Friday, February 27, 2015

New National Monuments Declared

Chalk Cliffs of Browns Canyon, Colorado. Photo by John Fielder / Friends of Browns Canyon
Last week, President Obama declared three new National Monuments under the 1906 Antiquities Act.  The three areas offer a range of of educational, historical and wilderness values.  This announcement will bring the creation of the Pullman National Monument in Chicago, Ill., a site where African-American railway workers won a historic labor agreement, and the Honoliuli National Monument, the largest internment camp for Japanese-Americans and prisoners of war in Hawaii during World War II.  Also included in this announcement is a 21,000 acre parcel of wild land along the Arkansas River in Colorado, Browns Canyon.

For outdoor recreationalists, the victory in the campaign for Monument status for Browns Canyon is the culmination of more than two decades of work to gain permanent protection for this area. Originally proposed as 35,000 acres, the proposal, which includes defined wilderness, was scaled back to ensure feasible management as a BLM National Monument. The Friends of Browns Canyon has been spearheading the effort since chartered in 2003.

This area is not only notable for its renowned whitewater rafting, but also the pristine forests, unspoiled wildlife habitat, excellent rock climbing, mountain biking, hunting and fishing that engage visitors year-round. The land has been managed as a BLM Wilderness Study Area and National Forest Roadless Area for many years.

What do you think about the new National Monuments? Any interest is helping the BLM steward this land on a service project in the coming years? Let us know in the comments section below.

And here's a way cool graphic of all the new National Monuments over the last few years.
Image courtesy of ThinkProgress

Friday, February 20, 2015

Canyon Country Adventures Await

In just a few short weeks, the 2015 Wilderness Volunteers project season will kick off with a full trip to the Mojave. Get out of the cold and into the wilderness with projects across the southwest (and Hawaii), such as these projects on the Colorado Plateau:

K04Mike in slot canyon

Moab Arches and Towers, Moab BLM, Utah

Moab is a paradise for hikers, with many landforms unparalleled in the world.  Our project there runs the week of April 19th - 25th whre we'll work on the trails to arches and views of the Colorado River and Fisher Towers.

San Rafael Swell, Sids Mountain WSA, Price BLM, Utah

The San Rafael Swell is one of most striking areas in all of the wild western United States.  With slot canyons, gorges, mesas, desert streams and so much more. This is an area all wilderness lovers should explore, at least once. Read more about the April 19-25th trip in this blog post and sign up for the adventure on the website.

Escalante River, Glen Canyon NRA, Utah
This project is the continuation of a fourteen year project removing invasive Russian olive trees from the Escalante River watershed. The work is needed and this rugged landscape must be experienced. Join us April 26 - May 2.

Hammond Canyon, Manti-La Sal National Forest, Utah

Join WV out in Canyon Country from May 10-16th for a trail maintenance project amongst fascinating ancient history and scenic beauty. This extremely underrated area promises to impress you and reward your stewardship efforts.

North Rim, Kaibab National Forest, Arizona
When you think of canyons, there is one in particular that stands out - the Grand Canyon. Join us in northern Arizona in an area outside of the National Park and spend the week working from the Kaibab Plateau brushing trails that lead to the North Canyon. Read more and signup up for the WV service project on the North Rim, Kaibab National Forest, May 24 - 30, 2015.

And more! If you need help deciding which project is right for you, send us an email or give us a call at (928) 255-1128 - we'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Birth of the Pulaski and the Great Fire of 1910

Volunteer Ed Leonard sharpens his Pulaski on a WV trip in Dolly Sods 2012
If you've been on a service project with WV, there is a very good chance you've used a Pulaski. This common hand-tool features an ax on one side of the head and an adze or hoe on the other. The Pulaski is the preferred tool of choice in fighting wildfires and building trail, among many other outdoor uses. But do you know the circumstances of how it was invented?

Last week the television series American Experience, which airs on PBS stations across the country, featured an in-depth documentary on the massive fire of 1910 in the northern Rockies, The Big Burn. Still unsurpassed in American history, this gigantic blaze burned more than 3 million acres and over 100 lives were lost in a weekend. The documentary details the impact this fire would have on the burgeoning National Forest Service and the tenuous political climate surrounding Gifford Pinchot and the agency's growth under President Theodore Roosevelt. Also detailed in the documentary is the valiant efforts and particular history of one assistant ranger in Idaho, Ed Pulaski.

For anyone who has swung a Pulaski and/or cares about the history of our public lands, it is a really interesting tale. Luckily, if you missed it, you can watch it below. More information is also available on the American Experience website.

Please let us know what you thought of this documentary in the comments section below.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Project Spotlight: San Rafael Swell - April 19-25, 2015

Photo of the San Rafael Swell, from photographer Vera de Kok,  

Spaces are available on a spring WV service project in one of the most striking areas of the Colorado Plateau - the San Rafael Swell.  Geologically referred to as a massive domal anticline (a convex fold of the earth), the Swell is marked by slot-canyons, valleys, gorges, mesas, desert streams, geologic formations and buttes.  Despite being only several hours from Salt Lake City, the San Rafael Swell offers an incredible wilderness experience with a multitude of recreation opportunities and an abundance of solitude.

Randy Kahn took this 2014 photo contest winning shot of volunteers heading to work on the WV project in the San Rafael Swell last year.

Endangered Winklers Cactus (Pediocactus winkleri),
Photo by Daniela Roth, USFWS
The San Rafael Swell offers fascinating geologic formations, a history of ancient peoples, active wildlife and many endemic plants. Evidence of Native American cultures, including the Fremont, Paiute, and Ute, is common throughout the San Rafael Swell in the form of pictograph and petroglyph panels, many of which are accessible. The geology is so uniquely picturesque, it has served as a stand-in for alien worlds in many Hollywood productions, such as Star Trek  and Galaxy Quest. Unique geological conditions in combination with the arid climate have created microhabitats that support more than 40 rare and endemic plant species. Many of these plants are federally listed as endangered, such as the San Rafael cactus (Pediocactus despainii), Ute ladies-tresses (Spiranthes diluvialis), Barneby's reed-mustard (Schoencrambe barnebyi), and many more.

Photo by Randy Kahn from last year's WV San Rafael Swell project
Our project will focus on a non-native plant that is abundant across the western US - the invasive and destructive tamarisk (tamarix). Tamarisk disrupts the structure and stability of native plant communities and degrades native wildlife habitat in extremely sensitive southwestern riparian areas by outcompeting and replacing native plant species (such as Cottonwoods and Willows), salinizing soils, monopolizing limited water, and increasing the frequency, intensity and effect of fires and floods. Tamarisk, as well as the other woody invasive plant common in the southwest, Russian olive, are nasty non-native plants that need to be removed to help restore wildlife habitat.

We'll camp by our vehicles at a remote site in the Sids Mountain Wilderness Study Area, picked out by our agency partners out of the BLM office in Price, Utah. From there we'll make daily hikes to work sites and explore the vast and wild San Rafael Swell. Learn more and come join us on a spring service project adventure in this remarkable place! And don't fret too much if the April dates don't line up with your calendar - we have a fall trip in the San Rafael Swell as well.

Another great shot from Randy Kahn from last year's project

See more great photos from the 2014 WV San Rafael service projects over at the WV Photo Gallery.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Snowmobilers cited for riding in wilderness area

The Flathead National Forest law enforcement officers cited seven snowmobilers for operating their machines in the Mission Mountains Wilderness in Montana. Each rider was given a ticket for $325. Forest service employees say they saw the snowmobile tracks. They encourage folks who ride in the backcountry to use maps and be aware of their location.

The Wilderness Act prohibits the use of motorized vehicles in designated wilderness.

For more on this story, visit this link.