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    Carlsbad Caverns

    National Park New Mexico

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Volunteers Tackle Invasive Plants at Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe Mountains

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Date: April 5, 2006
Contact: Bridget Litten, 505.785.3024

Under siege by the invasive Malta star thistle, Carlsbad Caverns and the Guadalupe Mountains National Parks have a new ally—a team of young and determined volunteers.

The volunteers, all in their early- to mid-twenties, are members of the non-profit Student Conservation Association (SCA). This energy-packed crew of four interns and a project leader are all recent college graduates with degrees in the environmental sciences. For the next six months, the team will work in national park sites in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Oklahoma, spraying, cutting and pulling countless infestations of salt cedar, Malta star thistle, and other exotic plants.

“SCA provides young people with hands-on experience with public land management agencies in invasive plant species removal, fire monitoring for fuels, trail and building maintenance, desert and native ecosystem restoration, and countless other projects,” says Jarred Shaw, project leader for the team based at Carlsbad Caverns.

The SCA team is working alongside members of the National Park Service’s Chihuahuan Desert Southern Shortgrass Prairie Exotic Plant Management Team. At Guadalupe Mountains, the crew is hand-pulling isolated infestations of Malta star thistle, wooly mullein and horehound and spraying large areas with an environmentally safe herbicide to control past areas of infestation and to prevent future growth. The crew will soon move on to Carlsbad Caverns, as infestations of the same invasive plants are also found there. Similar SCA-led efforts have curtailed the spread of invasive plants in parts of Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and throughout the West.

Eric Walker gives some insight into the experience, “I hope to make a difference and help protect these special places from the damage caused by invasive species. I find motivation to serve by giving back to the land, reciprocating the countless hours of enjoyment and wonder that nature has provided me for so many years.”

In addition to the invaluable hands-on experience they receive, SCA interns also provide public outreach and educational opportunities in the communities in which they work. The Carlsbad Caverns-Guadalupe Mountains crew will have an informational booth at Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park, in Carlsbad, on Saturday, April 8, in conjunction with other March for Parks activities.

Dedicated to building a new generation of conservation leaders, SCA instills an ethic of conservation where both the land and the individual are nourished through the experience of hands-on service. Its high school, college and graduate student members annually provide more than 1.5 million hours of service in national parks, forests and other public lands.

For more information, contact Jarred Shaw or Eric Walker at 505.785.3117, 505.921.3287 or via e-mail at Jshaw@thesca.org. For more information on the Student Conservation Association, visit www.theSCA.org or send an e-mail to Khamilton@thesca.org.

Did You Know?

The natural entrance of Carlsbad Cavern.

In 2003, a park employee found a piece of a stone scraper within view of Carlsbad Cavern's entrance that goes back to Ice Age Indian hunters. In 2004, archeologists found fragments of two spear points of the Midland-style Paleo Indian projectile points of some 10,000 years ago.