AmeriCorps Returns to Point Reyes National Seashore
Contact: John Dell'Osso, 415-464-5135
Over the next two weeks, a team of AmeriCorps members from the Western Region in San Diego will be assisting the Point Reyes National Seashore with several critical conservation projects. The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), commonly refereed to as “America's Domestic Peace Corps,” is a national service program created with bipartisan support from Congress and President Clinton as part of the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. The purpose of the Americorps NCCC is to tackle America's toughest problems in public safety, education, unmet human needs and the environment. The program is a ten-month residential service program for young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 from every social, educational and racial background nationwide. While at Point Reyes National Seashore, the AmeriCorps crew will stay at the historic Lifeboat Station, located at the southern tip of the peninsula. Team leader Mark Waller from Minnesota said "the whole team is very excited to be here in Point Reyes and we are willing to do anything that we can to help out the National Park Service".
The group’s main project is constructing vegetation exclosures on the tule elk. The tule elk were reintroduced to the park in 1978 after being absent since the turn of the century. The purpose of the exclosures is to keep the elk out of the designated areas in order to study the impact of elk grazing on the vegetation. Biologist Marcia Semenoff-Irving of the U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, Golden Gate Field Station, who is conducting the experiment, will be sampling the vegetation both inside and outside of the exclosures to see how the tule elk effect the environment. The elk have done so well in their new environment that there has been some concern about their steadily increasing population. The population has grown from 10 in 1978 to more than 450 in 1997, and there are no signs that the birth rate is slowing down. The group is now working on 12 different fence exclosures that measure14,400 square feet. According to Marcia Semenoff-Irving, “These exclosures will provide the park with critical information for the next 5 to 15 years.
The AmeriCorps team has been invaluable in this process.” The AmeriCorps team is also assisting biologists in monitoring the area’s small mammal, reptile, and amphibian populations. The team is assisting in the assembly of “pitfall traps” to collect samples of the animals that live at Point Reyes. This process, called “Inventorying and Monitoring”, is important because it will tell the biologists what animals live in the area and where they live. Over the long-term, the biologists can monitor the populations of each species of animal to see if the area’s ecosystem is thriving or if there is an imbalance. The animals are not hurt during the trapping process and are all returned to their habitats alive.
Another aspect of inventorying and monitoring that the team will be assisting in is “spawner surveys.” Both National Park Service staff and the team will be looking for coho salmon and steelhead trout in Olema Creek. Both of these fish species are endangered and the purpose of this project is to see exactly how many of these fish are coming back up stream to spawn.
Other projects the Americorps teams will work on include removal of non-native plant species such as pampas grass and ice plant. The removal of these plants is crucial to preserving the native vegetation of the park.