News.bytes Extra, issue 500
National Public Lands Day, 2011
Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
A before (left) and after (right) shot of a trail being weeded by volunteers at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
In celebration of National Public Lands Day, the Palm Springs-South Coast BLM field office in conjunction with the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and Friends of Big Morongo hosted a volunteer weed pulling/trail maintenance event at Big Morongo Canyon Preserve in Morongo Valley, CA. The 31,000 acre Preserve and Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) is managed by BLM to preserve its outstanding natural and scenic values as well as recreational opportunities within a preserve environment. This area is characterized by steep canyons, rugged terrain and includes an internationally recognized desert oasis and marsh that is one of the 10 largest cottonwood and willow riparian (stream) habitats in California. It is also identified by the Audubon Society as one of the most important avian habitat areas in California.
Volunteers being welcomed at the beginning of the day (left) and then weeding trails (left, center)
Volunteers from the NPCA, US Marine Corps, Friends of Big Morongo, and Friends of Giant Rock helped BLM staff to remove several invasive plant species including fivehook (Bassia hyssopisolia), cheat grass (Bromus tectorum), foxtail (Setaria spp.), tamarisk (Tamarix ramosissima), and pigweed (Amarantus spp.). BLM firefighters from Engine 3636 were also there to provide extra workers and emergency medical support, if needed. The morning began with a welcome speech from Greg Hill, Preserve Manager, detailing the highlights of the Preserve and the importance of the work to be accomplished. Afterwards, volunteers broke off into work groups and tackled the task ahead of them.
Volunteers of all ages enjoyed themselves while removing weeds along the trails at Big Morongo
Using a variety of hand tools and lots of teamwork, volunteers managed to remove all the weeds identified along the Mesquite Trail. Even the youngest volunteers, whose ages ranged from five years to twelve years, helped remove excess brush to open up the trail even wider. All in all, approximately 30 cubic yards of compressed vegetation was removed. In appreciation of all their hard work, volunteers were treated to a pizza lunch and listened to Seth Shteir of the National Parks Conservation Association speak on the importance of sites such as Big Morongo Canyon Preserve in habitat conservation. The day was made complete as volunteers got to see a herd of typically elusive bighorn sheep traversing the hills behind the Education Center where lunch was served.
A total of thirty five people were in attendance accounting for 140 volunteer work hours.
-Jennifer Taylor, Wilderness/Volunteer Coordinator, Palm Springs, 9/29/11
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