"If I were head of the national parks, I'd..." And you answered. Lots of you answered. Here are just a few of the responses:
Finally have a job that I would enjoy. lol
Eliminate all mechanized vehicles in the parks except for buses and bikes and reintroduce top predators into all parks.
Make "Desert Solitaire" required reading for all rangers.
Discounts for all military veterans and not just for veterans with 30% or more disability rating.
Introduce indigenous management practices such as prescribed burns.
Get to visit each and every one of them on a regular basis
Love my job!
Please visit SCA's Facebook page and join the conversation.
by Darren Gruetze
...and me. For the past four years I have worked to restore the desert. I keep coming back to the desert and SCA as a Restoration Corps member and leader because of the phenomenal work we do in an often misunderstood ecosystem; and because of the strong community that this work engenders.
SCA’s desert restoration work focuses on removing illegal off-highway vehicle trails. We use a variety of techniques and hand tools, but the outcome is always the same: we go to a piece of land whose survival is being undermined by misuse and repair the damage from human impact; we return land to the dominion of the earth, and tell her that this area is not ours, we relinquish our claim in hopes that she will accept it and return it to its natural beauty so that those who live here and are supported by the life here may be nourished and thrive.
The areas we attempt to restore are being destroyed by a lack of understanding of the fragility of the desert. Popular myths catalogue deserts as wastelands devoid of life, and that just isn’t so. The Mojave is a complex ecosystem where all species have evolved to fit niches and survive in harsh conditions; it’s an ecosystem whose inherent biological stressors magnify the damaging effects of misuse, because the margin of error between life and death for most animals and plants is so small.
The desert is the ecosystem that our culture is most likely to undervalue and disregard because it requires an effort to appreciate and understand--it doesn’t have the intrinsic in-your-face beauty of an old growth forest.
SCA’s restoration program challenged me to look at the desert in a different way and to learn why the species that survive here have endured. I learned that just because mammals are largely absent doesn’t mean that no life exists here; different life exists here.
Most importantly it taught me that the desert isn’t any more inhospitable than any other ecosystem; it is a question of adaptation. This work caused me to challenge my assumptions about my place in nature and this ecosystem.
I learned how to expand my personal ethics to include the land.
None of this would be possible without the community that the SCA program intentionally fosters. As corps leaders, we recognize the challenges that six strangers face living together, outdoors, for nine months straight. Working together, strangers quickly become friends and soon after, they evolve into a true community, constructively challenging each other at personal levels and developing lifelong connections and memories.
This community aspect of the SCA Desert Restoration Corps is intentional because none of the work that we do is worthwhile if it doesn’t change the way people view their relationship with the earth. Living in a mutually dependent social setting begins to help us understand the reciprocal nature of ecosystems.
We work not only to heal the land but also to heal ourselves – to understand and end the disconnect between how we live off the land and what our land needs to live and support us.
I was challenged and I continue to challenge new corps members to look at their lives and the ecosystems that surround them -- whether that is the Mojave or upstate New York -- and see not only what the ecosystems has to offer, but what they have to offer the ecosystem
In the future I will continue to do this work because without it, there can be no future.
A culture based on using up nonrenewable resources and the hyper-exploitation of renewable resources is not sustainable. I do not want to passively bow out and stand on the sidelines while what I love dies. I want to live in opposition to that which kills what I love, and I want teach and empower others to do the same.
This work is a way to do that. It heals both the earth and me.
From Seattle to Milwaukee to DC, SCA volunteers turned out in droves for Earth Day. They gathered on public lands and in urban green spaces to remove gnarly invasives, plant community gardens, drain boggy places, build benches, and affirm their love of the land. SCA led events in Stamford CT, Oakland CA, Pittsburgh PA, Chicago IL, Philadelphia PA, Milwaukee WI, Houston TX, Seattle WA, Washington DC, Boston MA, and Manchester NH.
SCA New Hampshire's Mike Vecchiarelli said of their event: "The Manchester, NH Earthday event can be summed up in two great words: Service Learning; high schoolers participated in the Food Bank gardens, fourth graders created improvements for their schools and neighborhoods; Americorps members provided hands-on support; everyone learned and had some fun while giving to the land and their communities." Congratulations all on a job well done!Truly, as we like to say, conservation begins here.
Videos this month include a clip from the hugely popular live feed of hatchling eaglets, the Aurora Borealis from an Air France flight over the North Pole, and the Nonprofit Technology Conference 5th Annual Video Contest winner that beat SCA's submission. That's it for April. Thoughts? Suggestions?
Eric Larsen (SCA ‘93, Kenai Fjords NWR) recently completed an unprecedented trek to the South Pole, North Pole and summit of Mount Everest in a continuous 365-day period. The Minnesota native journeyed to what he calls “the front lines of global warming” to showcase humans’ impact on the “last great frozen places” and urge action to combat climate change. Hands On recently asked him about his Save the Poles Expedition and ongoing mission…
You could have measured rising sea levels at some tropical island to call attention to climate change -- why take the extreme (and extremely cold) route?
I would love to go to some tropical island. However, I have always loved cold places and enjoy the physical and mental challenges of traveling in the cold. Most importantly, the polar regions and Everest are where some of the most dramatic changes are happening right now.
They are also perhaps the three least-visible locations on Earth. Wasn't there an easier way to illustrate your case?
I wanted to add a human story to these places in a boots on the ground, grass roots manner. And because they are so distant to most people, the issue of climate change seems less relevant to many people even though it stands to be one of the defining issues of our time.
Climate change remains a topic of great debate; what evidence have you seen that ought to convince the skeptics?
First of all, either you believe in the fundamental principles of science or you don't. The principles that are used to describe gravity also are used to describe a human-caused warming of the planet. As far as specific evidence: thinner ice at the North Pole and more open water, unusual weather patterns in Antarctica, retreating glaciers in the Himalayas, the list goes on and on.
If you could choose one personal moment, one photo-in-your-mind to make your case, what would it be?
The Arctic Ocean. On my way to the North Pole, we continued to see the character of ice so different than what it was even four years ago. The ice is much, much thinner now.
What contemporary figure do you most admire and why? What historic figure?
Today there are many people I admire and respect. Most use their notoriety or talent for a greater good. Historically, I've always been fascinated by the explorers of the past: Shackleton, Amundsen, Peary.
You are reaching out to young people in particular: why? What do you want them to do and what can they change?
I have been involved in education for many years and realize that change often has to come from younger generations. More than anything, my goal is to really educate people about these places.
How did your SCA experience impact you in your younger days and how has it affected your life's course?
My SCA experience was probably one of the biggest turning points of my life. I realized that there was a whole big world out there just waiting to be discovered and if I worked hard I would be able to see it. I also learned that stewardship of our planet could come in many forms.
Twenty five years from now, what do you hope to look back on as your greatest accomplishment?
I hope that people were able to use my story to gain a better appreciation of the world around us and feel empowered to protect our planet for future generations.
That said, would you recommend anyone invest today in seaside property in Miami?
Definitely not. I think we all need to invest in renewable energy.
This was not your typical Florida spring break. It featured mud, bugs, sleeping bags, hard manual labor, all the stir-fried veggie pasta you could eat, and 30 total strangers. Now, thanks to 60 students from across the country who each spent a week on the Florida National Scenic Trail, a new trail and bog bridge extend through the palmetto forest of central Florida where before there was no access. The blazed road walk can go away.
And a big thank you goes to the talented SCA crewleaders who brought the teams together, taught them how to use tools well and safely, and led the project to a successful conclusion in a very short time frame. Well done!
All this was made possible by the generous support of American Eagle Outfitters. Thank you AEO for all you do for SCA!
So much snow! So many wonderful photos. Thank you all for submitting, voting, and signing our Save the Snow Pledge. The snow piles here in New Hampshire are finally melting, and it's time to announce the winners in our first annual "I Heart Snow" photo contest.
Congratulations, Duncan Hoge. Your photo, "Canyonlands Sunrise," has been selected as the SCA Judges Pick.
"I slept in my car and woke up to this. Great way to start off a day of exploring a little of what Moab has to offer."
And congratulations, Paula Provost, for your photo "Road to Anywhere" that won the People's Choice prize by getting the most "Likes" on Facebook.
Save Water Today
American Water and SCA have teamed up to promote household water conservation through a year-long public service campaign. In thiis clip, SCA spokesperson and surfer champion Lakey Peterson instructs three guys on how and why to fix a leaky toilet. You can view the other three clips, featuring some SNL regulars, on the SCA Blog.
National Parks of Canada Centenary Celebration Trailer from Ryan J. Noth
Three musicians and one filmmaker traveled to 13 national parks (one in each province and territory) to capture their experiences in a short film and soundtrack and help celebrate Parks Canada's founding in 1911. Yes, Canada had national parks before the U.S. Our NPS Centenary is coming up in 2016.
Just for Fun
As baseball fans and avid collectors of great little videos, we couldn't resist this one.
Please, tell us about the environmental videos you're watching, and we'll post them here next months. Back to Hands On...