On September 4th, Portland had its town kick-off meeting for Solarize Portland. We weren’t sure what to expect for attendance, but over 60 people showed up, 37 of them wanting a solar consultation! Solarize works by selecting a single installer who has been vetted by the Town and running a 4-month long campaign to sign up as many people as possible for residential solar. It uses grass-roots organizing to increase participation and the more people who get involved, the lower the price for everyone becomes.
There are 5 tiers of pricing and the price for solar lowers at each tier once participation thresholds are met. They only need 75 people to sign a contract for solar in order to get to get to the lowest tier and the cheapest solar by December 14th. This model heavily incentivizes residents to get their friends and neighbors involved. With current state rebates and federal incentives, the payback on solar is 5-7 years, which is almost double the rate of return than it was just a few years ago! I am excited for the first person to actually install solar on their home.
Our final hitch and project were on the side of beautiful Santa Rosa Mountain overlooking Palm Springs and the Indio Valley. We were tasked with maintaining the Sawlead mill trail which had fallen into disrepair after years of no work and minimal use.We cut tread, cleared downed logs, fixed drainage issues, brushed back vegetation and reworked switchbacks. It was great work in near perfect conditions with unbeatable weather. While only 2.5 miles in length the trail was steep in the southern sections, climbing over 1000 feet. We hiked a lot, worked hard and breathed in the cool mountain air deeply, savoring our last wilderness voyage of the season.The final two days of the hitch were a Leave No Trace trainer course in Joshua Tree National Park. We were lead and taught by Matta Duarte, who has accompanied us into the field before. It was a great educational opportunity and we now feel comfortable teaching the LNT principles should we find outselves in a place to share them. It was also a great way to round out an already successful season. We walked 13 miles in the park and were able to soak in the desert one last time.
As our season fades out, the hitches seem shorter and the end feels near. Our eleventh hitch and sole hitch in Ridgecrest was a great change from the Wildcorps norm. We saw many familiar faces in unfamiliar places.We began with archeology in Portuguese Canyon near Coso Junction. The artifacts are thought to be on a seasonal site where Native Americans briefly stayed after crossing the Sierras. Each day we met archeologist Ashley from the Ridgecrest office at a site that gleamed with obsidian artifacts and stones having a variety of milling features. The other DRC crews took turns coming out for the day and assisting with our surveying efforts. We spent two days walking transect lines while marking artifacts and features. Artifacts included obsidian biface flakes and arrowheads. The two following days were spent classifying, photographing, and recording the artifacts and features on paper and GPS devices. WildCorps enjoyed the unique challenges of our task and the company of other DRC members. Wildlife was booming and with a rattlesnake and a desert tortoise making appearances. The second part of Hitch 11 was the final All-Corps, the setting was a dry lake bed in Grass Valley. Fun times were had by all. There were the famous themed potlucks, slack lines, Jurassic Park, and more. The fun was evenly spaced out between the long hot days of fencing. WildCorps got their first taste of building H-braces. It was a productive three days of work which was rewarded with all of us becoming tan and strong and fed a lot of ice cream by the Ridgecrest BLM.Highlights of this hitch included Marcus's birthday (featuring gluten-free German Chocolate Brownie Cake made in a cast iron skillet), seeing our first desert tortoises in the wild, Fossil Falls, visiting a swimming hole, spending quality time with other DRC crews, and getting a taste of Ridgecrest life. We are excited for our last hitch, Palm Springs, baby!
After coordinating flights and driving schedules, all four Conservation Corps teams made it safely to the Uwharrie National Forest in Troy, North Carolina for our initial SCA training on May 12th. The five members of our Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) team, along with our fearless crew leader, finally met after weeks of wondering who our new housemates and co-workers would be for the next six months. We were incredibly excited to find that we all have common interests in conservation and Arrested Development. This led to a smooth transition through training, where we learned about the rich history of the SCA, the vast spectrum of conservation ethics, and became certified in Wilderness First Aid at the end of the week. When training sessions were done each day, much of our free time was spent conversing with the other conservation corps teams and their projects, as well as listening to the musical stylings of the many talented SCA members, crew leaders, and staff. The SCA training prepped us for what may lie ahead of us this summer and fall in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
Our SCA training was supplemented by our CWPP training with the North Carolina Forest Service (NCFS) this past week. We were introduced to the many county rangers we will be working with and the project we will be working on. Our team will be interviewing fire chiefs in rural areas throughout 11 counties of North Carolina to determine Areas of Concern (AOCs), or regions at risk for wildfire damage. We will then visit AOCs and assess risks based on a number of factors, including presence of water sources (such as hydrants) to put out wildfires, vegetation fuel type, and distance of structures (such as houses or fences) from fuel sources. From there, we will use ArcGIS to map these areas and present the data to the NCFS and to communities at risk. With all of our training now completed, the CWPP team is now stocked with all of the tools and information to successfully assess and better prepare communities at risk for wildfires.
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Hitch 12 marks the last hitch of the season! We did many of projects including Fencing in Grass Valley, erosion control in Owens Peak Wilderness, and getting an early start on packing up for the end of the season. Although we were not in the field for a long extended period of time, we still faced challenges with the climate. While working on the fence, it got up to 103 degrees Fahrenheit in grass valley! There were also very high wind speeds the night we spent at the base of Owens Peak that got so high it was hard for some of our members to sleep! Our time in the field with SCA has been awesome and very rewarding for all of our members. We all are proud of our work in Kiavah and throughout Ridgecrest and the Mojave desert and hope it leaves a positive effect on our desert for years to come. A few of our highlights this season include: over 3 miles of fence completed this season; Erosion control on a steep hill climb which required materials to be brought up; Will Hagen getting his ear pierced by a tree on his first day; “I LIKE CUTE!”; Molly having narcolepsy around the house; Yelling at Mal around the house whens she’s “plugged in”; Sam’s beard comb; Charlie’s new DRC girlfriend and Auroa bringing in a few Shoshone bachelor. All in all it has been a great season and we are all looking forward to helping the environment in new ways! Kiavah Kiavah Kiavah Kiavah OWENS!