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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

DON EDWARDS NWR: Youth Conservation Corps' 'Crew of Five' Helps the Marsh Thrive

Region 8, July 29, 2011
A Bay Area-based YCC crew use weed whackers to clear out Mustard flowers at the Faber-Laumeister Tract on Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo by David Yang, USFWS)
A Bay Area-based YCC crew use weed whackers to clear out Mustard flowers at the Faber-Laumeister Tract on Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo by David Yang, USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a


By David Yang, Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge

In the summer of 2011, five high school students were selected to be a part of the United States Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew. The applicants were from East Palo Alto and Menlo Park in the South San Francisco area. Most of them had little or no experience in restoration. In fact, for four out of the five crew members, this was their first paying job. They had no idea this area of the Refuge existed so close to them. These projects included use of the YCC powered irrigation pump, sheet mulching, weed whacking, sowing and transplanting native plants, replacing signs, working at the State Fair, painting a picnic table, and environmental education every Friday.

Throughout the eight weeks, the YCC crew learned many new weed management techniques and how to use many different types of tools. They also got a crash course in life skills such as developing a work ethic. This will undoubtedly give them an advantage when they move to new jobs and new phases in lives. Like the quote in the movie Matrix "I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it."

The crew had a lot of tasks to accomplish in only eight weeks. They worked diligently to finish their tasks and learned some new things on the way. The crew’s day would start at 7 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m. While working in the nursery they were able to sow more than 10 flats and transplant 5,000 plants. The irrigation pump, powered by a crew member on a bicycle, needed a little bit more team work than some of the other tasks. At the end of each day the crew was given some time to write in their journals and reflect on the day. Many of the crew members started out thinking this was just another thing they can do to get paid and have something to do during the summer but by the end of eight weeks the crew members were more aware of their environment and were able to relate themselves better to their surrounding environment. 

This year’s crew also had the chance to be leaders and help introduce this part of the Refuge to others. Their first experience as leaders came in the form of leading a group of 6 YCS (Youth Community Service). This is a group like the YCC but for younger students. The YCC crew explained to the YCS group about the watershed and why it is important to the surrounding cities. After the presentation YCC helped YCS to mulch around the native plants. Their second experience as leaders came when Facebook interns and Build On volunteers came to our worksite to do some community service. The YCC crew explained about the watershed and the marshlands. They also explained how the wetlands helps the surrounding cities and about its benefits. This was all done with only a little help for preparation and the rest was organized by the YCC crew. 

Along with their work tasks the crew had a chance to learn about their environment every Friday. Their Fridays would consist of learning about the marshlands, tides, conservation, mapping, adaptations and human interactions with nature. Even though they were all in high school most of the information was new to them. Fridays gave them a chance to reflect on the work they had been doing earlier in the week, making their work and their time spent with YCC more meaningful. 

I know these youth will return to the Refuge with either their family or their friends and enjoy the work they have accomplished and share their knowledge and experience with them. This might have been a one-time deal for these kids but I believe they left with memories that will last them a lifetime.

-- FWS --


Contact Info: David Yang, 408-262-5513 *106, David_yang@fws.gov