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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Highland Glen Park, Highland, Utah, USA

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Highland Glen Park, Highland, Utah, USA
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Eric



Registered: December 2012
City/Town/Province: Highland
Posts: 1
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Background


For the past five years, I have been working to eradicate harmful invasive plants in a wilderness park near my home. To understand why this is so important to me, you must first understand why invasive plants are such a serious problem.


Invasive plants prevent an area from reaching its full potential. They hitchhike their way into new habitats and can create a variety of problems. They may arrive on the bottom of someone’s shoe, as contaminates in bird seed or as an ornamental plant. Regardless of how an invasive plant gets to a new place, their effect is often the same. Their population skyrockets and can crowd out native plant species. This problem is compounded because many invasive weeds produce toxins that poison wildlife or can sterilize the ground and kill native plants. In some places, the spread of invasive weeds is so prolific that there isn’t enough native vegetation left to support wildlife living in the area and animals face starvation or eat the toxic plant and die from poisoning.


Invasive plants cost my state billions of dollars each year in agricultural losses, removal costs, and chemical treatments. They increase fire danger and limit outdoor recreation. The problem is so daunting that many communities have simply given up the fight to solve the problem, but I haven’t!


Starting Out


My efforts to eliminate invasive plant species began five years ago when I was hiking in a Highland Glen Park, a wilderness park near my home, and noticed a suspicious plant growing along the side of the trail. After learning the plant was an invasive species called Dalmatian Toadflax and toxic to local wildlife, I wanted to do something about the situation. I did more research and documented five additional invasive plants growing in Highland Glen Park: Bull Thistle, Fixweed, Spotted Knapweed, Spiny Sowthistle, and Cheat Grass. I learned the best way to remove each species so it wouldn’t grow back, then contacted city officials to get permission to remove them from the wilderness area. After pulling out the weeds by myself for a few weeks, I soon realized it was going to take a long time to make a dent in the problem if I didn’t get some help. That’s when I formed Plant Patrol.


One of the goals of Plant Patrol is to make Highland Glen Park a better home for wildlife because several kinds of animals live there including deer, rabbit, squirrel, fox, quail, pheasant, hawk, owl, and various songbirds. As President of Plant Patrol, I teach others about the problems invasive plants cause, then recruit volunteers to help me remove the harmful species. Most of the people I have taught are surprised to learn that a simple plant can cause so many problems.


To get money for Plant Patrol, I did a fundraiser at a furniture store and earned $150. Next, I applied for a grant from Teens for Planet Earth and received another $300. When I told Action for Nature and Disney Friends for Change about my project, they awarded me three more grants totaling $1,400.


To further educate the public about this serious environmental problem, I developed a public awareness campaign and have given talks on the subject to dozens of groups. I have also made educational displays for county and state fairs, a summer youth camp, scout expo, and my city’s summer celebration.


This Year’s Effort – Apprentice Ecologist Project


This year I decided to do an Apprentice Ecologist Project on behalf of the Nicodemus Wilderness Project by adding a new component to Plant Patrol which included planting native seeds in areas where invasive plants have been removed so the areas can be re-vegetated. The first location I targeted was next to a walking trail in Highland Glen Park because non-native plants tend to invade areas where soil has been disturbed.


I researched the type of native plants that grow well in our climate and used some of the grant monies to purchase a variety of native grass and wildflower seeds from Great Basin Seed Company. I ended up getting six types of grasses and 17 different wildflowers including Smooth Brome, Small Burnet, Intermediate Wheatgrass, Rocky Mountain Penstemon, Palmer Penstemon, and Munroes Globemallow. Next, I made a flier to recruit volunteers from schools closest to Highland Glen Park and asked science teachers to give extra credit to students who worked on the project.


On the morning of the service project it started to rain, and I was worried no one would come. Luckily, the clouds cleared and 132 volunteers showed up to help. The majority of the volunteers came from Timberline Middle School, Mountain Ridge Junior High, and Lone Peak High School. The students worked together in teams to prep the ground, scatter the native grass and wildflower seeds, then carefully scratch them into the soil. As the last volunteer left and I was gathering up my supplies, it started raining again. We had finished just in time!

As part of my Apprentice Ecologist Project, I have also taught 105 first grade students about “good” and “bad” plants. After teaching the students the difference between native and invasive plants, I helped them plant native wildflower seeds in pots to bring home. In April, I organized a service project on Global Youth Service Day with 4-H County Extension, where I taught 75 individuals about invasive plants, then had the group plant native seeds. This past summer, I worked at a summer youth camp and was able to teach 334 youth about native and non-native plants.


Along with my revegetation efforts, I have continued to organize groups to remove invasive plant species from Highland Glen Park. In May, I worked with a science teacher from Mountain Ridge Junior High School and organized a “weed pulling” field trip for 69 students. After that, I organized “weed pulling” service activity for 45 members of my church youth group.


Over the past year, Plant Patrol has received recognition from several national groups. In April, Youth Service America (YSA) chose me to be their youth speaker at Disney’s Kid and Nature Celebration in Orlando, Florida. In May, Prudential flew me to Washington D.C., and I was able to speak with each of my state’s senators about the goals of Plant Patrol. Because of my role as the President of Plant Patrol, I was chosen to be a state delegate to the National 4-H Congress in Atlanta, Georgia in November. Plant Patrol has even been featured in a book (written by Anne Jankeliowitch) about youth around the world who are making a difference to improve the environment in their communities. Each of these opportunities has given me a chance to encourage others to do something about the harmful invasive plants in their own communities.


Impact


Over the past five years, I have taught 2,217 individuals who have volunteered over 3,754 hours helping me remove invasive species or re-vegetate areas with native seeds. I have recruited volunteers from 4-H clubs, school groups, church youth groups, Girl and Boy Scout troops, as well as neighbors, family, and friends. I have spearheaded Plant Patrol service projects on Global Youth Service Day, Earth Day, and Make a Difference Day. As individuals have volunteered with Plant Patrol, they have gained a greater appreciation for nature and the importance of protecting the environment.


Plant Patrol is making a noticeable dent in the invasive plant population in Highland Glen Park and is having a positive impact on the environment in my community. That said, I know there is a lot more work to be done before many of these harmful plant species are fully removed, and I need to continue to mobilize and educate the public. As a result, I have already organized three major Plant Patrol service projects for 2013.


END OF ESSAY



Post-project Interview with NWP:



WHERE DO YOU ATTEND OR PLAN TO ATTEND COLLEGE AND WHAT IS YOUR FIELD OF STUDY/INTEREST?


I plan to attend Utah Valley University for my Bachelors degree and pursue a degree in biology.



WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE EDUCATIONAL, CAREER, AND LIFE GOALS?


I would like to pursue a career where I can help others and make our planet a better place to live. I am thinking about doing something in the biotechnology or medical field where I can help improve the quality of life.



WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE LONG-TERM BENEFITS TO YOUTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT MADE POSSIBLE BY THE APPRENTICE ECOLOGIST INITIATIVE?


I think it is a huge accomplishment when anyone motives someone my age to get interested in protecting the environment. For me, the Apprentice Ecologist Initiative was a great motivator because it gave me something specific to focus on and set goals, then work towards.



HOW HAS YOUR APPRENTICE ECOLOGIST INITIATIVE PROJECT ENRICHED YOUR LIFE?


As President of Plant Patrol, I have become much more aware of the environment and the importance of protecting the ecosystem. Working on my Apprentice Ecologist Initiative allowed me to become a leader and gave me a platform so I could recruit volunteers to help me with my project. I also realized a person can make a difference even if they start out small.



WHY DO YOU FEEL IT IS IMPORTANT TO BE AN ACTIVE STEWARD OF THE ENVIRONMENT NOW AND IN THE FUTURE?


It is very important to get my generation interested in protecting the environment because they will be the leaders responsible for making important decisions of what will happen with the environment in the future.
Date: December 29, 2012 Views: 8341 File size: 12.7kb, 1486.5kb : 1419 x 2127
Hours Volunteered: 3754
Volunteers: 2217
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 16 & 5 to 60
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