Monday, July 15, 2013

Remember the Alamo!

The small town of Alamo, Nevada lies just north of the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge. The town has one gas station, a population of around 1000, lies about 90 miles north of Las Vegas on The Great Basin Highway (U.S. Hwy 93), and was the only glimpse of civilization anywhere near our project site this week. Just under 15 miles north of this quaint ranching town in the Pahranagat Valley is where our latest winter adventure took place.
It seems that the Pahranagat Valley has been invaded and is slowly being taken over by Russian Olive trees due to its low seedling mortality and the wide seed dispersal due to the many waterways in the Valley as well as the large number of birds that eat and then disperse the seeds as they travel throughout the area. January 7 through January 14 it was the task of our crew as well as Crew 6 in partnership with the Audubon Society to treat and/or remove as many Russian Olive plants as possible to stop it from spreading and taking habitat away from native plant species. We used three methods to carry out our task. The first was the cut-stump method in which we simply cut the tree off at ground level and then sprayed the stump with an herbicide that would in theory stop it from growing back.  The second method is a basal spray method in which we sprayed any plant under 6 inches in diameter with an herbicide and vegetable oil mixture that soaks through and kills the plant while also leaving it standing as bird habitat until it eventually rots away and is reclaimed by the area. The final method we used was a hack and spray technique that involved scarring the plant with a hatchet in multiple areas and then immediately applying herbicide to those areas. This method, like the basal spray method, also allows for the plants to remain as bird habitat even though they are no longer living and reproducing.
It turns out that January in the Pahranagat Valley can be a harsh time to be camping and working out in the fields. Between the extremely cold temperatures, constantly walking through water filled, muddy pastures and irrigation ditches, snow, and the threat of cold related illness it was a rough week. In fact it was got so cold that both crews were pulled out of the field a day early; however through it all we worked hard to carry out our task and still succeeded in treating 135 acres of Russian olive infested land. We also came away from this hitch with yet another story about how we pushed our selves until it was no longer possible to carry on. All in the search for a better understanding of ourselves, others around us, and how we can make a positive change in the environment as a whole. One thing is certain through all of this; we will never fail to remember our adventure in Alamo.

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