Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Wilderness Rockstar

If you were to ask Andy Sanchez why he volunteers he would laugh and say that he's just bored or that he just likes Gatorade, trail mix and volunteer t-shirts. The real reason Andy volunteers is his deep love for the outdoors and his heartfelt desire to give back to those places that have given all of us so much. Andy started volunteering for Friends in January and has been on every Friends of Nevada Wilderness southern Nevada project since. Andy will be leading his first volunteer project later this month in the Spring Mountains NRA. When Andy is not working on volunteer projects he is out hiking the trails of Mt Charleston as a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger. The are a few Wilderness Rockstars in southern Nevada but Andy's star shines a little brighter than most. Thanks Andy for all you do for the Wild!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Southern Nevada heats up in June

The volunteers of southern Nevada really hit the ground running this summer with events and projects taking place every weekend in June. On June 5 Friends teamed up with the Forest Service to perform some much needed trail maintenance in the Blue Tree Area for National Trails Day. June 12 Matt Flores treated volunteers to a wildflower ID class in the colorful Spring Mountains. We finished up for the season in Lovell Canyon with a road restoration project on a decommissioned section of the Salt Grass Road. This was a joint project with the Forest Service, BLM and Friends of Nevada Wilderness to protect the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness. June 16 200 volunteers from Zappos.com worked hard to spruce up Lee Canyon with paint and a little TLC. On June 26 the uber volunteers from Circle K International (UNLV service club) braved the warm temperatures to pull weeds before they spread to the Mt Charleston Wilderness. The Volunteer Wilderness Rangers have been hiking the Wilderness trails gathering real time information for the Forest Service, education folks, and making the Wilderness a bit more Wild for present and future generations. We thank all of these Wild Folks for their hard work and salute their love of the Wild.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Voice in the Wilderness

Renee, our seasonal Mt Rose employee, has the privilege and duty of climbing some of the Carson Range's highest peaks and peering into the remote parts of the Mt Rose Wilderness to gather important information for the Forest Service—how many people are using the trails, where the invasive weeds are lurking, and monitoring campsites in the wilderness. Lately, she's been taking volunteers up the Hunter Creek trail to pull invasive Bull and Musk thistles. To date, they have pulled more than 5,000 plants. Over the 4th of July weekend, she and Wes completed a 30-mile monitoring backpack from the summit fo the Mt. Rose Highway to the Michael Thompson Trailhead at the bottom of Hunter Creek. Over the course of two days they counted 150 people, 34 dogs, and 10,276 mosquitoes while hiking on the Summit Trail.

Here's a report from Renee, after her first month working in the wild:

I really enjoy working as a wilderness monitor in the Mount Rose Wilderness area. While I knew I would be hiking all day, an unexpected bonus of being a wilderness monitor has been working with some really great people. All of the volunteers I have worked with have been wonderful, very helpful and motivated, especially since I make them pull weeds! I like getting to know the volunteers and learning what led them to Friends of Nevada Wilderness. It is also interesting to see and meet wilderness users. There are so many different ways to enjoy the wilderness; during the course of any day I might meet trail runners, bird watchers, day hikers, backpackers, and the list goes on.

During the course of almost every day “at work,” I get to explore parts of the wilderness I have never seen before! It is a gorgeous wilderness full of wildlife and great views. The other day, I wondered into the territory of an American Kestrel breeding pair. They were not happy with my presence: they hovered above me and then started dive-bombing me, coming within five feet. It was amazing—I got to see these beautiful little orange and white falcons up close and personal. I moved through their territory as quickly as possible to minimize any stress I may cause them, but it was exhilarating to see them in action.

In addition to the kestrels, I’ve seen quite a few animals such as: a golden eagle, western tanagers, flickers, a variety of woodpeckers, lizards, a few bull snakes (no rattlers yet!), deer and signs of bears. I’ve also seen a ton of wildflowers: desert peach, larkspur, wild rose, western peonies, dagger pods, hot-rock penstemon, mountain figwort, heart-leaf arnica, and snowy thistles—just to name a few. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to wake up every morning, excited to explore a different part of the wilderness and see what surprises lay in store.

Friday, July 02, 2010

2010 Sheldon Rendezvous

In June, Friends of Nevada Wilderness teamed up with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the Nevada Muleys and a host of dedicated citizens (75 volunteers in all) working on our common ground: Caring for the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge.

Our goal was to improve habitat for wildlife like the pronghorn antelope, sage grouse, bighorn sheep, mule deer, pika and a host of other species that depend on sagebrush-steppe ecosystems, which are fast-disappearing and changing because of development, energy exploration and development, invasive weeds and climate change.

Together, we pulled 5.5 miles of obsolete and now-dangerous barbed-wire fence and began building the first of several pipe fences to protect fragile spring systems. Not only did these actions remove threats to wildlife and protect essential springs from damage, it also restored wide-open beauty to a larger piece of the Sheldon. Together we logged nearly $40,000 of in-kind service to benefit the Sheldon, which the Fish and Wildlife Service will be able to leverage to gain funding for additional stewardship projects and research to help us understand the qualities and needs of this unique ecosystem.
Along the way, we made new friends with folks who share our love for this unique stretch of Wild Nevada.

A few more photos from the event...

Volunteers removing dangerous barbed wire from important pronghorn, sage grouse and mule deer habitat.

One of main beneficiaries of this work is the greater sage grouse, recently listed as "warranted" for protection under the Endangered Species Act by the US Fish & Wildife Service. A significant percentage of sage grouse mortality comes from collision with fences, because sage grouse take off at a low angle and often cannot see fences. Photo copyright Scott Sady.

There was even work for our future public-lands managers. Here Logan carries a pulled fence post back to the truck.

The 2010 Sheldon Rendezvous was an opportunity for Friends of Nevada Wilderness to work with Nevada Muleys for the first time to protect resources that are important to all of us. We look forward to many more projects together.
Volunteers came from as far away as Las Vegas, Southern California and the East Coast. The long-distance award goes to Maria from Senator Reid's office in Washington DC...all this way to work hard for Nevada's land and wildlife.

After all the hard work under hot sun, Nevada Muleys provided a much-appreciate feast of chorizo and burgers for the hungry crowd. Here's Ed working hard at the grill.

Mmmmmm....cake. Jake and Marlow try to contain their enthusiasm as Dutch oven master Pat Bruce unveils dessert...pineapple upside-down cake and Black Forest cake...a tasty end to a great day!

Thank you Graham Stafford to providing great photography!