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VENTURA FWO: Eureka Valley Dunes Plants Get a Helping Hand
California-Nevada Offices , July 20, 2008
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NCC crew removing old fencing (NPS photo by Michele Slaton)
NCC crew removing old fencing (NPS photo by Michele Slaton) - Photo Credit: n/a
USFWS Plant Recovery Coordinator Connie Rutherford and Park botanist Michele Slaton monitor rare plant transects (NPS photo by Michele Slaton)
USFWS Plant Recovery Coordinator Connie Rutherford and Park botanist Michele Slaton monitor rare plant transects (NPS photo by Michele Slaton) - Photo Credit: n/a

Connie Rutherford, Ventura FWO
Miles from nowhere, a crew of young adults from around the world converged on Eureka Valley in the northern end of Death Valley National Park to help restore habitat for listed and sensitive plant species.  At the time these conservation-minded adventurers signed up to work the summer with the Nevada Conservation Corps, little did they know they would end up working in the largest dune system in California, with the stunning cliffs of the Last Chance Range as a backdrop. 

 

Rewind this story by a year:  staff in the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office were completing a 5-year review of two listed plants – Eureka Valley dune grass (Swallenia alexandrae) and Eureka evening-primrose (Oenothera californica ssp. eurekense) – and came to the conclusion that most of the threats to the species from recreational activities had been addressed by the Park, and by the Bureau of Land Management, who had been responsible for managing the lands before the Park.  At the same time, we recognized that there were a few additional recovery tasks that needed completing.  We were able to secure $85,000 through the Washington Office’s “Showing Success” program to assist the Park with some of these tasks. 

 

In early May of this year, the crew from the Nevada Conservation Corps set up camp and got to work.  Under the guidance of Park botanist Michele Slaton, they hauled out old sand fencing, dug up old fenceposts, pulled up invasive Russian thistle seedlings, and obliterated old roads using vertical mulching.  They also got to learn how to use GPS units during the course of relocating monitoring transects for the rare plants that had not been visited in almost 30 years, and participated in collecting data from the transects.  Hopefully for these young adults from New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland, and other countries, the stark beauty of Eureka Valley and knowing they assisted with restoring habitat for endangered plants will become not only good memories but will inspire them to continue working for the conservation of natural resources.

 

Aside from the work that the Nevada Conservation Corps has been doing, the Park has also moved the campground farther away from the sensitive dunes, increased their ranger contacts with the public, constructed additional educational signs, and developed a more comprehensive monitoring plan for the plants.  On a sober note, although the recreational use that previously impacted the Eureka dune grass no longer occurs, the plant does not appear to be recolonizing all the areas it was once found in.  Whether this is a result of the previous impacts or from global warming, we may not know without additional studies.  


Contact Info: connie rutherford, 805-644-1766 x306, connie_rutherford@fws.gov



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