Volunteer Program is springing into action

Youth Volunteerism in Full Swing

Fierce spring winds did not dampen the spirits of the young people who volunteered with us and made a big difference both with their hands and voices. So far this year we have connected sixty-eight student volunteers from a high school and several universities across the country to important conservation issues on the Colorado Plateau.

Northeastern University student volunteers butcher a sheep

Northeastern University student volunteers butcher a sheep

We introduced Maine and Boston students to the vastness of their public lands at Kane Ranch. They updated nearly two miles of barbwire fence to restore pronghorn antelope habitat, and removed over forty tamarisk trees from Emmett Spring on Trust property below the Vermilion Cliffs. Read Amanda’s blog entry about spring break trips. Eight students from Ponderosa High School, an alternative school in Flagstaff, joined us for two days of hands-on work at our Kane Ranch native plant demonstration garden. The students, who have been learning about sustainability and landscape ecology, planted 100 native blue gramma grasses that they grew at their school’s greenhouse.

Northeastern University students not only prepared soil and plants for Tolani Lake Enterprises and North Leupp Family Farms, but also had the visceral and eye-opening experience of butchering a sheep – purchasing it at the sheep camp of an eighty-five year-old grandmother, killing and butchering the animal, and eating it for lunch that day. It was a hands-on practice in local food production, the kind of experience that illustrates food security issues for Navajo families. Buena Visa College volunteers worked with our partner Shonto Energy LLC to install solar panels at two homes previously without electric power. Wild Rockies Field Institute (WRFI) students toured Navajo Generating Station and then worked with Shonto Energy to electrify a Navajo home in the shadow of Black Mesa Mine. This fantastic project was a real-life display not only of the inequalities of our conventional energy economy, but of the power everyday people have to create positive change. It also simply felt great to see the lights go on where there were none before.

On the other side of Black Mesa, we partnered with Moenkopi Developers Corporation and students from Northern Arizona University and Coconino Community College in order to build a reflective path around a garden, all in the shape of the Hopi Sun—Read a blog by volunteer Derek Schroeder and watch a time-lapse video made of the project coming to life.

The sense of place that our work with Native American communities offers is more than a mere nature hike. It is a window into communities where culture, ecology and economy are interwoven.

Public Lands Stewardship In Action

Our first flora survey trip of the year at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument afforded us perfect weather; cloud cover every day without a heavy rain. We marched up sand dunes and slid down the craggy Chinle Formation to get an accurate picture of what grows where. In total, we visited seventeen springs and collected over 200 plants including species of Euphorbia and Astragalus found outside of their previously known ranges.

Volunteers set up puma motion cameras on Kaibab Plateau

Volunteers set up puma motion cameras on Kaibab Plateau

The Grand Canyon Trust is partnering with Conservation Science Partners to find mountain lion habitat corridors on the Colorado Plateau as part of a larger habitat connectivity research project. Volunteers explored remote parts of the Kaibab Plateau, hiking canyons known only to mountain lion and mule deer, and found abundant tracks, scat, and other evidence of mountain lion presence.  Volunteers perfected their wildlife tracking skills and set up over fifty motion-detecting cameras. Check out our Facebook page in July to see the amazing wildlife photos from this project!

Your Donation Makes a Difference

Thanks to all of you who contributed to our Youth Initiative fundraising campaign through Arizona Gives Day. We were able to raise $1965 to engage youth in the outdoors in meaningful work and help build the next generation of conservation leaders for our region. We are dedicated to educating young people about environmental issues and inspiring them to create change. There is still time to make a donation to get more young people working with us.

With these funds we screened the Academy-Award nominated documentary Chasing Ice for Earth Day as part of the Science on Tap series. Over 100 people; many students, river runners and our Facebook supporters came out to watch it.  We hope to screen more relevant, compelling environmental films. If you know of one you would like to see, contact our film aficionado on staff, Paul Bindel.

New volunteer gear barn nears completion

New volunteer gear barn nears completion

Thanks to your generous contributions, our new barn has become a reality. We will be moving in and organizing all of our gear this month in the midst of our busy field season. Not only will this new building add efficiency to our volunteer trip operations, it complements our homestead beautifully.  Sustainable design elements include natural lighting, energy-efficient windows, passive-solar site orientation, on-demand hot water heaters, metal roof, site conservation (soil reuse, planned composting and xeriscaping, semi-permeable parking area) and on-site recycling. Now we will turn our attention to site restoration and solar panel installation. We will partner with Terrabirds, a local nonprofit, to involve our staff, youth, and community members to build a flagstone patio, create low-water landscaping with native plants, and install rainwater harvesting systems.

If you just got excited reading about any of these activities and you live in Flagstaff, contact Kate Watters today and join our Homestead Restoration Team!

Kate Watters

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