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ASH MEADOWS NWR: Maintaining Endangered Species Habitat at Ash Meadows!
California-Nevada Offices , July 7, 2012
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Volunteers as they amass cut cattail leaves prior to loading in the refuge dump truck.
Volunteers as they amass cut cattail leaves prior to loading in the refuge dump truck. - Photo Credit: Jeff Brew
Volunteer Ryan Wallen trims cattail stems upstream while Dan LeVar guides an accumulated mat through a channel bend.
Volunteer Ryan Wallen trims cattail stems upstream while Dan LeVar guides an accumulated mat through a channel bend. - Photo Credit: USFWS

They came out by the dozens to toil in the July Mojave Desert heat. It was a blistering day at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) near Pahrump, Nevada. Greeted by a Cooper’s hawk, which was captivated by the gathered assembly, 32 volunteers spent their Saturday morning at Ash Meadows NWR pruning overgrown cattails and reeds along the Crystal Springs outflow stream channel.

Removing overgrown cattails is an important part of habitat maintenance, because they slow stream flow and provide habitat for invasive crayfish. The crayfish, among other exotic species, eat the endangered Ash Meadows Amargosa pupfish and compete with the pupfish for food and space. At the refuge, clearing cattail overgrowth provides a more hospitable and habitable environment for the endangered pupfish. Members of the Las Vegas Hiking & Outdoors Meet-up, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) service club Omega Delta Phi, and citizens from Las Vegas, Henderson, Amargosa Valley, Pahrump and Olympia, Washington  joined together on a beautiful day for habitat improvement work.

The event began with two refuge staff members welcoming the volunteer participants. After a refuge orientation and riveting safety briefing led by volunteer event assistants, the attendees split into teams and then carefully eased into various points along the Crystal Springs outflow channel. Once in the water, these intrepid souls used hedge clippers and carpet knives to trim cattails down to about an inch above their base. Though the water is warm, it seemed cool and refreshing in the summer heat. Nearby ash trees that had been planted by volunteers just 10 years earlier provided occasional shade. In most places along the channel the water is between ankle and knee-deep. However, in some places the channel is up to four feet deep. After three hours of fulfilling labor, the volunteers were rewarded by the sight of 18 cubic yards of cattail clippings they had removed from 440 linear feet of channel.

The area through which the channel flows was once filled with concrete irrigation ditches designed for large-scale farming and development. These artificial conduits were cleared in the 1980s, but the area still has not totally recovered from the disturbance. The refuge has since removed much of the cement ditch and restored the waterway to a narrow, naturally meandering stream channel from the spring head.

Thanks to all the wonderful volunteers who made it happen and to the Public Lands Institute for providing snacks and water!


Contact Info: Harry Konwin, 702-515-5494, harry_konwin@fws.gov



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