The community response to the National Public Lands Day (NPLD) event for Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area was significant with nearly one hundred volunteers. The volunteers included an army of Nevada Conservation Corps, Friends of Red Rock, some of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Las Vegas office staff, a smattering of UNLV students and a remarkable attendance of the community at large.
The morning started out with the basic check in – where volunteers received their bright purple 2011 NPLD shirt along with a lanyard and work gloves. Accompanying stations included educational information on native plant species, invasive species, and a display of native wildlife in the form of cougar, coyote, and kit fox skins as well as the weighty horn from a big horn sheep.
An initial statement was made quoting the President’s declaration of National Public Lands Day.
“At the dawn of the 20th century, President Theodore Roosevelt embarked on a tour of the American West that forever changed our Nation’s relationship with the outdoors. His visits to Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and other natural wonders instilled in him a commitment to conservation, and they motivated him to designate millions of acres of protected land. Today, our public lands system is a model of conservation and an important resource for clean energy, grazing, and recreation ‑‑ vital economic engines in both rural and urban communities.
On National Public Lands Day, we take time to appreciate our parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, and other public spaces, and we recommit to protecting and restoring them for future generations. This year, thousands of dedicated volunteers will continue a proud American tradition by conserving and restoring our public lands with local projects across our Nation.”
Following the opening pleasantries labor was divided into sign post installation, revegetation, and seed ball distribution. There were multiple sites for habitat restoration prepared for planting Mojave yucca, creosote, and white burrobush that were also protected from herbivores via metal mesh guards installed by the volunteers. The large volunteer presence made quick work of the desert landscaping.
During the project multiple event organizers checked in with plentiful amounts of drinking water and information on the future of Sloan Canyon. Some rejoiced in the improvement of vegetation growth from the state of the land years ago before land management and conservation projects began in Sloan Canyon.
A BLM representative pointed out paths clearly visible running around and up the hills as unauthorized motor vehicle use. The representative also stated that the Great Basin Institute is planning to create 44 miles of trail system throughout Sloan Canyon over the next two years.
Upon returning to the congregation site a wrap up announcement was made. Gratitude was expressed for all the volunteers but there was also unfortunate news. A volunteer had collapsed on site; paramedics arrived half an hour later and rushed him to the hospital. Thought to have been a heart attack, organizers sadly shared a grim outlook and asked the group to respectfully observe a moment of silence.
The President of Friends of Red Rock as well as a representative from the Red Rock Interpretive Association were invited to make some final statements. Then the volunteers mingled, did some networking, and dissipated – leaving with firsthand knowledge of the rewards of conservation as well as a deeper appreciation for the time we have.