Last week, thirteen Sierra Club members and two leaders camped in Florida's Ocala National Forest for a service project outing called "Sand Pine, Silver Water, and Service. (Click to enlarge photos.)
Our first project was to close "illegal" roads into the forest. Numerous forest roads are open and available to all-terrain vehicles, SUVs, and motor bikes, allowing these recreational vehicles to enter and use the forest, and also to allow hunters to get deep into the woods to hunt and retrieve their kills. But some forest users create other entrances, thus ruining habitat, disturbing the ecology, or even dumping refuse. We were tasked to make four such user-created entrances impassable by installing posts and building obstacles of vegetation. In the photo below, four such posts or bollards are being installed here...
...and can be seen here. Dead trees and limbs are then added to further prevent access via these closed roads.
For one morning and two afternoons, we entered the water of Salt Spring (72 degree water year-round) to remove invasive hydrilla plant using rakes. These bad weeds displace the native submersed plant communities, stealing the sunlight from the indigenous plants upon which the native fish and wildlife depend for sustenance and shelter, thus altering fish populations and shifting zooplankton communities. The canoes are used to transport the hydrilla to shore.
Our piles of hydrilla were immediately taken away on a cart to a place where it could dry out and then be burned, but we did manage a group photo by a "small" pile seen here...
Front row (left to right): Kathy, Jeanne, Felix, Kristine, Pete, Cheryl, Tom (our leader), and Francy (our co-leader).
Back row: Jim, Bill, Linda, Rick, Susan, Dona, and Chuck
Meanwhile, another contingent of our crew was scouring the forest to locate and remove "air potatoes," a twining vine that quickly engulfs native vegetation as it climbs high into the forest canopy. Its tubers, (which do look like potatoes) fall to the forest floor and quickly spread the invasive plant, so collecting the potatoes before they go to seed helps keep the plant from spreading even more.
Trees that are occupied by RCWs have white bands painted around them as Cheryl demonstrates here, so they can easily be identified by rangers during wild fires or prescribed burns, so we scraped off the old, deteriorating bark and repainted the white bands.
One morning, when it was too chilly to get into the water yet, we hiked a section of the Florida Trail and connecting forest roads and removed numerous bags of litter deposited by messy forest users.
Here's a photo of our knowledgeable and personable US Forest Service rangers who led us on this project, Marcus and Kinzie. We are so grateful to them and also to the biologists for sharing their time with us, and also for unselfishly dedicating their careers to the environment!
Downloadable photos of the project can be found here.
And here's a video highlighting the week's activities (click on the arrow and then click on the bottom right "YouTube" to enlarge)...