experience for all involved.

ACE Crew at work on the PCT. Courtesy of Andrew Fish

ACE Crew at work on the PCT. Courtesy of Andrew Fish

This post features some pictures of a recent ACE crew at work on the PCT. Photos are courtesy of Andrew Fish, a Technical Advisor for the PCTA, who worked alongside the crew. The photos are also featured in a post that Andrew recently wrote about life as a professional trail builder which is well worth a read. For more information about the PCTA head on over to their site.

PCTA, thanks for the great work that you do preserving, protecting, and promoting one of America’s national treasures, and thank you for partnering with ACE!

ACE at work on the PCT. Courtesy of Andrew Fish

ACE at work on the PCT. Courtesy of Andrew Fish

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