Reports from the field: Public Lands Day 2013

The 20th anniversary of National Public Lands Day has been and gone. By all accounts, it was an amazing day all across the National Conservation Lands as members of our Friends Grassroots Network volunteered their time in support of our public lands.

Here are some dispatches from the field…

San Juan Islands National Monument (Washington)

Doll and signWe begin our report of Public Lands Day 2013 with a dispatch from one of America’s newest national monuments:

Several local groups, including the Islanders for San Juan Islands National Monument, hosted NPLD at Watmough Bay in the San Juan Islands National Monument. We had crews doing weed removal (at Chadwick Marsh) and beach cleanup (at Point Colville) as well as interpretive talks and a mushroom walk. There were related events on some of the outlying islands. Here are some stats:

Point Colville Beach: 100 lbs. of garbage removed. Patos Island: 11 people x 8 hrs x 1 mile of trail maintenance beach cleanup of 50 lbs. of garbage 7 campsites and bathrooms cleaned. And the lighthouse tucked up for the season. Work party provided by the Keepers of the Patos Light.

Patos, Blind, and Posey Islands Turn Point, Kellet bluff, and McConnell Rocks: San Juan Island National Monument signs installed with the help of 1 volunteer 1 BLM staff x 8 hours.

We especially thank: volunteer organizer Sara Waugh and Eclipse Charters, Dan and Denise Wilk, Cascadia Kayaks, and Colin Dougherty for helping with outreach.

Public Lands Day volunteers

Photos, credit: Tom Snowden

Black Rock Black Rock Desert – High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area (Nevada)

Boy with arm raised Following a work project the previous weekend in Soldier Meadows, on Public Lands Day, the Friends of Black Rock-High Rock ventured up into the northwestern area of the Black Rock NCA. Here’s their report:

Friends of Black Rock High Rock entered into a new partnership with the BLM Surprise Field Office in California that helps to manage the northern portion of the Black Rock High Rock NCA.

Man standing

An inaugural National Public Lands Day event was held at Bitner Ranch, a historical homestead site that borders the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge and the NCA. 22 volunteers and staff from FBR joined forces, contributing 263 hours to complete an archaeological inventory of the ranch, clean up and remove two trailers overflowing of metal wire, trash and wood, launching a long term historical restoration plan which will have interpretative signs installed in its last phase.

This unique and project allowed volunteers to learn about the importance of documenting and preserving the cultural heritage of our public lands. Grid systems were created in different zones, artifacts were labeled, measured and photographed. Indigenous peoples also lived at this site where artifacts have been carbon dated to be 11,000 years old.

National Public Lands Days, for the Surprise Valley District, will be back with Friends annually to continue this restoration site, which is a noteworthy gem in the west.

Public Lands Day volunteers

Crooked River Canyon (Oregon)

The Friends and Neighbors of the Deschutes Canyon Area (FANs) celebrated Public Lands Day in partnership with the Trust for Public Land. Their report:

Volunteers planted 300 native plants as part of a restoration project on the Crooked River Canyon property, which is currently owned by the Trust for Public Land. The FANs invested their time and resources in this property in hopes that it will soon become our newest local public land; President Obama’s budget for 2014 includes proposed funding for the acquisition of this property by the Bureau of Land Management through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Thanks to the hard work of volunteers, the Trust for Public Land and the Heart of Oregon Corps, the Crooked River Canyon is now in healthier condition and will be a wonderful addition to our country’s natural heritage of public lands.

Although the day was grey and a little rainy, it was a fun experience for everyone as volunteers planted native plants such as sagebrush, rabbitbrush, and bunch grasses along the old Hollywood Road and a newly constructed loop trail that descends some 600 feet down the canyon to the Crooked River. Volunteers and a youth crew from the Heart of Oregon Corps hauled wheel barrows, water jugs, plants and shovels down the steep trail and had fun working together. The plants for the project were purchased by FANs from Winter Creek Restoration with the support of the Conservation Lands Foundation.

We look forward to the day when the spectacular Crooked River Canyon property is owned by the American public and everyone can visit this scenic wonder right in our backyard here at Crooked River Ranch!

Work group above a canyon

Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (Utah)

Southern Utah National Conservation Lands Friends volunteers worked in the Red Cliffs Recreational Area to cleanup trails, scrub out graffiti in the sandstone, and other general tasks. Along the way, poetic verse was inspired:

Here on Public Lands Day weeding all day long
Tumbleweeds growing where they just don’t belong
Hoping that they will be gone soon
We slog along and sing this tune.

See them tumbling down
Watching them ripped from the ground
Weary but free, how’s that sound
Of these obnoxious green tumbling tumbleweeds.

Public Lands Day volunteers

Postscript: Government Shutdown

It is highly ironic that the federal government shutdown has come 72 hours after the conclusion of Public Lands Day, for with the suspension of services on the National Conservation Lands comes a commensurate loss of volunteer hours, resources and overall commitment to the stewardship of public lands.

Thank you friends for the difference you made on Public Lands Day, and for the difference you will undoubtedly continue to make in the future.

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