One of the biggest challenges of overseeing habitat restoration projects on a large scale across the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks is having enough manpower during especially busy seasons. Harvesting, weeding and planting are often done by hand in sensitive habitats, and this season the efforts of Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff are being bolstered by a crew from AmeriCorps.
Seven AmeriCorps volunteers have been working full time to help keep stewardship projects moving forward. These members rotate around to various restoration areas in the Landmarks and work with Conservancy staff and volunteers to remove invasive weeds, to plant native seed and seedlings, and to help with harvesting at the Native Seed Farm. The AmeriCorps team is learning about our local habitats while they contribute to these projects.
AmeriCorps was founded in 1994 as an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency focused on community service. Volunteers across the country contribute millions of hours toward helping nonprofit community organizations (like Irvine Ranch Conservancy) and public agencies in the fields of education, public safety, health care and environmental protection. The seven crew members working with the Conservancy are part of an AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) community service team. They have each committed ten months to service, and will rotate through four different nonprofit, government or faith-based organizations in the Western United States.
Their service on this project began April 1, and will continue through May 22, providing valuable support for ongoing restoration projects within OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve. They have also been supporting restoration projects at Quail Hill and Bommer Canyon in the City of Irvine.
“They are providing a surge of labor at a critical time, enabling the continued success of ongoing restoration efforts,” said Lars Higdon, Irvine Ranch Conservancy Project Manager and Field Supervisor.
By working alongside highly-trained ecologists and naturalists, the AmeriCorps members are learning the latest in restoration practices and techniques at a time when they may be considering various career paths and are trying to bolster their skills and experiences. Irvine Ranch Conservancy is hoping to have this relationship continue with another group next spring.
Members of the public are invited to meet the AmeriCorps crew and work alongside them at the Native Seed Farm on Wednesday, May 20. They will be co-hosting a farm stewardship activity with Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff, and no prior experience is required to help at the farm. For more information or to register, please click here or visit www.LetsGoOutside.org/activities.