Marching out of the Discovery Center at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday, a dozen young people in bright blue shirts set to work shoveling dirt, maneuvering wheelbarrows, unraveling hoses and hefting 5-gallon pots. They were members of the Student Conservation Association, and their efforts were directed toward building a garden to sustain monarch butterflies.
The association is a nonprofit organization based in Houston that connects youth to environmental service projects throughout the region. The butterfly garden was just one project the crew will tackle during the next two weeks they spend at the refuge, helping managers restore habitat for birds and other wildlife.
“Without them, these projects wouldn’t get done,” said Tom Schneider, the outdoor recreation planner for the refuge. “These are projects that have been outstanding for a long time.
“We have very limited staff, and without their young energy here, we just couldn’t do it.”
At the Brazoria refuge, the crew will help resource managers with tasks ranging from pulling weeds to moving old railroad ties to collecting and removing invasive apple snails. More than doing work to help the environment, the students aim to inspire other youth to get involved outdoors.
“Something else we’ve really learned is, because it’s older people that work at these places, it’s hard for them to reach the youth,” said Erika Munoz, a student crew leader for the crew working at Brazoria.
“We’re a bridge basically between these organizations and the youth, which is really important, because they’re the ones that are going to take over eventually.”