The goal of the SCA/USFWS Trails Inventory program is to provide the Fish and Wildlife Service with a comprehensive and accurate inventory of all trails on USFWS sites across the country. This is certainly an ambitious project as there are over 600 USFWS sites nationwide. This project will take us to every corner of the country, to high mountains and low deserts through bayous and fjords. We are all extremely excited for this opportunity as it provides the chance to perform an important service to the USFWS, expand our own knowledge and expertise, and experience many different parts of the country for the first time.
Even though it seems like it just began, the 2012 FWS Trails Inventory, or "FishTrACS" as it has become more commonly known, has come to a close. Members went their seperate ways in November, and Alex Olsen and Tyler Lobdell, the management staff, have moved on to other projsects.
But the good news is that this year was a great success. Attached to this page is a pdf version of the official Final Report, which gives all sorts of excellent statistics, information, and photos of the year's accomplishments.
We look forward to repeating all this in a few years when the trails need inventorying again. A huge thanks to all the folks that made this possible: Nathan Caldwell of the FWS, Andy Byra and Rick Huso of Federal Highways, Scott Weaver, Joey Ruehrwein, and Ron Hassel of SCA, and certainly our own Tyler Lobdell for steering the ship so ably this year, and all the members for working so hard to make the program a success on the ground.
To wrap up the season all 12 of us traveled to West Virginia to the USFWS' National Conservation Training Center. We were impressed by the luxury accomodations and great hospitality. In addition to inventorying the trail system on site and providing the data to their lands manager, the group was able to meet lots of folks in the FWS. From teaching Directors new games to shaking hands with the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, the group felt like celebrities. It was an amazing way to end the long 10 month program. As one member said, "This is such a great reminder of how important what we've done is, and how COOL this has been!"
We also worked with the USFWS production team to capture the footage needed to make an orientation/training video for future iterations of this inventory. Some of the members really took to the camera and had a great time showing how the inventory is done out in the field. We're all looking forward to the final production!
The Hitch 8 Delta Team consisted of Dave Delcourt and Michael Molloy. They covered a lot of ground; flying into Missouri, heading up to Illinois, and moving East to Virginia before flying out of Washington D.C. back to Boise, ID. The trip went well with very few problems, one being that the trails in the Ohio River Islands NWR and Canaan Valley NWR were located in areas where hunting season was just starting and the weather turned to fog and rain. They did their job in these areas but made sure to wear the brightest clothing they had and made as much noise as possibly, probably to the dismay of any hunters in the area. At the Canaan Valley NWR they were visited on site by the Project Manager, Tyler Lobdell, and had the opportunity to use mountain bikes to access some of the trails instead of driving. During off time, the two were able to visit family in Illinois, spend a day in Chicago, go to the Smithsonian Museums in Washington D.C. and go to a Washington Capitals game, and enjoy many regional foods. Some examples would be deep dish pizza and Chicago dogs in Chicago, bbq in Kansas City, pepperoni rolls in West Virginia, and clams that they caught themselves at the Chincoteague NWR in Virginia. Overall it was an amazing trip. Michael and Dave were able to get the work done, see family, and enjoy the regions they were in. What more can you ask for?
Hitch 8 started with a weeklong stop in central California to inventory four refuges in the central valley. We had beautiful sunny days to cover several trails, most of them in the grassy flatlands of the region. We were fortunate to finish up work early enough to justify making a trip to Yosemite National Park. We had one day to take a long hike and soak up the iconic valley. After California we got to the real meat of the hitch: Hawaii. We visited the islands of Oahu and Maui to inventory two refuges. Oahu Forest NWR had a six mile trail in central Oahu that gave us grand view of the deep valleys with steep walls covered with thick green foliage. Kaelia Pond NWR on Maui had a pretty coastal boardwalk and an interesting dike trail around a wetland restoration area. We fueled our travels with plenty of sushi, mango, and fish tacos and quenched our thirst with coconut water straight from the fruit. Beaches were all around and the roads outrageously scenic.
Hitch 8- NorthEast 
Stefano Potter and Letha Pease went on a three week tour of the Northeast where they went to a total of 8 states. They started off in New England where they spent a week travelling between Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The fall color was out and the weather was mild which made it a great time of year to be in the region. Highlights of the area included visits to Bangor, Maine and Acadia National Park. After this the crew headed south to visit refuges in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This area offered opportunities to visit Washington D.C. to watch a hockey game and Annapolis where there was a sailboat race taking place. While there was a lot of ground covered in this three week trip it allowed the crew to visit much of the Northeast and visit many new places they had not yet seen.
Toji and Mike wrapped up their final field hitch on a high note. With the program shortly coming to an end and the pair staying back in Boise for the final hitch, the trip across America’s heartland did not disappoint. The two began the journey in the beautiful state of Colorado, where they inventoried trails at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal – an old chemical weapons manufacturing plant – before heading into the mountains to work at Leadville Fish Hatchery. Not only is Leadville situated at an elevation of 10,200 feet, but it sits just outside of the two tallest mountains in the Rockies. The Fish Hatchery, hands down, possessed some of the most in enjoyable trails to hike, as it wound through pine and golden aspen trees in the Mt. Massive Wilderness. Before leaving Colorado, Toji and Mike hiked a 14,000 foot mountain. The work took the two next to Nebraska and eastern North Dakota, with a stop at Badlands National Park in South Dakota fit in the middle. The mountainous terrain of Colorado was instantly replaced with prairie grassland and agriculture fields as far as the eye could see. Stops in Minnesota and Wisconsin set up for one final refuge in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. With a couple days to spare to finish one refuge, the two were able to enjoy the glorious fall weather canoeing a river, visiting the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi (next to Niagara), stopping at the Lake Superior coastline and staying at a sled dog tour company that had over 80 Alaskan Huskies on site. With a long drive back to Milwaukee to fly home, the two reveled in the enjoyment of a great hitch, and reminisced about the awesome opportunity of traveling the country.
Susan and Mike were partnered for their three-week whirlwind tour of the Mississippi Valley refuges that were flooded several months ago. Starting just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota and working all the way south to Little Rock, Arkansas, the pair hit 11 refuges in six states, never venturing too far from the legendary waterway Lewis and Clark once partially traveled many years ago. After spending a week around the Minneapolis area working at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge– and an artery-clogging day at the Minnesota State Fair – the team worked in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and western Illinois for the second week. A brief stop at Susan’s home and a driving tour of eastern Iowa and western Illinois presidential museums provided a relaxing weekend heading into the final week. The pair worked in eastern Missouri and southwest Illinois – making a brief stop at Popeye’s hometown in Chester, IL – before finishing up the hitch at White River wildlife refuge just outside of Little Rock. This particular refuge is home to Arkansas’ largest Bald Cypress tree, reaching a height of 120 feet and a width of 40 feet. Overall, the weather was warm and intermittently humid and the mosquitoes few and far between. While the heart of the country is known for its agriculture and flatter landscapes, the Mighty Mississippi, unobstructed sunsets and kind Midwestern folk proved made it a very enjoyable hitch.
Toji and Dave made up Team Alpha during Hitch 7 to Nevada, Southern California, and Arizona. To start our hitch we flew into Las Vegas, and worked at a three refuges just to the North of the city. The heat was intense in this area and throughout most of our hitch, with temperatures in the 100’s for the majority of the time. After finishing up in Nevada we drove down to Joshua Tree National Park for some rock scrambling and camping then onto San Diego for a week. During the middle of a meeting with the San Diego Refuge Manager, all of San Diego County experienced a blackout, along with parts of Arizona and Northern Mexico. Power came back after about 9 hours and when our week was up we went to Southern Arizona for the Buenos Aires Refuge and San Bernardino Refuge. It was an interesting experience to see these desert areas so green because we showed up in the middle of monsoon season. Overall it was a spectacular hitch; during our rec time we were able to check out Las Vegas, spend time at the beaches on the Pacific, eat amazing local and regional food, and meet some wonderful people.
Hitch 6 Team Charlie consisted of Dave Delcourt and Xuan Vu. For this hitch we covered only parts of Minnesota and South Dakota but ended up driving around the entire State of North Dakota. Weather played a huge part during this hitch because of flooding that has been plaguing North Dakota all season. Some of the refuges we visited had partially or completely flooded trails and all of Arrowwood NWR’s trails were completely flooded. In Bismarck we missed flooding by staying outside the city and on another night we were hit by a very windy thunderstorm. Although the weather wasn’t always the best we were able to visit the Boundary Water’s in Northeastern Minnesota. While there we went on a one day canoe trip and were able to see a couple 400 year old Native American pictographs on a cliff lining the lake as well as floating bogs containing 2 of the 3 species of carnivorous plants. In North Dakota we spent the weekend in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the western part of the state. We hiked over 10 miles of the Petrified Forest loop through prairie, sections of the badlands, and 2 sections of the Petrified Forest. Along the auto tour we were lucky enough to spot buffalo, feral horses, and 1 Prairie Rattlesnake. Overall it wasn’t a bad trip. Although the flooding and weather made it difficult at times but we both had a lot of fun.
Stefano Potter and Christina Perdos visited nine refuges throughout California with a brief stop in Nevada. At Modoc NWR the pair was able to band a Sandhill Crane and saw a plethora of bird species. The next stop was Humboldt Bay NWR which brought a sand dune ecosystem that was unlike any other refuge the pair had visited. In addition they inventoried a string of refuges along the Sacramento River before heading to the San Francisco bay area. The Pelicans, Stilts, Turns, Egrets and Cormorants greeted them as they mapped trails at Don Edwards NWR. Recreational time included a visit to Yosemite National Park, the Muir Woods and Lake Tahoe.
Hitch 6- Washington 
Susan McVey and Michael Molloy made up team Alpha for Hitch 7 in the month of August. Their adventures took them through the great state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest. They worked at ten National Wildlife Refuges from the Northeastern part of the state to the southwest and everywhere in between. They were lucky to see an osprey up close, a moose and her calf, and not to many mosquitoes. As they toured through the state working, their weekend time was not a loss. They were able to spend time in the North Cascades backpacking into the Cascade Pass and drove down the Pacific Coast in Olympic. They both claim that this was one of the most scenic hitches they've had this year. There was always a mountain in view.
Hitch 5- Alaska 
Alaska did not disappoint Team Alpha on their fifth hitch. Beginning with a Bear Safety and Awareness training in Anchorage, Christina, Letha, Michael (with special guest appearance by Program Manager, Tyler Lobdell) started off this hitch with a literal bang. This prepared them for the many wilderness adventures the foursome would have in three weeks at Alaska Peninsula NWR, Kenai NWR and Tetlin NWR. The group traveled by float plane to their inventory site on the Alaska Peninsula. From the shores of Ruth Lake, the group mapped an 8-mile trail that has been used for centuries. From here the group traveled to the Kenai Peninsula to inventory a portion of the over 200 miles of trail there. Finally the group traveled to Tetlin NWR, close to the Yukon border where they donned knee boots to map 15 miles of trail not included in cycle 1 data.
Aside from wildlife spotting with on trail, exciting activities included close encounters with moose, glacier hikes, wildlife boat cruises, and one memorable day of clamming.
Hitch 5 Delta team consisted of Dave Delcourt and Mike Mullaley. We started and ended in Boise, Idaho; completing a giant loop that took us from Northern Idaho, through Western Montana, to Western Wyoming, and through Southeastern Idaho back to Boise. We were able to see some amazing places such as Kootenai NWR in Bonners Ferry, ID and National Bison Range just North of Missoula, MT. On the weekends we stayed at Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and the Grand Teton National Park. With only two days of rain, we had mostly clear blue sky weather to work and play in. We saw a huge amount of wildlife including moose, a black bear, a bald eagle, three different species of owls, mountain goats, deer, elk, bison, antelope, and a host of other smaller creatures. National Bison Range and Lee Metcalf may be two of my favorite just because of the employees that work there. They came from different backgrounds, such as being a Salish Native American or wildland firefighting and were some of the most laidback individuals I have ever met. Overall it was a fantastic hitch filled with beautiful views, lots of wildlife, amazing people, and lots of travel.
Hitch 5: Oregon, California, and Idaho
This hitch sent Toji and Alex on a tour of Oregon, dipping briefly into Northern CA for two refuges right over the border. We started our tour from Boise, driving to Malhuer NWR in Eastern Oregon before heading into California for two refuges right over the border. Making it into California just in time for the weekend, we made it to the Redwoods where, after the high desert of eastern Oregon, the massive trees and greenery were extremely refreshing. Mid-hitch we drove up the Oregon coast, visiting three refuges on the way. We inventoried trails with views of the Pacific, one that led to a giant Sitka Spruce, and one that led right to the ocean shore. William L. Finley NWR in central Oregon had a beautifully maintained trail system with views of the Williamette River Valley. We were also able to visit Crater Lake NP and hike in the Columbia River Gorge.
Hitch 4- Northeast 
Spending a hitch in the northeast was a nice blend of tranquility in the outdoors and seeing the hustle and bustle of the big city. Team Charlie, composed of Letha and Mike, worked in nine wildlife refuges in five states. We flew into Boston and maneuvered our way out of the city toward Rhode Island, excitedly admiring Bostonian’s unique usage of the shoulder as a lane.
We began our work in southern Rhode Island and headed west along the coast to Connecticut. Inventorying trails at Stewart B. Mckinney was particularly exciting as we were taken out on a boat to several refuge islands. One trail took us through the heart of a Tern nest, which required dodging dive-bombing and defecating terns keen on warding us away from their young.
After our adventures on the coast, we swapped landscapes for New York City – a first trip to the Big Apple for Letha. After a fun weekend of exploring Manhattan, we took a ferryboat ride to Long Island to continue our trail work. Working our way west took us through New Jersey and into western New York, where we spent considerable time along Lake Ontario. Before leaving New York to go to another refuge, we took a short trip to Niagara Falls, viewing the impressive landscape from both the American and Canadian side.
The hitch concluded with our last refuge in Pennsylvania, before flying out of Cleveland. With coastal views of the Atlantic Ocean, sunsets on the Great Lakes, walking across to Canada to see Niagara Falls and taking in a myriad of NYC experiences, for two native west-coasters it was a hitch to remember out east,
Hitch 3- Missouri 
After working in the Southwest and Southeast the previous two hitches, the next stop for our nationwide adventure was the Midwest. Our initial task was to work in Missouri and southern Illinois. We landed in St. Louis and drove a three-quarter loop of the state, hitting refuges in the central, northwest and southwest portions. We were particularly impressed with the newly constructed LEED certified visitor center at Neosho National Fish Hatchery – the oldest operating fish hatchery in the country. The Neosho/southwestern Missouri area were in our thoughts later as we heard how Joplin got hit with a severe tornado.
As we headed east into southern Illinois, we witnessed the effects of the flooding that have plagued the area for weeks. Not only were trees nearly submerged, but farmland was inundated with water. Due to the flooding along the Mississippi River, several refuges were not able to meet with us because they were inundated with water. Several refuges along the river had to cancel our visits, which forced us to venture further east to find work. We went to southwestern Indiana, spent some time in Kentucky which included hiking at Mammoth Cave National Park – the largest cave system in the world – before finishing up our hitch out in West Virginia. While we covered some significant miles, we were excited by seeing a significant portion of the country.
Dave Delcourt 
I’m from a town in upstate New York called Queensbury. I grew up a pretty shy kid and stayed that way through high school, which I hated. College was when you could say I came out of my shell and started to enjoy meeting new people and getting involved with different projects. I graduated with a B.S. in GIS with a concentration in Environmental Science. After graduating I got a job as a custodian with a local temp agency and through a series of personal troubles found myself hiking the mountains around Lake George, NY and loving it.
I didn’t really have any expectations for this position when it was first offered. I was just excited to be working with GIS, GPS and the chance to see the western part of the country. I think I am completely fortunate to be here because I get to pick everyone’s brain about backpacking, leave no trace, rock climbing, astronomy, GIS, environmental science, mountaineering, canoeing, and a range of other topics; I get to travel to some amazing places and meet some fantastic and interesting people.
Letha Pease 
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area Letha graduated from Humboldt State University in 2003 with a BS in Natural Resource Planning and minors in GIS and Botany. After college she served in the Peace Corps (Philippines 2005-2007) and taught sustainable fishing practices in several coastal villages on the island of Bohol. Since returning to the US Letha has been involved with leading trail crews on the Pacific Crest Trail and in the Umatilla NF.
Letha has a very active outdoors life. It is possible to find her backpacking in her native Northern California, kayaking the Rogue River in Southern Oregon, snowshoeing on Mount Hood, or sailing on the Columbia River. In a good year she spends more nights camped outside rather than indoors.
The possibilities for the future are endless. Letha is currently waiting to hear from the Peace Corps for a second assignment that could leave early next year. For the month following the Fish TrACS program Letha plans to spend some quality time with friends and family in the Portland area.
The Hitch 4 Bravo Team, consisting of Stefano Potter, and Toji Sakamoto, spent June ambling around Massachusetts, and taking a week long adventure to Puerto Rico. Highlights from the mainland work included hiking a trail below the high tide line during high tide, being attacked by seagulls at Monomoy NWR, and finding one of the most spectacular refuges of either of our trips so far; Wapak NWR. Wapak had spectacular trails that went precipitously up a mountain whose summit held rocky outcroppings and stunning vistas. We finished the day of GPS work with sore legs, and smiles from finally getting a good hike while working.
After finishing up work in Massachusetts, we hopped on a plane for Puerto Rico. PR was an interesting combination of beautiful beaches, clear warm emerald ocean water, garbage eating wild horses, packs of stray dogs, noisy campgrounds, relentless heat and hummidity and spectacular hikes through a tropical rain forest. After finishing up work at Cabo Rojo NWR we did a brief tour of the island and headed back home to Boise.
All the way from South Dakota to Wyoming we have roved many miles and seen many spectacular views! With 13 NWR to visit we were kept busy and on the move. However we had amazing refuges to visit, such as:
-D.C. Booth the oldest established National Fish Hatchery, located in Spearfish S.D.
-Leadville National Fish Hatchery, located in Leadville, CO, the highest incorporated city in the United States (Elv: 10,152!)
-National Elk Refuge, located at the base of Grand Teton National Park
-Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge, the moose capital of the United States…Susan saw her first moose up close!
Seeing six states on our roving venture, lots of wildlife, and many scenic drives, makes this hitch one of the best yet!