The numbers are impressive.
More than 1,545 miles of trail inventoried on 234 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service units, most of them national wildlife refuges. More than 142,000 trail feature points collected. More than 15,400 volunteer hours logged. More than $48,000 in AmeriCorp education credits earned. Almost 189,000 air miles and 90,000 terrestrial miles traveled in 49 states and Puerto Rico. All in 10 months.
Thats what the 10 Student Conservation Association interns and two SCA staff members who made up the Service National Trails Inventory Project team did last year.
The ambitious project, part of a multiyear effort to inventory and assess trails, was a great service to the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Based in Boise, ID, and overseen by SCA staff members Alex Olsen and Tyler Lobdell, the project was conducted under the auspices of the Refuge System roads program and the U.S. Department of Transportations Federal Lands Highway Program. The welltraveled interns collected data about trail surfaces, grades, slopes, lengths, bridges, boardwalks, benches, culverts, signs, observation decks, drainage, erosion, obstacles and more. This year, after the information is reviewed, it will be uploaded to Federal Lands Highway Program servers and various Service databases.
The project was a great opportunity for the young conservationists, too.
It gave them an upcloseandpersonal introduction to the Refuge System that few people receive. One of the SCA interns, Michael Mullaley, recently reflected on what the trails inventory experience meant to him.
I absolutely had no idea there were over 500 wildlife refuges. Prior to this position, I had only heard of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he said. Now I know the Refuge System stretches to every state, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Plus, much to my excitement, I discovered Tualatin River Refuge is only 30 minutes away from my home in Portland.
The trails inventory adventure provided him with many memorable moments.
Like the time he had to don fullbody waders at Cypress Creek Refuge in southern Illinois to cross a 200foot section of trail that was flooded up to my chest.
National View of Trail System
Or the time he helped inventory a trail at San Bernardino Refuge along the U.S.Mexico border fence in Arizona. There I stood at a conservation, political and social junction, he said. It was a very powerful moment.
Or the time he hiked 15 miles through pine forest on the Florida National Scenic Trail at St. Marks Refuge. The trek left him with 15 ticks embedded in my ankles and was incredibly beautiful.
With the sounds and sights of civilization far away, he said, we journeyed peacefully through some absolutely gorgeous wilderness, thoroughly enjoying the tranquility and appreciating how lucky we were to have such an awesome job.
Not only did the SCA interns have an awesome job, they did an awesome job, too, according to Service national trails coordinator Nathan Caldwell.
Theyve added real data, real information about a broad range of issues involving Service trails, said Caldwell, who noted that the young interns did it largely unsupervised, working in pairs during threeweek stints on the road. It gave us a national view of our trail system and how its changed since our last inventory in 2007.
Mullaley said he is proud of his role in the inventory because he knows that my work will help refuges get funding to develop and repair their trail system. Ultimately, this work is beneficial for visitors and helping to bring people out to these wonderful places.
For more information about the interns U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Trails Inventory Project experience, go to http://www.thesca.org/fwsniw11.