Friday, July 1, 2016

Social Trails and Camouflage

   This week at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area brought on a few different perspectives of how the NPS property is used. For instance, I was introduced to a few projects that involves natural resources. A member from the resource management team allowed me to tag along when he conducted a river survey.

   As we were hiking up to one of the areas, we discussed “social trails” and how they impact the environment. When I thought about social trails, I would have originally thought about the immediate impact on the vegetation that is slowly destroyed with each footstep. As we continued on, the many layers began to unravel as we talked about the different species that are effected, including amphibians. Social trails cause erosion, hazardous situations for visitors since these paths are not maintained, as well as hazardous situations for unsuspecting critters.

   I get it, the kinds of adventure that you can find off the trail is so enticing and beautiful but what happens when others follow your path?
Folks, wildlife is awesome. I encourage you all to ponder what it is that you value.
The small pool of water pictured (RIGHT) is vital for a variety of species. Ranger Mark explained it better than I could ever even try to. The take away message that I got from it involves the importance of these pools and its preservation. Although I may not see any of the wildlife that attracts visitors to SAMO, like the mountain lion for example, there is a lot of life in this pool. This pool and the many others that we surveyed are necessary for life to thrive out here in SAMO, from the very small critters all the way up to the well-known mountain lions.

Mark was a great sport when I repeated the question, “So what is that right there?”
   The survey that we conducted allowed me to see a snapshot into the kinds of amphibians, in particular, can be devastated by social trails, depending on where the trails lead. This got me thinking about what I value as a future park ranger. How can this impact be brought to the visitors in a way that is educational and informative?

   Another perspective that involves problematic use of NPS property involves marijuana. As I drive along the different roads that travel throughout the recreation area, weaving through different federal, state, and local properties, the rolling hills around me could be covering a marijuana grow and I would not even notice at 55 mph. Honestly, I probably would not see one even if I pulled into an overlook and peered into the canyon. So how do we even know and, good grief, can we bring it to court?
   One of the many ways to find out is to hike down and see. I have been able to see what goes into the planning aspect as well as the day of the hike. SAMO does a really great job at collaborating with other agencies. This has allowed me to have conversations with rangers from state and local agencies, including the day of the hike. Myself and a ranger from the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority (MRCA) ran communications and kept note of the hikers’ positions with a global positioning device from the perimeter.

The more time I spend with the rangers at SAMO, the more I feel at home in the NPS. Every day I continue to feel grateful to be out here in California, exploring all that I possibly can.


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