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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
STOCKTON FWO: Vision Retreat
Region 8, June 19, 2009
STFWO staff prepare a plan of action before beginning their work assignment at Mohler Tract. Photo by Jackie Hagen USFWS 6-18-09
STFWO staff prepare a plan of action before beginning their work assignment at Mohler Tract. Photo by Jackie Hagen USFWS 6-18-09 - Photo Credit: n/a
STFWO staff prepare to remove the invasive tabacco trees.  Photo by Jackie Hagen USFWS 6-18-09
STFWO staff prepare to remove the invasive tabacco trees. Photo by Jackie Hagen USFWS 6-18-09 - Photo Credit: n/a
Beth Campbell gets in the spirit of the day loading her kayak up with trash.  Photo USFWS 6-18-09
Beth Campbell gets in the spirit of the day loading her kayak up with trash. Photo USFWS 6-18-09 - Photo Credit: n/a
STFWO staff pose with some of trash they collected between Mohler tract and Caswell State Park. Photo by USFWS 6-18-09.
STFWO staff pose with some of trash they collected between Mohler tract and Caswell State Park. Photo by USFWS 6-18-09. - Photo Credit: n/a
Jon Thompson and Ron Smith work to feed a hungry crew. Photo by USFWS 6-18-09
Jon Thompson and Ron Smith work to feed a hungry crew. Photo by USFWS 6-18-09 - Photo Credit: n/a
The 2009 Stockton Fish and Wildlife Office Staff.  Photo by Phil Voong USFWS, 6-18-09
The 2009 Stockton Fish and Wildlife Office Staff. Photo by Phil Voong USFWS, 6-18-09 - Photo Credit: n/a

By Shannon Brewer, Stockton FWO

The vision of the Stockton Fish and Wildlife Office (FWO) is to promote native, self-sustaining ecosystems through leadership in anadromous fish restoration, fisheries research and monitoring, and non-native invasive species (NIS) prevention, management, and control. Each year, the office meets for a retreat to promote and refine the office vision.

 

This year, the Stockton FWO held its retreat along a stretch of the Stanislaus River from Mohler Tract to Caswell State Park.  Mohler Tract is a 35-acre parcel that was acquired in 1999 as part of the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge (part of the San Luis Refuge Complex).  The small size of Moler Tract, its proximity to urban properties, and distance and isolation from other refuge lands have made it difficult for refuge staff to develop a practical management strategy.  The goals of the 2009 Stockton FWO vision retreat were to implement NIS removal on Mohler Tract to assist the San Joaquin NWR and local community; conduct a river clean up on the Stanislaus River while exploring the possibility of establishing a self-guided water trail for public use from Mohler Tract downstream to Caswell State Park, and discuss how to use Mohler Tract as an opportunity to connect people with nature and support the San Joaquin NWR. All of these efforts were coordinated with the endpoint of the Stockton FWO potentially adopting Mohler Tract to assist the refuge system in caring for and developing this property for public use. Partners with the Stockton FWO in this year’s endeavor were the San Luis NWR, California Department of Fish and Game, River Partners, and Caswell State Park.

 

The time spent at Mohler Tract was used for four activities: NIS removal, trash removal, brainstorming to develop ideas for interpretive signs and activities targeting children and families and introducing some staff to “geocaching.”  The NIS removal focused on the removal of wild tobacco tree.  This small tree is highly invasive, forming dense stands, especially along rivers.  Seedlings were removed by hand, whereas larger plants were cut off near ground level and stumps were painted with a glyphosate-based product to prevent regrowth.  The distribution of pepperweed was also evaluated to coordinate future efforts with refuge staff to remove this invasive at a more appropriate time of year.  Separate teams walked the Mohler Tract property, one picking up trash, and the second discussing potential interpretive sign location and content, trail formation, public river access, and educational activities.    Other staff participated in an introduction to geocaching, exemplifying a way to address the Service goal of connecting people with nature on the Mohler Tract property.  Geocaching is best described as a high tech sport centered on using GPS navigation in a modern day treasure hunt.  The activity teaches the basics of GPS while promoting interactions between the public and nature in a family friendly treasure hunt.  

 

Most staff spent the afternoon floating the Stanislaus River between Mohler Tract and Caswell State Park picking up trash and evaluating the river for canoeing or kayaking.  Those not participating in the river cleanup assisted with transporting vehicles and equipment to Caswell State Park, exploring the habitat and geocaching sites available there and preparing food for the final part of the vision retreat.  Service staff collected nearly two pickup truck beds of trash along the river and discussed ideas for developing a self-guided water trail, including the possibility of working with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to make improvements on the refuge property on the adjacent USACE property to facilitate the launching of canoes and kayaks.  The water trail would be a stretch of river that was mapped out with the intent to create an educational experience and promote environmental stewardship for novice or experienced canoers and kayakers.  River corridors present a variety of experiences including offering some of the best wildlife viewing.  The majority of discussions centered around using the water trail to educate others about the local wildlife and fishery resources, past and present habitat restoration efforts, the benefits of creating a water trail (e.g., regular trash removal), and developmental logistics (e.g., sign posting).  The river clean up provided a unique opportunity to safely assess the viability of creating a water trail that would accommodate both experienced and novice watercraft operators. 

 

The retreat wrapped up with a barbeque, calculations of carbon footprints, and a vision discussion at Caswell State Park.  Service staff involved with the global climate change initiative led others in an effort to calculate individual carbon footprints as a means of ultimately calculating and finding ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the entire Stockton FWO.  Feedback from the day was very positive and intertwined with the Service ideals of connecting people with nature.  Finally, discussions focused on...where do we go from here?  Future efforts aim at assisting refuge staff with additional NIS removals, and the beginning of an involved process to make Mohler Tract accessible and usable to the public. 

 

Contact Info: Paul Cadrett, 209-334-2968 x 312, paul_cadrett@fws.gov