WESPEN Online Order Form print this page
US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
STOCKTON FWO: Service Staff Mentors Local Youth Through the Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship Program
Region 8, April 15, 2010
Donnie Ratcliff and Merlo Institute students planting native riparian trees along the Mokelumne River (photo: Shana Welles, CLBL).
Donnie Ratcliff and Merlo Institute students planting native riparian trees along the Mokelumne River (photo: Shana Welles, CLBL). - Photo Credit: n/a
Donnie Ratcliff, Ramon Martin and Merlo Institute students planting a native valley oak tree near Lodi Lake, Mokelumne River (photo: USFWS).
Donnie Ratcliff, Ramon Martin and Merlo Institute students planting a native valley oak tree near Lodi Lake, Mokelumne River (photo: USFWS). - Photo Credit: n/a

By Donnie Ratcliff, Stockton FWO
Donnie Ratcliff
, a fisheries biologist with the Service’s Anadromous Fish Restoration Program (AFRP) recently began serving as a mentor to Merlot Institute of Environmental Technology students through a program run by the Center for Land Based Learning (CLBL).  According to the CLBL website, The Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship (SLEWS) program “engages high school students in habitat restoration projects that enhance classroom learning, develop leadership skills and result in real habitat restoration.”

Through the SLEWS program, high school students are able to become an integral part of local restoration projects.  Students are trained and guided by mentors with expertise in ecosystem restoration and are then able to provide much needed labor to landowners while learning about restoration in a real-world situation.  This approach allows conservation and stewardship values to be shared while important habitat restoration is accomplished.

The students from Merlo Institute completed several restoration projects during the spring of 2010.  Service employees participated in two of these projects.  In early March, Mr. Ratcliff joined the students, CLBL staff, and other SLEWS mentors at the Mokelumne River Day Use Area and the Mokelumne River Fish Hatchery.  Students planted native riparian trees within the day-use area along the Mokelumne River.  The group then toured the fish hatchery and discussed the life cycles and habitat needs of Chinook salmon and steelhead.  To finish the day, the group discussed how functional riparian habitat and ecosystem restoration benefits several of the life history stages of aquatic and terrestrial species that occur in the area.

Lodi Lake Park was the site of the final project day of the 2010 Merlo Institute SLEWS effort on April 15, 2010.  Donnie Ratcliff and Ramon Martin (Assistant Program Manager with AFRP) joined the students, CLBL staff, and other SLEWS mentors to plant native riparian grasses, shrubs, and trees in an area that the City of Lodi Parks and Recreation Department had recently cleared of invasive Himalayan blackberry.  After planting, the group discussed the multiple benefits that healthy native riparian vegetation provides in relation to water quality and temperature, nesting and foraging habitat for mammals and birds, stability of floodplain areas, and benefits to recreational users.

During the course of this year’s SLEWS  activities with Merlo Institute, mentors and CLBL staff have been able to reach out to students from an underserved part of the community and share with them the process and benefits of ecosystem restoration.  Many of the students have commented that without a program like this, they would have had little opportunity to learn about the diverse ecosystems of California’s central valley and the restoration opportunities that exist therein.  The staff of the Anadromous Fish Restoration Program hopes to continue this important relationship and opportunity into the future.

Contact Info: Ramon Martin, 209-334-2968 ext. 401, ramon_martin@fws.gov