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Austin ESFO Helps Connect Children with Nature by Working with Girl Scouts
Southwest Region, September 15, 2007
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Sohini Bandy and Adam Zerrenner, Austin ESFO Supervisor, plant native vegetation along a small stream that is habitat to Jollyville salamanders in Austin Texas.  Photo by Alisa Shull, September 15, 2007.
Sohini Bandy and Adam Zerrenner, Austin ESFO Supervisor, plant native vegetation along a small stream that is habitat to Jollyville salamanders in Austin Texas. Photo by Alisa Shull, September 15, 2007. - Photo Credit: n/a
Tim Schumann and Sohini Bandy examine vegetation along the small stream in Austin Texas where habitat is being improved for Jollyville salamanders.  Photo by Alisa Shull, September 15,2007.
Tim Schumann and Sohini Bandy examine vegetation along the small stream in Austin Texas where habitat is being improved for Jollyville salamanders. Photo by Alisa Shull, September 15,2007. - Photo Credit: n/a

As part of a Connecting Children with Nature effort, the Austin Ecological Services Office partnered with a local High School Girl Scout (Sohini Bandy) to assist her with her Gold Award project. The Gold Award is the highest award a High School Girl Scout can earn.  A Gold Award project is something that fulfills a need within a girl’s community, creates change, and has an effect that last beyond the initial project implementation.

This project involved riparian restoration at a stream site in a suburban area in Austin, Texas.  The stream site is also a site where Jollyville salamanders are sometimes found (in low numbers).  The salamander has been petitioned for listing and the Service is in the process of making a decision on whether the species warrants listing.  Over the last few months, the Austin ES office helped Sohini and her volunteers remove non-native species, and on September 15, 2007 helped with a big "planting day" where the habitat was restored with native species that have the potential to benefit the City of Austin’s water quality and wildlife dependent on clean water such as the Jollyville salamander.  Restoring habitat at this stream depended on community volunteers (in this case young children, teenagers, and their parents).  Some future funding will be provided by the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program.  The Service provided technical advice to Sohini on techniques and native species to use for the restoration. 

Sohini assembled quite a number of volunteers, including a number of teenagers from her Girl Scout troop, clubs from her High School, other friends, and the local neighborhood, to bring the restoration project across the finish line.  Watching everyone work together restoring habitat was inspirational, as these children and teenagers all worked so hard with the goal of improving their environment as the end.  It also served to help create a young leader within the community who was instrumental in bringing everyone together.  The Girl Scouts’ Central Texas Council reports that “for many, the leadership skills, organizational skills, and sense of community and commitment that come from ‘going for the Gold’ set the foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship.”  One teenage volunteer rode his bicycle almost two miles to restore wildlife habitat at 7:30 in the morning; when someone commented on how hard he had been working all morning, he said, "this is important work to do.”


Contact Info: Martin Valdez, 505-248-6599, martin_valdez@fws.gov



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