Wednesday, June 02, 2010

There's data in them thar hills!

For years, Friends of Nevada Wilderness' Wilderness Stewardship program focused our efforts on helping the BLM and Forest Service erase the damage done in wilderness from vehicle trespass, invasive weeds and other impacts. Now, several projects are coming on line that will flex our volunteers' brains as well as their muscles.

In March, Friends launched our northern Nevada field season with a trip to Soldier Meadows hot springs in the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area. Above, volunteers straddled cold air and hot water to gather data on the depth and flow of the hot springs. This baseline data will help the BLM monitor the impact (if any) of human activities on life at the hot springs.

Above, NCA ecologist Roger Farschon explained the significance of Soldier Meadows in the larger ecological scheme of the region. Soldier Meadows is home to two rare species: the Soldier Meadows dace (a cute little fish) and basalt cinquefoil (a cute little plant).

"There are no rare plants," explained Roger, "only rare habitats." And sure enough, if you looked around, basalt cinquefoil was doing very well in the immediate area of the hot springs, despite the fact that the plant grows only here and in one other place in California's Lassen County. One project was to see if we could help the cinquefoil become better established by replanting a few in areas that had been previously impacted by vehicles driving right up to the edge of the springs. Above, stellar volunteer Scott Hall shows us one of the mighty cinquefoils as he carries it a few paces to its new home.

Thank gosh for coffee, without which many wilderness volunteer successes would surely be less significant. Here's Field Project Coordinator Pat Bruce heating water to beat back the early spring chill for volunteers like Friends' new board member, the still-waking Larry Dwyer.

Sure enough, Java does the job. Just look at those smiling, energized faces. Caleb and Joey, you guys rock hard! AC/DC is smooth jazz compared to you two! Thanks for all you do for Wild Nevada!

Springing into Action!
At the Black Rock Rendezvous over Memorial Day weekend, the BLM and Desert Research Institute launched a training for volunteers who want to help the BLM gather information on the 100s of unknown springs throughout the NCA and its associate wilderness areas. Above, Great Basin aquatic ecologist Don Sada shows off some of the life we found at Sand Springs, on the west side of the Calico Mountains Wilderness. We learned that snails (that very tiny dot on his finger) are great indicators of a long-lived healthy spring; the DNA for many spring-snail species dates back millions of years. Yup, they've been there, breeding and doing their snail thing for a long time. With your help, they'll be doing it for a long time more.

If you're interested in getting involved in Friends' spring inventory program, contact Brian Beffort at (775) 324-7667 or Just think, you can help wild places, enjoy a beautiful hike, and discover what life persists at rare desert water. Join us!!