Stewardship is back in full swing! In southern Nevada, we kicked things off with a busy Earth Week. Here’s what we were up to:
Wee Thump Project Update:
Volunteers joined Friends of Nevada Wilderness staff and AmeriCorps members at Wee Thump Joshua Tree Wilderness to celebrate Earth Day 2021 in style with a restoration stewardship project in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management. The Wee Thump Joshua Tree Wilderness is located about 8 miles west of Searchlight, Nevada within the ancestral lands of the Southern Paiute people. A graded road borders 3 sides of this relatively small wilderness area, with NV-164, Nipton Road, making up the southern boundary.
Volunteers met along Wee Thump Road East to restore vehicle damage in the area around a popular campsite just outside of the Wilderness Boundary. Our crew gathered dead and down vegetation to disguise vehicle routes along the edges of the campsite, using a method called “vertical mulching.” In combination with another surface restoration method, digging small holes or “pitting”, the team decompacted the soil surface, created texture to slow water runoff and improve water infiltration, and provided places for rodents and the wind to cache seeds.
A surprise spring shower struck the site just before lunch, adding a welcome touch of naturalism to our work as the rain softened our tool marks and helped to secure our vertical mulch. The welcome rain provided a bit of instant satisfaction for the stewardship team, as we could see our work in action, catching the rain and soaking it up. We installed 4 “Restoration in Progress” signs, several “Route Closed” signs, and installed an improved map at a kiosk.
When our work was done, we took a walk into the Wee Thump and discussed the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace. All in all, a wonderful way to spend the 51st Earth Day.
In the language of the Nuwuvi, or Southern Paiute, Wee Thump means “Ancient Ones” and refers to the 700-900 year old truly magnificent and giant Joshua Trees that have been stewarding the ecosystems of the Wee Thump expertly for eons. The forest here reaches heights of 30-40’, with broad branching arms reminiscent of oak trees. Equally impressive cholla cacti and creosote grow beneath the canopy of ancient trees. With easy access from NV Route 164, and services nearby in Searchlight, Wee Thump is a great option for “frontcountry-backcountry” experiences. You can reach the trailhead in most vehicles with careful driving. Alternatively, some parking is available just off 164, and it’s a short walk into the mostly trail-free Wilderness.
Desert Refuge project update
For a perfect close to Earth Week and National Volunteer Appreciation Week, members of the public and our good friends at Knit Studios joined Friends and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to install nearly 200 feet of post-and-cable barrier along Mormon Well Road in Pakonapah, or the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, which is situated in the heart of the traditional territories of the Nuwuvi people.
Twenty one volunteers installed 25 posts in record time, finishing in just a few hours. Our work site was a pull-out area that began with unauthorized parking among the crush of visitors the Desert Refuge has experienced during the pandemic. It only takes one or two vehicles to scar the delicate desert pavement surfaces which are found all over the Desert Refuge. Each pass across the surface strips more rocks and makes it look more inviting to the next visitor, and after a few cycles it looks like an “official parking area” perpetuating its own growth.
Our goal is to prevent this area from sprawling, and the two barriers we installed will provide a strong visual deterrent to parking outside the existing area. Damage inside the parking area is extensive, with the destruction of several hundred square feet of desert pavement and plant life. Large amounts of human waste had to be removed ahead of the project, due to improper disposal by visitors. The new barrier will hopefully contain vehicle damage.
Desert pavement serves a critical role in the desert water cycle, allowing water to penetrate between clasts, or individual stones, into light, delicate desert soils beneath. This prevents erosion of soil and allows for the development of organic soil horizons that would otherwise wash away in the desert environment. In turn these nutrients nourish plant life, and animal life, and by-and-by enrich our lives when we visit places like Pakonapah. So please remember to Leave Only (gentle) Footprints, and take away memories when you visit the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.
A million thanks to our volunteers, and our ever gracious host, Wild Nevada.
We also celebrated Earth Day virtually! We hosted a conservation with Sara Wolman, an artist from the US Fish and Wildlife Service whose work you may recognize from 2021 World Migratory Bird Day, the Recreate Responsibly campaign, Fat Bear Week, and more. Shaaron and Grace also participated in Earth day panels, one about “How Nevada’s Public Lands Impact Outdoor Recreation Business” and another about “Celebrating Earth Day 2021.” In case you missed an event or would like to re-watch, you can access the recordings using the links below.
Ranger Josh of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex and Sara Wolman, Visual Information Specialist of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the 2021 World Migratory Bird Day Artist, discussed what it means to be an artist working in conservation, the importance of protecting migratory birds, and how both the Desert NWR and Arctic NWR have more in common than some might think.
“Red Rock Roundtable” with Nevada Outdoor Business Coalition.
The topic was How Nevada’s Public Lands Impact Outdoor Recreation Business. This was the first of a series for NV’s outdoor industry.
“Celebrating Earth Day 2021” panel with Chispa and Nevada Conservation League
We celebrated Earth Day by coming together as local environmental allies for a panel discussion about the current state of Nevada's environment and our organizational goals for the future.