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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

SAN DIEGO NWR: Volunteers Lend Helping Hands on National Public Lands Day

Region 8, September 22, 2012
Volunteers on National Public Lands Day on the San Diego NWR. Approximately 2,000 pounds of trash were removed - way to go volunteers!
Volunteers on National Public Lands Day on the San Diego NWR. Approximately 2,000 pounds of trash were removed - way to go volunteers! - Photo Credit: n/a

By Lisa Cox, Public Outreach

On Sept 22, 2012, 34 people gathered at the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, joining a volunteer movement to remove trash, beautify the land, and enjoy our treasured outdoor spaces. These volunteers were part of the 2012 National Public Lands Day (NLPD), a coast-to-coast effort involving more than 180,000 people who donated their time and effort at over 2,100 sites to improve the public lands that they enjoy every day.

Hidden Valley, a newly acquired parcel within the San Diego NWR, is one of those treasured public lands. At 1,905 acres, Hidden Valley is a beautiful core piece of the wildland reserves that are conserving native habitats like coastal sage scrub and chaparral in south San Diego County. Unfortunately in the past, some areas of Hidden Valley had been used as dumping grounds for large items such as cars and appliances. The previous landowner removed these large items before the land was brought into the refuge, but there were still remnants of metal, glass, plastic, and other trash that needed to be removed.

Bring in the volunteers! During the sifting, hauling, and sorting of trash, the volunteers removed close to 2,000 pounds of trash in just three hours. Through the dusty conditions and hot temperatures, the dedicated volunteers removed macro and micro-trash that is harmful to wildlife and their habitats, and prevented the debris from travelling into the Sweetwater River watershed that serves as drinking water for the San Diego area. Volunteers removed many interesting items, including broken dishes, a burned roller skate, and an old, deteriorated refrigerator that was far down the canyon. Because of the volunteers’ hard work to separate the trash, much of the glass (over 275 pounds) and metals were able to be recycled.

“The public participation in this clean up helps repair past mistreatment of the land, makes the soil healthier for regenerating native plants, improves water quality, and beautifies the scenery for recreational users," said Refuge Manager Jill Terp. "This refuge and the other conserved lands in the area form an amazing “backyard” for residents of San Diego County.” 

Thanks to the Friends of San Diego Wildlife Refuges, snacks and drinks kept the volunteers fueled and hydrated. Each volunteer received a free day-use pass to any federal public land for participating, and some great goodies such as the San Diego NWR coast horned lizard pin and T-shirt. Many of the volunteers were elated to see the newest addition to the refuge and were excited about future volunteer events. 2012 NLPD was a huge success due to the planning efforts of refuge staff and Outreach Coordinator Cathy Chadwick from the Earth Discovery Institute, and of course, the great group of hard working volunteers.

History of National Public Lands Day:

National Public Lands Day is the largest single-day volunteer effort on public lands in the United States. It began in 1994 with three federal agencies and 700 volunteers. Last year 170,000 volunteers worked in more than 2,000 locations and in every state. “This year, we encouraged all sites to support the national Let’s Move Outside! and Youth in the Great Outdoors initiatives to remind volunteers about all the ways they can spend time outdoors, taking part in healthy and fun activities on our nation’s public lands,” said Robb Hampton, program director of National Public Lands Day.

This event is the nation’s largest cleanup of public lands and helps carry on the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the "tree army" that worked from 1933-1942 to preserve and protect America's natural heritage. Over seventy-five years later, National Public Lands Day inspires the younger generation, including youth corps groups and volunteers across the nation, to follow in the footsteps of the Civilian Conservation Corps and give something back to our nation’s parks.

Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. is the national sponsor for NPLD, providing support and thousands of employee volunteers for the 13th consecutive year.

For more information, visit the website at publiclandsday.org

Contact Info: Lisa Cox, 619.476.9150 ext. 106, lisa_cox@fws.gov