Big Thicket Longleaf Pine Restoration Team HP

Site
Big Thicket National Preserve
Position ID
PO-00734254
SCA Houston Community Young Adult Team/National Park Foundation
Restoration of Climate Change Resiliency and Ecological Function in Longleaf Pine Savanna

Compensation: $15hr
Background:
Longleaf pine savanna is an imperiled ecosystem historically characterized by a sparse canopy of Longleaf pine and an open understory rich with grasses and wildflowers. It contained a suite of unique flora and fauna not found in any other habitat type. Less than 5% of the ecosystem remains today, and many of its associated species are now threatened, endangered, or imperiled.
Longleaf pine savanna is a fire-dependent ecosystem that historically burned every 2-5 years. Suppression of natural fires has caused widespread abnormal accumulation of fuels, increasing the risk of catastrophic uncontrolled burns. The effect is exacerbated by increased weather extremes such as drought associated with climate change.
Remnant Longleaf pine savanna is also commonly impacted by past clear-cutting, resulting in widespread development of dense pine stands in which trees grow weak and vulnerable to windstorms. Hurricanes have caused catastrophic loss in such pine stands and present a growing threat due to increased storm severity associated with climate change.
Big Thicket National Preserve contains a significant portion of the Longleaf pine savanna remaining in Texas and the largest acreage within the National Park Service. Many of these remnants require substantial rehabilitation to restore historic ecosystem structure and function, which is accomplished in part by controlling invasive shrubs and restoring native grasses. These tasks are critical to increasing ecosystem resiliency to climate change by reducing fuel accumulation and restoring habitat quality for numerous species of conservation concern.
 Objectives:
  1. Reduce woody fuel accumulation by controlling understory shrubs within restoration sites.
  2. Restore herbaceous groundcover by planting native grasses within restoration sites.

Methods:
Members will apply herbicides to target shrubs in existing restoration sites. The sites have been previously cleared and burned to increase accessibility and reduce shrub canopy size for safer and more efficient herbicide treatment. Members will apply foliar herbicides by hiking through sites with backpack sprayers. Members will receive training, safety briefing, and supervision from NPS staff in possession of a state pesticide applicator’s license in accordance with NPS policy. Members will also track daily progress using GPS and pesticide logbooks. Final treatment acreage is undetermined but estimated to be 50-100 acres. Members will also implement some mechanical removal of shrubs using hand tools such as loppers and folding saws.
Members will plant native grass plugs in ongoing restoration sites to support groundcover restoration. Members will aid NPS staff in retrieving plugs from an on-site nursery and plant them using planting dibble bars. Final acreage is also undetermined but expected to be <50 acres.

As time and interest allows, members will also be given opportunities to network with NPS staff, receive career development advice such as applying for federal employment, and participate in other programs to gain greater knowledge about Big Thicket National Preserve and the NPS.
Conditions of Employment
Required to demonstrate full vaccination status for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) with a food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized or FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine.

    Main Area of Focus
    Backcountry/Trail work
    Education, Training & Skills Expected

    None listed.