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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
ASH MEADOWS NWR: Volunteers Improve Pupfish Habitat for First Stewardship Saturday of 2009
Region 8, January 24, 2009
PLI Educator Allison Brody leads volunteers through fun quiz show after cattail cutting at Ash Meadows NWR.(photo: USFWS) 
PLI Educator Allison Brody leads volunteers through fun quiz show after cattail cutting at Ash Meadows NWR.(photo: USFWS)  - Photo Credit: n/a
Some volunteers really got into their work. This
Some volunteers really got into their work. This "land mucker" moves cattail leaves away to a piling station. (photo: USFWS/C. Nalen) - Photo Credit: n/a
A Junior Girl Scout troop from Pahrump, Nevada came out to volunteer and work on their wildlife badge. (photo: USFWS/C. Nalen)
A Junior Girl Scout troop from Pahrump, Nevada came out to volunteer and work on their wildlife badge. (photo: USFWS/C. Nalen) - Photo Credit: n/a
Many volunteers followed the cattail cutters and helped them remove the cut leaves from the stream area. (photo: USFWS/C. Nalen0
Many volunteers followed the cattail cutters and helped them remove the cut leaves from the stream area. (photo: USFWS/C. Nalen0 - Photo Credit: n/a
Cattail grows in readily in the 90 degree waters of the Kings Pool spring on Ash Meadows NWR. Volunteers are needed to help maintain the wetland plant. (photo: USFWS/C. Nalen)
Cattail grows in readily in the 90 degree waters of the Kings Pool spring on Ash Meadows NWR. Volunteers are needed to help maintain the wetland plant. (photo: USFWS/C. Nalen) - Photo Credit: n/a

by Christina Nalen, Ash Meadows NWR
Thirty-five people from Pahrump, Nevada and various parts of Las Vegas, Nevada gathered Saturday, January 24th to put in a little volunteer time at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.  A Junior Girl Scout troop, a local Jeep club, and Great Basin Institute employees made up part of the wide scope of people who came to cut cattails in the name of pupfish habitat improvement.

Volunteers were asked to come prepared to get into the warm 90 degree waters of the Kings Pool spring outflow.  Getting soaked in January wouldn't normally sound like a good thing but, with mild 60 degree temperatures, more than half of the volunteers were ready and willing to sit in the waters and cut cattail leaves.  Cattails are an invasive wetland plant in these waters and must be maintained regularly.  Their leaves block out the sunlight needed for healthy algae growth which, in turn, provide food and habitat for the endemic Ash Meadows Amargosa pupfish (Cyprinodon nevadensis mionectes).  The base of the cattail leaves also make for good habitat for the introduced crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), which is a predator of the pupfish.

Not everyone wanted to get wet during the event.  "Land muckers" were needed as much as cattail cutters.  These were the volunteers who hauled the cut cattail leaves from along the edge of the spring outflow to designated piles where an equipment operator could come by to pick up the leaves and haul them away to a drying area.  Leaving the cattail leaves on-site would create potentially dangerous fuel for wildfires, which can be started by lightening during the dry part of the year.

Prior to the event, people who had volunteered at the last cattail cutting event were invited to return as “crew leaders”.  Crew Leaders lead the teams of newer volunteers by showing them what to do and keeping the team together and moving forward.  Crew leaders were rewarded with special thanks and a hat after the event.

The four cattail cutting teams and four land mucker teams worked in concert for almost three hours, cutting and hauling off over 2,000 square feet of cattail leaves (670 linear stream feet).  In the end, the equipment operator made one and a half dump-truck loads, roughly 15 cubic yards, of cattail leaves.

After getting equipment put away, last loads hauled off, and shed jackets picked up, most of the volunteers and the staff gathered by Kings Pool to picnic and participate in the quiz show produced by Public Lands Institute Educator Allison Brody.  Public Lands Institute is a partner of the refuge through the Southern Nevada Agency Partnership. 

Many of the volunteers ended up making a day-long visit at Ash Meadows NWR.  Some were seen on our Crystal Spring Boardwalk after the event and others said they were going to Devils Hole, a portion of Death Valley National Park that is found within the refuge.

Contact Info: Christina Nalen, 775-372-5435, christina_nalen@fws.gov