Canyon Sketches Vol 20 September 2010
Grand Canyon Association Grant provided by the National Parks Conservation Association Supports
by Allyson Mathis
In April 2010, the Division of Science and Resource Management received a $70,000 grant from Grand Canyon Association, with funding provided by Nature Valley to the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) for native vegetation restoration in Grand Canyon National Park. Specifically, the grant supports the Grand Canyon National Park’s efforts to protect, restore, and improve the park’s native ecosystems by providing additional funding to support the vegetation volunteer program.
With its great range in elevation and varied ecosystems, Grand Canyon has incredible plant diversity, yet the park’s native plant communities are impacted by construction projects, visitor use, and the invasion of nonnative plant species.
The grant is helping the National Park Service protect Grand Canyon’s ecosystems and the wild lands of which native plants are an integral part.
Volunteers play an integral role in preserving the park’s native vegetation. They assist with native seed collection and propagation, invasive plant removal, restoration projects, and the recovery program for Grand Canyon’s only endangered plant species, sentry milk-vetch (Astragalus cremnophylax var. cremnophylax)
Vegetation Program Manager Lori Makarick said, “Grand Canyon’s Vegetation Program is very multi-faceted and dynamic. Volunteers work side-by-side with park botanists and plant biologists to protect, restore, and improve native plant ecosystems on both the North and South Rims and in the inner canyon. The additional funding will allow us to exceed several critical resource management and protection goals for 2010.
"In addition, volunteers gain an experience of a lifetime by contributing to the preservation of an internationally-renowned park, receive an education about the park’s vegetative communities, and, in some cases, gain valuable training that can lead to future employment.
"The fact that the grant is in support of the vegetation volunteer program is a perfect example of the park working with partners and volunteers to achieve the maximum possible benefit to the park.”
The funding has allowed the Division of Science and Resource Management to hire two crew leaders for volunteer work crews and to provide logistical support for the volunteers, including providing meals during volunteer events.
One of the crew leaders is a volunteer himself. Student Conservation Association (SCA) Resource Assistant Andrew Vitale is on a nine-month internship. On a daily basis, he is working side by side with volunteer groups and staff removing invasive species, planting native plants, and educating visitors and other volunteers about active restoration throughout the park.
Vitale, a 2010 graduate in Environmental Science from the University at Albany, State University of New York, says, “The short time I've spent in the Grand Canyon National Park has already been a life-altering experience. In addition to learning the science required for the job from my supervisors, I've learned a tremendous amount about different walks of life from the wide array of volunteers. Working alongside the volunteers has put me in touch with some incredibly interesting individuals and their cultures. I have found their willingness to donate time and effort for the benefit of the park to be very motivating.”
The grant has enabled the park to offer two additional Vegetation Program volunteer events a month through this fall. During these events, volunteers assist park staff with a variety of restoration projects, including restoring native plant communities adjacent to construction zones near the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, restoring areas with high visitor use impacts, and removing invasive plant species.