Alternative Spring Break: A Wild Week in Nevada

College students look forward to Spring Break each year as a moment to take a break from the rigorous schedule of classes and campus activities. For some students, this time is spent travelling to places like Miami or Cancun in search of escaping normalcy and unwinding in the process. Others head home to see family and friends they've missed while away for school. For 22 Southern Nevada students, the allure of partying or heading to their hometown was not as enticing as a unique and Wild experience here in Nevada.

 Friends of Nevada Wilderness is honored to host Alternative Spring Break for Southern Nevada students who spent their week in Wild Nevada doing restorative projects and getting closer with nature. Thanks to funding by Barrick, we have been able to continue hosting this event and this year marks 8 years strong! Barrick’s generosity is helping students get in touch with nature as well as helping federal land managers with balancing an ever-growing workload against shrinking budgets and limited staff.

Alternative Spring Break 2018 included stewardship projects in Black Canyon, Arrow Canyon Wilderness and the Pahranagat and Desert National Wildlife Refuges. We spent four days and five nights camping at picturesque Pahranagat Lake with a separate project set up for each day. Monday and Tuesday, the students worked on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge protecting the sand dunes from vehicles driving off-road (left). Once inside the Desert Refuge, off-road driving is prohibited as the mission of the refuge is to provide habitat for the 1,400 plant and animal species that call the refuge home. Our group of student volunteers installed 31 posts and restored over 2,500 square feet of fragile land previously disturbed by illegal vehicle travel.

Wednesday, the group headed over to Arrow Canyon Wilderness where they worked to prevent land damage by ATV use in Wilderness areas. In all, 13,740 square feet of land was restored by a process of relocating “dead and down” plants and shrubs into the affected area to protect the Wilderness boundary. Their last day of stewardship took place on a Thursday in an area of the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge known as Black Canyon. Black Canyon has been closed in recent years due to visitor abuse and damage to the ancient petroglyphs. The group pulled a whopping 480 tree cages from around young willow trees (above right). Willows are critical for this area as they are the primary habitat for the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher who fly to Nevada to breed and nest in them. 

But work wasn’t the only fulfilling activity of the week. Each night, our Alternative Spring Breakers were greeted back at camp by a delicious gourmet meal prepared by volunteer chef Barry Chapman (below, back row second from right). Barry has been a Friends of Nevada Wilderness member for years and generously donated his time and energy to making sure the students and staff were fed and replenished for the upcoming day’s task. Along with dinner, staff prepared a variety of dessert items such as cheesecake, brownies and pineapple upside-down cake, dutch oven style. Several Fish & Wildlife employees stopped by to talk to our group and answer any questions we had regarding natural Nevada and land management processes. Barbara Michel, Visitor Services/Environmental Education Specialist Pahranagat NWR, led our group on a hike around Black Canyon and gave several talks to our group.

All of these awesome activities, projects and Spring Break fun would not be possible without a grant from Barrick. The last 4 years of Alternative Spring Break were made possible by their vision and belief in what Friends of Nevada Wilderness is doing for public land in Nevada. A big thank you goes out to Barrick and the 22 students who gave us their Spring Break to do some awesome work. We hope to make Alternative Spring Break 2019 an even more enjoyable and fulfilling experience for students, volunteers, staff and our sponsor.

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