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ACE in Hawaii: Coqui Control and Miconia Management

Two of ACE’s Pacific West crews will be supporting the Maui Invasive Species Committee, a project of the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, within the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii with efforts to control infestations of two highly invasive species, the Coqui frog and miconia (Miconia calvescens). This work will be supported remotely by ACE Pacific West Restoration Specialist, Julia Parish, and ACE Pacific West Director Eric Robertson.

11 ACE crew members donning masks sit together in front of a stone building with lush green plants.

The ACE Coqui Control Crew quarantines together with masks in tow before beginning their invasive species mitigation work.

Upon arrival to the island of Maui last week, two ACE crews comprised of 11 individuals total began a two-week quarantine period in shared housing provided by the Maui Forest Bird Recovery Project. In these two weeks prior to starting service with the Maui Invasive Species Committee, both crews will prepare for project by participating in online training and service opportunities, including Hawaii based natural and cultural history discussions, an intensive project orientation coined “Coqui College”, and maintaining native plant outplanting sites on the housing property.  For more information on the mission of each project, continue reading below.

An ACE member in uniform smiles as they kneels to pull invasive plants.

An ACE member handpulls grasses during quarantine at the crew housing unit in Makawao, Maui Island.

Coqui control crew

Led by ACE Crew Leader Tess Herman, the ACE Coqui Control Crew will be surveying for coqui frogs and treating infested areas with citric acid. Coqui frogs (Eleutherodactylus coqui) were accidentally introduced to Hawaii on imported nursery plants. Hawaii’s native species did not evolve with amphibians, so there are no natural predators to maintain coqui populations. On the island of Hawaii, densities of coqui were recorded as high as 2,000 frogs per acre, which is more than twice the density found in their native range of Puerto Rico.

Coqui impact the quality of life of residents and visitors as their distinctive “KO-kee” nocturnal call may reach decibel levels that cause hearing damage (90+ decibels, or a motorcycle or ATV). The most significant negative impact these tiny frogs have is due to their voracious appetite for insects. Research indicates that they will eat most insects they find, except for two of the most invasive insect species in Hawaii – the Little Fire Ant and mosquitoes. Due to Hawaii’s remoteness, it is home to insect species found nowhere else on the planet, and these unique species are threatened by the presence of coqui. The ACE Coqui Crew will be working to prevent this invasive frog from spreading into upland native forests and decimating native arthropod and forest bird populations.

An ACE member in uniform flips through the pages of study material with lush tropical greenery in the background.

An ACE member flips through pages of study material outside of the Maui Island house during quarantine.

Miconia management crew  

Under the direction of ACE Crew Leader Ian Cockrill, the Miconia Management Crew will survey for and control miconia (Miconia calvescens), an invasive tree introduced to Hawaii via the plant trade industry. Miconia is native to rainforests of Central and South America where it primarily invades treefall gaps and is relatively uncommon. In Hawaii and other Pacific Islands, Miconia is considered one of the most destructive invaders of insular tropical rain forests, as it grows in dense stands which crowd or shade out native plant species, reduces rainwater recharge of aquifers while increasing soil erosion, and threatens already at risk native fauna populations as miconia reduces habitat availability. 

An ACE member and Crew Leader kneel together to look at lush grasses.

An ACE member and Crew Leader work together to identify plants near the Maui Island house during quarantine.

 

An ACE member in uniform pulls grasses near a tree as they smile at the camera.

Another ACE member contributes to maintenance around the Makawao, Maui Island house during quarantine.

Catalina Island | Planting Project

 

In partnership with the Catalina Island Conservancy, ACE Pacific West and Mountain West worked for two weeks on stunning Catalina Island. This 22-mile long island is a part of the Channel Islands of the California archipelago. Located approximately 29 miles south-southwest of Long Beach, CA, the island is home to a variety of flora and fauna.  It is estimated that the island has been inhabited for nearly 8,000 years. The island was originally inhabited by the indigenous people known as the Pimugnans or Pimuvit people who called the island Pimugna or Pimu. Territorial claims to the island passed from the Spanish Empire to Mexico and eventually to the United States. As a land of plenty, the island was used for hunting, mining, ranching and for military operations. The islands quirky history includes being once owned by William Wrigley, Jr. of Wrigley chewing gum and being the set of many Hollywood films. The land today remains largely undeveloped and wild due to Wrigley deeding 88% of the island to the Catalina Island Conservancy.  This February ACE deployed a six-person crew lead by ACE crew leader, Ali Gaugler. The objective of this project was to work alongside the Catalina Conservancy to assist them to complete funding from Natural Resource Conservation Service to restore 1111.1 acres of habitat by establishing native trees and shrubs. The mission of the Catalina Island Conservancy is to be responsible stewards of its lands through a balance of conservation, education, and recreation.By planting these native trees, this project will help restore and enhance Catalina Island’s native habitat. The crews were assisting with a process known as “out-planting.” This is the act of putting plants with established roots into the soil and usually follows with watering, as opposed to sowing, which involves tossing the seeds in a controlled manner into the soil to initiate their sprouting.

City of Boulder | Mount Sanitas Trail

In 2018, ACE Southwest began work on the Mount Sanitas Trail in Boulder, Colorado. Mount Sanitas Trail is a moderate to difficult trail which travels along both sides of the ridge, leading to the summit of Mount Sanitas. The steep grade of this trail has exposed the tread to heavy erosion over the years, which leads to loose rocks and dangerous conditions. The ACE crew in 2018 worked alongside the Boulder City Open Spaces and Mountain Parks team, to build an expansive rock staircase which totaled 39 rock steps being installed. The crew also put in a 228 square foot retaining wall. In 2019, the crew was led by ACE crew leader Kiersten Bonesteel and ACE project manager Sam Richards. This season 28 new steps were installed approximately a mile up the trail.Through the use of highlines and advanced rigging systems, the crew members moved rocks across the ridge and placed them to define the trail and create a more sustainable path to the summit. Using multiple grip-hoists and walkie talkies, crew members communicated with each other to execute successful rock movements. Once the rocks were relocated, crew members used rifting hammers, hammer points and other tools to shape and fit the rocks to sit securely in their place. This work is extremely technical and requires patience and clear communication between crew members but the results speak for themselves. ACE is thrilled to have finished another successful season of working with the City of Boulder Open Spaces and Mountain Parks and looks forward to the future of this partnership.

 

https://bouldercolorado.gov/osmp

ACE Pacific West South | Santa Margarita River

ACE Pacific West South had the unique opportunity this past fall to partner with California Trout on an invasive species removal project just outside of Temecula, CA. The eight-person ACE crew led by Joseph Ortiz worked alongside the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in the Santa Margarita River.  Electrofishing is a common scientific survey method that is often used to determine species abundance and density. When used in surveys, the fish are usually measured and recorded and then returned to their habitat unharmed. For invasive species removal, electrofishing is used to briefly stun and slow down the non-native species so that they can be removed manually from the habitat. This method allows the native species to quickly recover from the electric shock and return to their natural state. Electrofishing uses direct current electricity, which flows between a submerged cathode and anode. The current causes the fish to swim toward the anode where they are removed using nets and buckets. Once the US Fish and Wildlife Service and CA Department of Fish and Wildlife administered the electric current, the ACE crew members followed with nets to retrieve the fish. The crew also assisted in surveying, classifying, and using extermination techniques for invasive fish. In situations where the river was too high to administer the electric current via standing on the river bed, the team utilized a small pontoon to get the job done safely.The species removed included green sunfish, black bullhead, golden shiner, bluegill, largemouth bass, mosquitofish, American bullfrog, and red swamp crayfish. These species do not exist naturally in this area and outcompete the native species for food and resources. The project will continue in the fall of 2020.  ACE is excited to have had this unique opportunity to learn about these techniques alongside our partners in the field. 

Mental Health Awareness and Graduate School

By Alysha Page

In honor of Mental Health Awareness month I thought it  important to open up a conversation about navigating work, personal life, graduate school, and keeping up your mental health.  According to a study done by Harvard University, due to the strain and stress of courses Graduate students are three times more likely to suffer from mental health disorders and depression than your average citizen. Something I have learned during my nearly six years in graduate school (Master’s degrees and Ph.D.) it is always important to take time out for yourself.  Degrees are important and so are deadlines, but nothing can be completed unless you take care of yourself first. As a Black woman in higher education I am all too aware of the desire to succeed under great pressure. Your stressors can be compounded or changed based on your ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality, etc. faculty at your institution, or even work environments. Stress touches everyone’s life and  is unique to each person. 

Taking care of yourself can present itself in many ways, whether it be talking to a school counselor, friends, or just taking a day off for self-care. It is important to remember when working on an extended internship like ACE/CRDIP never hesitate to communicate with your supervisor about your needs.  If you need time off to take care of school work, family emergencies, or just to process all that is going on, let them know. There is a great deal of stigma surrounding mental health and in the past decade there have been great strides forward to normalizing seeking help and comfort. Your team is there to help see you complete a successful internship, so your mental and emotional health is a top priority. 

One of the ways that I have been taking care of my mental health is through hiking and taking some time out from meetings and writing the Company L Special History Study to meet incoming interns and taking trips to Canada. The second full week of May I had an outline meeting with the second readers on the project. In celebration of this successful weekend I traveled to Whitehorse, Canada. Small breaks are so important after long hours especially when far away from friends and family. How do you take care of your mental health?

Figure 1: At times you can feel like you are two places at once when you are working on a PhD. in Washington, D.C and 4,000 miles away in Skagway, Alaska. The task is to enjoy the duality. (Me somewhere in Canada along the ALCAN Highway)

Until next time, Farewell!

Kolomoki State Park | Trails

This April, ACE Southeast worked with Kolomoki Mounds State Park in southwestern Georgia near the Chattahoochee River. Kolomoki Mounds is one of the largest and earliest Woodland period earthwork mound complexes in the Southeastern United States. The mounds were inhabited by Woodland Indians from 350 to 750 AD. The Iroquois, Cherokee, and Mound Builders are referred to as Eastern Woodland Indians because they inhabited the forests of the East.

The historic significance draws people into the park but there is also a wide range of outdoor activities to take part in once you are there including fishing, boating, camping, and hiking. ACE is partnering with this state park for the first time to work on trails that were impacted by Hurricane Micheal in October of 2018. Hurricane Micheal was the first class five hurricane to hit the contiguous United States since 1992. The high winds caused trees to blow over on the trail resulting in temporary trail closure.

The crew worked at the site for five days with chainsaws, handsaws and other brushing hand tools. The crew, led by ACE crew leader, Nicole Macnamee cleared 105 logs along 3.5 miles of the Spruce Pine and Trillium trails. The remainder of the work will be completed later this spring. ACE is excited to have the opportunity to work with Kolomoki State Park and to be contributing to its beautification.

 

https://gastateparks.org/KolomokiMounds

Travel to Skagway

By Alysha Page

The New Year brought with it a great deal of change, one of them being a big move from Washington, D.C. to Skagway, Alaska with the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. This journey was full of excitement and a bit of apprehension. Excitement to finally be meeting the wonderful Resource team I have spent the last seven months working with on the Buffalo Soldiers Company L, 24th Infantry project. The apprehension came from moving to a new location far away from home and the lack of resource access to complete my Ph.D. course work during the second longest government shutdown in American History (the first being in December of 1995 during the Clinton Administration). This next chapter of my life will definitely be a balancing act. I am excited to watch my skills develop, and I have no doubt in the support of the KLGO team and CRDIP/ACE.

 

Figure1. A must have selfie of me anxiously waiting inside the cabin of the small seaplane.

Bright and early I set on my flight from Indiana, my hometown, to Seattle, Washington. Landing in Seattle Airport was that first moment that I realized, “Oh wow! I am really going to be living in Alaska for a year. Here we go!”

Figure 2: The Alaska Seaplane I flew into Skagway, Alaska in after it landed safely.

The trip to Skagway is not a simple journey, especially in the dead of winter. During my entire journey all I could think of is how difficult and time consuming it must have been for over a hundred African American men with all their gear to travel from Seattle to Skagway in 1899. It took fourteen hours and a great deal of stamina to just arrive in Juneau with all the modern conveniences. I can’t even fathom doing that prior to the turn of the century.

Once I finally landed in Juneau I had one more night before I could complete my final leg of my journey Juneau to Skagway, Alaska small seaplane ride that only can hold four passengers at a time. As long as the weather held and the skies were clear I’d make that trip bright and early at 9 AM AKST.
I think my family back home were more nervous about my flight than I was.

Figure 3. A photo of Jueanu, Alaska right after takeoff.

The thought of experiencing an intimate aerial view of Alaska was way more alluring than the fear of being in such a small plane. The views were resplendent and awe striking. This was an opportunity that not many experience and I felt incredibly lucky to have the opportunity. Thanks to the mentorship of Dr. Clark-Lewis and the strong relationship that HBCU has with the NPS, I was able to make such a beautiful journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 4: Inside the seaplane cabin. This photo shows you just how small the seaplane was, seats about 6 people including the pilot and co-pilot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 5: Beautiful view of Alaskan glaciers or frozen waterfall

Figure 6: If I’m not mistaken, this is a photo nearly in Skagway of the Lynn Canal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next time, Farewell!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunting Island State Park | Diamondback Rattlesnake Trail

       Hunting Island, South Carolina gives life to non-typical work environment for our ACE Southeast branch. The island’s semi-tropical climate is home to cabbage palmetto, live oaks draped in Spanish moss and towering slash pines, which paint a different picture for the corps members whose office usually take the form of the Appalachian Mountains and deciduous forests.

 

This past August, a Southeast crew led by ACE Crew Leader, Nicole MacNamee was in charge of the rehabilitation of the Diamondback Rattlesnake trail at Hunting Island State Park over the course of two project weeks. This trail, which is 2.3 miles, connects the southern end Nature Center to the northern end Park Office. However, the trail has been out of commission in the aftermath of hurricane Matthew. The hurricane brought down trees and debris leaving the trail almost indistinguishable. Flooding and the lack of regular cyclical maintenance have caused the trail to become overgrown with vegetation as well.

The ACE crew brushed back vegetation and grubbed out roots where necessary with a combination of chainsaws, brush cutters and hand tools to open up the corridor to 6 feet wide and 8 feet high. Much of the tread surface, comprised of sand, has been covered by a thick layer of duff made of pine needles and oak leaves. The tread was re-exposed by raking off the duff layer using a combination of leaf blowers, McCleods, and hand rakes.

To avoid the heat of the day, the crew started work at 6:30 am but were fortunate to camp on the beach for a post-work reprieve. This state park is very popular, bringing in upwards of a million visitors each year to hike its trails and witness the areas’ wildlife and beaches. ACE is proud to be a part of rehabilitating this trail to allow visitors to hike along its ancient sand dunes and semi-tropical maritime forest once more.

https://southcarolinaparks.com/hunting-island

ACE Northern California — Restoration in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Between the magnificent, blue Lake Tahoe and the towering massif of Lassen Peak in northern California lies a stretch of forest that many folks, including most Californians, know little about. Containing 127,000 acres of intact old growth fir and pine forest and 75 miles of Pacific Crest Trail, the 1,146,000 acre Plumas National Forest embodies the heart of California’s northern Sierra Nevada. Places like Bucks Lake Wilderness, the steep canyons of the Middle and North Forks of the Feather River, historic Indian Valley and 640-foot Feather Falls represent the Forest’s broad diversity of vegetation, topography and recreational opportunities.

Project partner USFS Botanist Jim Belsher-Howe (middle) is flanked on his right by ACE crew leaders Jack Colpitt and Kaye Thomas and on his left by ACE Restoration Coordinator Dennis Frenier and ACE National Forestry Program Manager Carl Nelson.

In 2017, American Conservation Experience’s northern California office, based in South Lake Tahoe, launched a 5-year, $250,000 partnership with the Plumas National Forest. Restoration work would include invasive plant control and conifer thinning to enhance rare aspen stand health and sensitive species habitat.

Gridding for yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) on the rocky banks of the North Fork of the Feather River at a place called Misery Bar.

 

It may not look like much, but this is a grouping of Webber’s milkvetch (Astragalus webberi), found at Misery Bar. This critically imperiled plant is found only in the Plumas National Forest. Its habitat greatly threatened by quickly spreading invasive plant species.

In 2018, priority invasive weed projects will take place in several wildland fire scars — the 52,000-acre Storrie Fire, which started from an accidental ignition by the Union Pacific Railroad in 2000, and the 65,000-acre and heavily litigated Moonlight Fire which occurred in 2007. ACE crews will work in these areas through the summer. Manually and chemically treating encroaching weeds like Canada thistle, yellow starthistle, spotted knapweed, invasive mustards and medusahead rye.

Working under the burnt remains of the 2000 Storrie Fire.

 

Yellow starthistle control by hand.

ACE’s Northern California office is young and eager to grow. Led by enthusiastic and newly positioned Patrick Parcel, the branch looks to evolve and spread their restoration program. “That’s definitely a huge goal of ours,” says Patrick. “We not only want to continue to build our relationship with the Plumas, but soon expand our restoration work to the Sierra and Inyo National Forests.”

This hitch’s tough crew led by Jack Colpitt and Kaye Thomas on the left.

Coronado National Forest – Bark Beetle Treatment

A 10 person ACE Southwest crew completed a project in the Coronado National Forest with the goal of protecting the fire-weakened forest from potential bark beetle invasion. Over the course of three months, the crew learned some serious orienteering skills and tree identification.

Crews deployed pheromone caps across 550+ acres. The areas that were treated were identified by the Forest Service as Mt Graham Red Squirrel habitats. ACE crews helped the Forest Service confirm locations of this endangered animal. At last count, there were only 35 remaining in the wild!

Two different types of pheromone caps were used. MCH and Verbenone. They are anti-aggregate pheromones that essentially tell a bark beetle that is searching for a place to lay their eggs that the tree is full and to keep on flying. The bark beetle then flies to the next tree and is told the same thing “sorry the inn is full! No vacancies!” Eventually the bark beetle gets too tired to continue to fly and dies.

The MCH packets protect Douglas firs and Verbenone protects southwestern white pines from bark beetle attack. This was a unique restoration project for our ACE’rs and we are so proud of the contribution made by our team.

 

 

 

ACE California – Fort Ord Dunes Native Species Planting

ACE has been planting native species in the Ford Ord dunes since late November 2017. By the conclusion of the project, over 23,000 will be planted. Located on Monterey Bay, Fort Ord offers beautiful ocean views, and is now an area of recreation for tourists and locals alike.

Marisa, a 900 hour Americorps member, clears a patch of dead Ice Plant to make room for a Beach Aster sapling. In one day, Marisa will plant about 100 of these. By replacing the invasive Ice Plant with the native Beach Aster, the Fort Ord Dunes are likely to see a positive reduction in erosion, water consumption, and wildlife populations as the saplings grow and reintroduce themselves to the coastal habitat.

Marisa, a 900 hour Americorps member, clears a patch of dead Ice Plant to make room for a Beach Aster sapling. In one day, Marisa will plant about 100 of these. By replacing the invasive Ice Plant with the native Beach Aster, the Fort Ord Dunes are likely to see a positive reduction in erosion, water consumption, and wildlife populations as the saplings grow and reintroduce themselves to the coastal habitat.

Human History: Land use and impact

There is no mistaking the immense impact humans have had on the area. Evidence of this can be seen by both natural and unnatural materials on the dunes.

Fort Ord was originally an Army installation that encompassed 15 rifle ranges, officially closed in 1994. To this day it is not uncommon to find bullet casings in the dunes. ACE Crew leaders and Americorps members underwent bomb recognition training in the event any explosives are found while working.

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“Restoration is experimental because it will take a while to see the effects of our efforts. Restoration is such a large part of conservation, when you’re trail building it’s easy to forget that.” -Jesse, Americorps ACL

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Natural History and Restoration:

Since November 2017, ACE staff and crew have been working alongside California State Parks representatives at Fort Ord Dunes State Park in a longer-term habitat restoration effort. ACE crews are now planting natives in soil beneath the dead Ice Plant, including Beach Aster, Coastal Buckwheat, Lizard tail, Sticky Monkey Flower, Sage Brush, Sage Wart, and Lupin. Each four-day project produces about 4,000 new plants. Reintroduction of these native plants will have a lasting impact on the area, improving water intake, plant biodiversity, and native animal populations.

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Green patches of native plants are reemerging after a past herbicide project cleared the Ice Plant. The Smith’s Blue Butterfly used to thrive in this area, particularly due to the native Coastal Buckwheat.

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“It’s nice to plant instead of just ripping plants out. Some people want to learn about biological systems, so this is a good learning opportunity.” -Vince, AmeriCorps ACL

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“I’m into restoration and I’m down to be any part of the process, but planting feels the most valuable. My background is in ecology and I feel that this is in line with my education. Seeing whales is a big highlight too.  -Marisa, AmeriCorps member

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Bryce Canyon | Forest Thinning

ACE has taken part in multiple forest thinning projects across the Southwest over the last several years. Each project has had a similar objective in mind: wildfire prevention. Each year wildfires have increased in severity and occurrences, and it has become more crucial than ever to remove the lower level fuels that allow them to become more severe.

Fall of 2017 proved to be a very busy time for our ACE Utah crews in regards to fuels reduction. Crews performed forest thinning in beautiful, Bryce Canyon National Park, for an eight-day project. 

A blue ribbon is tied to the fence on the corner of West Clay Avenue, Flagstaff March 22nd, 2017.

Forest thinning helps to prevent wildfires from becoming catastrophic. ACE’s part in this aspect of wildfire prevention is to remove any trees that would serve as ladder fuel. Ladder fuel is a firefighting term for live or dead vegetation that allows a fire to climb up from the landscape or forest floor into the tree canopy. This means cutting down any tree species that are easier to catch fire, trees of a specific diameter, and removing any dead or down trees.

The crew comes off of a lunch break at one of the canyon's overlooks.

The crew comes off of a lunch break at one of the canyon’s overlooks.

In Bryce Canyon National Park the ACE crew was led by crew leader, Brandon Lester. The primary objective of this project was to protect limber pines and bristlecone pines as well as Douglas firs and Ponderosa pines. Douglas firs and Ponderosa pines are being protected because they tend to be more resilient against wildfires. By keeping these more resilient species and thinning more flammable species, the forest becomes less prone to catastrophic wildfires. The bristlecone pines are being protected because in this area they tend to be very old and the limber pines are being protected because they are a more rare species. By selecting certain species ACE is working to create a healthier pine forest.

 

Crew members swamp branches and trees that have been cut into piles for prescribed burns that will be conducted by the parks service.

Crew members swamp branches and trees that have been cut into piles for prescribed burns that will be conducted by the parks service.

To do this the crew was reducing the number of flammable species such as white firs and some of the Douglas firs that could potentially become ladder fuels. The crew was also targeting trees that were growing in clumps and trees that were growing too close to the species they were trying to protect. For example, the crew was not directly targeting Douglas firs but if there were any Douglas firs growing too close to a Ponderosa pine, then the crew would remove that tree.

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During this single eight-day project the crew aimed to thin approximately three acres within the park. ACE is incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to return to work in this beautiful national park and look forward to our continued partnership with the National Park Service and our friends at Bryce Canyon National Park.

For more information on Bryce Canyon National Park click here: Bryce Canyon National Park

 

 

 

 

Grand Canyon National Park – Trail Maintenance

One of ACE’s longest running partnerships is with the Grand Canyon National Park. This past summer and in to the fall ACE crews worked on several of the many trails in and around the canyon.

A blue ribbon is tied to the fence on the corner of West Clay Avenue, Flagstaff March 22nd, 2017.

ACE had two crews working on two different trails in the canyon, the Bright Angel and the Hermit trail. The crew on Bright Angel was led by ACE crew leader, Hannah Baskin and the Hermit trail crew was led by ACE crew leader, Stephanie Gonzales. Both of these trails experience heavy foot traffic in the summer months. In addition to hikers, the Bright Angel trail also supports mules tours as well as pack mules throughout the year.

A blue ribbon is tied to the fence on the corner of West Clay Avenue, Flagstaff March 22nd, 2017.

Both crews were performing cyclical maintenance on the trails. This usually encompasses widening tread, clearing drains, reinforcing water bars, brushing and clearing the trail of any obstacles. The canyon trails require attention all year long because of the constant erosion that happens within the canyon walls.

A blue ribbon is tied to the fence on the corner of West Clay Avenue, Flagstaff March 22nd, 2017.

On the Bright Angel trail the crew was performing general maintenance as well as assisting the National Parks Service trail crew with a rock work project. Some of the crew members were on patrol to make sure that hikers were safe while the work was being completed and other crew members got to try their hand at the rock drill.

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On the Hermit trail the crew was using a grip hoist to move some large boulders from the trail. Using rock bars the crew was able to move boulders out of the main trail and repair parts of the trail that were eroded by flooding.

A blue ribbon is tied to the fence on the corner of West Clay Avenue, Flagstaff March 22nd, 2017.

Going into the fall ACE crews will continue working further down the Bright Angel Trail and eventually to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. Our staff and corps members continue to feel grateful that they are able to serve in and contribute to the protection of this park.

A blue ribbon is tied to the fence on the corner of West Clay Avenue, Flagstaff March 22nd, 2017.

Arizona Trail | Pine, AZ

ACE Arizona has been working with the Arizona Trail Association on several different sections of the 800-mile trail. In September ACE had a crew led by Katherine Dickey and Natalie Kolesar working just outside of Pine, AZ. Over the course of two eight-day projects, the crew worked on general trail maintenance as well as building rock structures and building footbridges with timber construction.

Crew members debark the logs to prevent the logs from rotting.

Crew members debark the logs to prevent the logs from rotting.

The crew put in two puncheon foot bridges within approximately the first mile of the trail. The process of putting in these creek crossings involves debarking, “ripping” the log, hauling the split logs up to the puncheon sites and setting them in place. Ripping refers to the act of splitting the tree lengthwise; each half provides the walking surface of the bridge. The bark is first removed from the tree trunk because the bark holds in moisture, to keep these wood structures from rotting the bark is scraped off by hand. To set the logs, the crew members dig holes for smaller logs to sit in on either side of the creek. Those logs are then reinforced with crush (small rock fragments) to hold the logs in place. Then, the larger logs receive saddle notches so that they fit like puzzle pieces on top of their smaller counterparts.

National Trails Trainer, Mark Loseth teaches crew leader, Katherine Dickey to make measurements on the log for saddle notches.

National Trails Trainer, Mark Loseth teaches crew leader, Katherine Dickey to make measurements on the log for saddle notches.

The purpose of putting in bridges over creek crossings is to prevent erosion and sedimentation in the creek. This area of Arizona is a very delicate riparian zone. It is one of the few places in Arizona where you can see a multitude of tree species including maple and alder trees. This type of lumber work requires a lot of measuring, leveling, and precision with the chainsaw. ACE National Trails Trainer, Mark Loseth visited the crew and made sure that crew was entirely equipt with the tools and knowledge to get the work done.

Crew members roll the log into position to be cut.

Crew members roll the log into position to be cut.

During the second half of this project, the crew built armored drain pans along some of the eroded parts of the trail. The armored drain pans protect the path and direct water off of the trail. A multi-tiered rock wall and rock steps were also put in by the crew during the duration of this project.

Crew Leader, Katherine Dickey rips the log in half to create the platform for the footbridge.

Crew Leader, Katherine Dickey rips the log in half to create the platform for the footbridge.

ACE has been fortunate to have completed multiple sections of trail work along the 800-mile Arizona Trail and would like to thank our partners at the Arizona Trails Association. For more information on this trail follow the link below:

https://aztrail.org/the-trail/

Crew members haul the logs by hand to the puncheon sites.

Crew members haul the logs by hand to the puncheon sites.

Dry Lake Hills Forest Thinning

ACE Arizona is continuing work on an 18-week forest-thinning project in the Dry Lake Hills region of Coconino National Forest, just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. ACE is partnering with the City of Flagstaff Fire Department and the US Forest Service to complete this hand-thinning project.

Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem in this region. Historically, wildfires would burn across the forest floor, clearing out the dead and lower branches of trees, making way for a diverse understory of grasses, sedges, and forbs. After a century of fire suppression, logging and grazing, thick ground fuels and a ladder of dead branches have resulted in increased risks of crown fires. Numerous studies based on Forest Service data show that 90% of the trees on Southwestern forests are 12 inches in diameter and smaller. It is the high density of these small trees that represents the greatest fire risk.

In 2010, the Schultz fire burned 15,000 acres and caused between $133 and $147 million in economic damages to the Flagstaff community. The Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP) conducted a study that concluded that post-fire flood impacts in the Dry Lake Hills region have the potential to result in significant damage to downstream watersheds. Catastrophic wildfires cause severe floods when they burn the vegetation that would normally absorb the rainfall, leaving the ground charred, barren, and unable to absorb water.

The Forest Service silviculturist has written prescriptions for five sections of the 100-acre area being thinned by the eight person ACE crew. The crew will be felling trees that are 9 inch diameter and smaller. After felling and bucking up the trees, the crew will be building piles for future prescribed fire operations. City of Flagstaff Fire Department Operations Specialist, Matt Millar, and ACE crew leader, Katherine Dickey, are overseeing this project. ACE is honored to participate in this effort to create a healthier ponderosa pine forest for the residents of Flagstaff.

Arizona Snowbowl Spruce Bark Beetle Removal

This August, an ACE Arizona chainsaw crew worked to remove the spruce bark beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) from Flagstaff’s backyard ski area, Arizona Snowbowl. Crew leader Shelby Descamps provided excellent leadership to the ACE crew for two, eight-day projects.

 

The spruce beetle has caused extensive tree damage to all species of spruce throughout the West. In order to deposit their eggs, female bark beetles bore into the bark of dead or dying spruce trees and lay eggs in the underlying phloem tissue. While these beetles are a natural part of the ecosystem, inhabiting dead or dying trees, they often become overpopulated and infect living trees as well. A combination of natural factors that impact forest health such as drought, dense forest stands, fire suppression, and past grazing practices contribute to conditions that foster bark beetle outbreaks. In the past 25 years, outbreaks have resulted in estimated losses over 100 million acres in Arizona (U.S. Department of Agriculture and Forest Service).

 

In attempt to prevent future tree loss, ACE partnered with the Arizona Snowbowl to remove the bark from fallen and dead trees to remove the larva. With a log debarker attachment for chainsaws, crewmembers were able to peel off the bark and remove the larva. ACE is proud to be working in the Flagstaff community to help preserve the spruce population.

 

Invasive Species Removal at Chimney Rock State Park

A blue ribbon is tied to the fence on the corner of West Clay Avenue, Flagstaff March 22nd, 2017.

A blue ribbon is tied to the fence on the corner of West Clay Avenue, Flagstaff March 22nd, 2017.

ACE Asheville and the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) have been partnering on a variety of projects since 2014. Each year ACE provides approximately seven weeks of human power in the summer and seven weeks in the fall to the CMLC. Together we work to protect the natural communities and scenic beauty of the Hickory Nut Gorge by managing the establishment and spread of non-native invasive plants. (Fun fact: the area is located near Lake Lure, North Carolina, which was the film site for Dirty Dancing and Last of the Mohicans.)

The summer project was located at Chimney Rock State Park and was lead by ACE crew leader Jess Coffee-Johnson along with Weed Action Coalition of Hickory Nut Gorge’s (WACHNG) Natural Resource Manager, David Lee. We treated three priority invasive species: kudzu (Pueraria montana), princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa), and tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima). The crew treated the invasives by cutting the vines as well as using herbicide sprayers. Working in two groups, sprayers and brushers, the crew scaled the hillside in organized groups, each person in their designated section.

Kudzu spreads at approximately 150,000 acres per year, which is how it earned the nickname “the vine that ate the south.” This rapid spread is why ACE returns every year to treat and prevent the spread of these invasive species which compete for resources with native plants.

ACE will be returning to work with the CLMC in September to continue treatment.

 

 

 

Carriage Trail Restoration at Moses Cone Memorial Park

ACE partnered with the National Park Service and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation for an 18-week restoration project at Moses Cone Memorial Park. This national historic site receives 250,000 visitors a year and is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near the town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina. The park preserves the country estate of Moses Cone, a textile entrepreneur, naturalist and conservationist who lived in the late 1800s. It encompasses 3,500 acres including 25 miles of carriage trails now used for hiking and horseback riding, as well as a twenty-three-room mansion called Flat Top Manor.

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The primary objective of this project was to restore the 25 miles of carriage roads to their historic width. Lead by Corey Harrison, the crew accomplished this by brushing back vegetation with mechanized equipment including pole saws, chainsaws, and a wood chipper. By protecting and restoring the cultural landscape at Moses Cone, the ACE crew is providing sufficient width for carriages, horses, hikers, maintenance equipment, law enforcement patrols and rescue vehicles.

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Colorado Springs Rock Work and Trail Restoration

A blue ribbon is tied to the fence on the corner of West Clay Avenue, Flagstaff March 22nd, 2017.

This past spring ACE Arizona had a crew working in Colorado Springs along side the University of Colorado.

The crew was working a trail system located along a hillside that cuts through the university campus. Due to its location on the hillside the trail has been subjected to erosion from rainfall. One of the crew’s main objectives was to fill in major ruts and holes along the trail as well as removing rocks that have been uncovered by rain.

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The crew’s goal was to build two armored drain pans that will direct the rain off the path and protect the trail from future erosion.  The eight day project was lead by crew leader, Nicole Cuaz

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The extensive rock work required the use of rock movers, rock drills, and trial and error to find the perfect rocks to fit the armored drain pans. The armored drain pans were supported by two multi-tier retaining walls which slow down the water flowing off of the armored drain pans.

A blue ribbon is tied to the fence on the corner of West Clay Avenue, Flagstaff March 22nd, 2017.

The university is making an effort to expand and improve their trails systems to encourage students to hike and bike around campus as opposed to driving. The work was fully completed during this one project and will protect that trail for years to come. ACE was happy to lend a hand on this project and would like to thank the University of Colorado.

A blue ribbon is tied to the fence on the corner of West Clay Avenue, Flagstaff March 22nd, 2017.

Garrapata State Park – Big Sur, California

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Since January of 2017 ACE California has had a crew working along the coast in Garrapata State Park. This ongoing project is the first in partnership with California State Parks, a relationship ACE hopes to continue to build in the years to come. The ACE crew has been lead by Kevin Magallanes since the start of the project and will continue to be lead by Kevin until its completion.

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ACE corps members have been working on two different projects with the California State Parks crew. Half of the crew were building wooden steps along the trail. With the use of drills, saws, and the frequent double checking of measurements the crew constructed the wooden base for a staircase that will later be filled with small rocks. These steps make the hike more easily traversable by reducing the trail’s steepness.

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The other half of the crew was building a multi-tier retaining wall which will be a lookout over the coast when it is completed. “Rock work is this strange meditative process,” explained Jesse Wherry who has been on the project for three months, “you can spend your entire day on something and in the end you just have to take it all down.” This extensive amount of rock building requires a lot of patience, skill, and experience from the crew members.

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The crew brought on three new members during this project who got to learn about both rock work and step building. This lookout is one of two multiple week long projects that the crew will complete for the trail. ACE looks forward to the continuation of this project over the upcoming months in the best office anyone could ever ask for.

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