Arkansas Post

By: Kristina Beckham

Headed back into Arkansas one last time for the year we make our way into Arkansas Post, five and a half hours into the southeast corner of the state. While visiting the park in Gillett, Arkansas, we were on the constant hunt for Alligators while driving into and walking around the park. 

Our trip to Post consisted of backpack spraying two hundred and twenty acres while searching for privet and hardy orange. An interesting thing that we literally ran into were the amount of ticks in this park. While walking through just one pass we would collect about one hundred sea ticks crawling over our boots and making their way up our pants. All six of us have never seen so many sea ticks in one place until we went to this park. The tick problem was so bad that even the local deer have a problem fighting them off. Kirby McCallie, the park’s national resource manager, told us all a lovely story of how there have been multiple does that have died from the amount of ticks that they have had attached to them. 

On top of their growing tick problem they also have a problem with their raccoons, they have such a low amount of food to scavenge for that they will kill the turtles. So when the turtles come onto land to lay their eggs the raccoons would get them on their backs and devourer them (as seen in the photo below).

Below feel free to learn about one of my other crewmates Gabe Hernandez and his experience thus far at this park and working for the National Park Service.

Again here is a complete listing of what is going on at Arkansas Post National Memorial feel free to follow the link below: https://www.nps.gov/arpo/planyourvisit/calendar.htm

Also here are free entry days into the National Parks as shown in the link below, make sure to take advantage of these days before it’s too late: https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/fee-free-parks.htm

GABE HERNANDEZ:

  • What is your favorite part about working at Arkansas Post?
    • Post was exciting because every morning we would pass large pools of swampy waters searching for alligators.
  • Why did you join the Conservation Corp?
    • I joined to get some field experience under my belt and enjoy the beautiful outdoors.
  • What is your favorite park that you have worked at thus far? And why?
    • Thus far Buffalo National River has been my favorite park to travel to. If you want to experience the Ozark’s beauty, this is the place to be.

Till next time,

    -KB

Wild Rice on the St. Louis—Returning to Mecca

By: Danielle Yaste

“What’re you guys working on out here?” A passerby asked as we loaded our truck.

“We’ve been planting wild rice…” I answered, but before I could say anything further, they replied: “It’s not going to work, wild rice doesn’t grow here.”

However, the contrary is true.  Wild rice has grown here, on the St. Louis River, long before seed was ever planted by air boat.  There stands a few wild rice plants in the bays that historically were full of the grain, and now work is being done to restore those bays.  The St. Louis River estuary used to be utilized greatly by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, but has been significantly affected by human activity over the last few decades.  The largest contributor to the destruction of the wild rice in the estuary has been industrial development, and recovering from this has been a slow process, but it is recovering none the less.  When wild rice was thriving in the area, there was 2,000 to 3,000 acres, now the goal is to have 250 acres over the next five to ten years.

This past week, as the resource management team would secure wild rice seed to plant from other areas in Minnesota, we would be called to board the air boats and plant the seed.  The project was unique because the amount of people they needed and when they needed them depended on the amount of seed that was able to be purchased from those harvesting seed elsewhere.  There were three days spent with a compilation of nine members of the Conservation Corps including every member of our program staff, our field specialist, and the Moose Lake Crew.  Together we planted about 10,000 lbs. of Wild Rice, adding to the total 12,000 lbs. planted this year.  This was the second year of a three year planting plan.  The first year showed that plants came up in every bay that it was planted, however, the geese population ate a significant portion of the first year’s plants.  There are currently plans in the works to mitigate that problem.

Though the work of planting the seed was fun and unique, a highlight of the project was working with Tom Howes, the band’s natural resources director.  Tom spent his morning teaching us about the cultural value of the St. Louis River and the wild rice.  While giving us a tour of the work being done thus far, he explained the responsibility the band had to care for the river.  He grew up being told that the St. Louis River was a Mecca to his community, a place of abundance, and when the band returned rights to the river based on the 1854 treaty, they were able to utilize the river and take care of it.  They needed to take care of the river if they are to utilize it.  Since the band has been successfully reestablishing wild rice for over 20 years, and has a dedication to the estuary, they were the ones called upon to restore the wild rice.

More can be learned about the Wild Rice project from Minnesota Public Radio:

https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/09/21/wild-rice-comeback-effort-st-louis-river

And this coming week CBS out of Duluth (KBJR6) will be covering the story as well.

Lifetime impact

By: Rose Lundy

I am evidence that early exposure to conservation work can impact a lifetime. When I was 16-years-old, I chose to do a four-week program related to Conservation Corps called Student Conservation Association, instead of going to Europe for two weeks with my family. My older brother had spent the summer working in Uganda and we were all supposed to meet him in Amsterdam when he was done, but I was assigned to a crew in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania at the same exact time. Instead of Amsterdam, I chose to fly to a place I had never been before, to live and work with people I didn’t know. My parents came home with stories about canals and old bell towers. I came home with stories about shoveling swamp grass and lopping tree branches. I loved it.

The next two summers I was on crews at the Seedskadee Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming and the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado. After my first year in college, I did a 10-week internship at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska. I went on to have two full-time, paid summer internships at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency before spending this summer working for Conservation Corps.

My point is that when I was 16, I applied to a youth environmental association on a whim, and it directed my life for the next six years. I got a college degree in journalism, but somehow I keep applying for and accepting conservation jobs. I was exposed to the importance of environmental protection and appreciation at an impressionable time in my life, and it will be impossible for me to forget those values in the future.

Conservation Corps is an honorable organization on a very surface level with tangible environmental efforts such as invasive species removal and trail clearing. But it also goes so much deeper than that. The young people who are hired to spend their time protecting the environment are impacted in ways we can never know. It is hard to see the influence of one job on another person’s life trajectory, but I am here to tell you that those four weeks I spent in Pennsylvania instead of going to Europe completely altered my current career path and my outlook on life.

I was sad to leave Conservation Corps at the end of summer, but I only signed up for that length of time because I have been planning a trip to New Zealand. I have been saving money for a long time now, but my friend and I are also planning to work to make it more financially possible. We will travel around the islands working for host families in exchange for free room and board. Most of this work will be organic gardening, farm maintenance, brush clearing, and composting — all skills I have practiced this summer with Conservation Corps! It is clear that my first step in Pennsylvania is still influencing my choices today.

Our environment is beautiful and important, and we need young people to care about it. My generation will soon lead the charge on conservation, and organizations like Conservation Corps are crucial to reinforcing the value of a healthy environment.

If you want to follow Rose’s adventures in organic farming in New Zealand, her personal blog is roselundy.wordpress.com

How-to-guide to building a community orchard

By: Danielle Yaste

When working on a project, very rarely does a crew get to see the entirety of the project, from start to finish.  The community orchard project in Grand Marias was an exception to that rule.  With three days, seven crew members, ten steps, and lots of effort from Cook County, an orchard was created. 

Step 1:  Put the Project in Motion

The Grand Marias Community Orchard project began in the Spring of 2016 when 100 apple trees were donated for prisons or law enforcement centers.  This donation set the project in motion.  Thereafter, the planning took about 2 weeks because the county had a deadline to meet for the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation grant, which would be needed to build the orchard that would hold the donated trees. 

After the grant was secured, the Cook County Extension, ran by Diane Booth, and the Cook County Soil and Water Conservation District came together and developed a plan for the orchard and the water irrigation system.

Step 2:  Find the Funds

The Lloyd K. Johnson Grant covered $15,909 of the $32,219 community project, a majority of the remaining cost was covered by in-kind donations, making the community orchard truly a community project.

Step 3: Find a Team

Diane was the one who put the orchard project in motion, but she was quickly aided by the staff of the SWCD of Cook County.  The SWCD developed a plan to use the 8,000 sq ft. roof of the law enforcement center to water the trees.  Along with the Cook County staff, local apple orchard owner, Ray Block, was brought in to make the community apple orchard a reality.  After the plan was created, the funds were secured, and the leaders were put into place, they brought in the Moose Lake and Gooseberry crews to round out the team.

Step 4:  Prepare the Location

What began as the beautiful lawn of the local Law Enforcement Center, became the community orchard.  In order to get to that point, turf had to be removed where the terraced boxes were going to be put.

Step 5:  Build the Boxes

Once the turf was removed, boxes were built that would contain the rows of apple trees.  Simple boxes were put along the fences for berry and grape plants as well as the apple trees.

Step 6:  Plant the Trees

The trees that were used were picked particularly for their ability to thrive in the colder weather on the North Shore.  Additionally the breeds of trees that were selected are on the shorter side, making them perfect for children to adventure through and learn from.  A plot was created in order to ensure that every plant was placed at the right depth in the soil.

Step 7:  Lay Landscaping Fabric

Landscaping fabric was laid over some of the rows, this was to ensure that no other vegetation would begin to grow in the new soil.  Other rows were left to be covered in other experimental ways.

Step 8:  Bring in the mulch

Mulch was added atop of the landscaping fabric to add to the safety of the trees and to the overall ascetics of the orchard.

Step 9:  Put up the Trellis

Trellis’s were added to help guide the trees as they grow.

Step 10:  Have an Ice Cream Party

Maybe the Ice Cream Party is not entirely necessary, but it was a great way to end the project.  The orchard project was another highlight of the year.  There was never a boring moment, and always something to learn.