Monday, July 28, 2008

Week 8

Hey, wait...what did that title say? Week 8? No way!

Shocking though it is, we really are 8/9ths of the way through the program. Not being the sort of people to let a little exhaustion get in the way of a good time, week 8 shaped up to be one of our best ever.

Monday: The day started early with a rendevous at Pearl Street Beverage and Liqour store, the usual meeting place for our early morning drives. Everyone was wide awake and jumping at the bit at 7:30 in the morning. We headed south to Rochester to the US Forest Service station. There, we met with several members of the service, whose duties ranged from archaeology to soil to non-native invasive species. After learning a ton about safety and liability (and how to use radios the size of your head) we split up into three teams: archaeology, heading to Rob Ford; soils, going out to an area above Rob Ford; and the invasive species/vista crew, who hiked along the long trail searching for views and nasty little plants.

After a long day of mucking around in the wet forest, we met back at our camp at Moosaloo for a gourmet dinner of pasta and cheese. Following a nice campfire, everyone turned in, getting lots of sleep for the day ahead.

Tuesday and Wednesday: A bright and early start finds two teams of trail hikers ready to set out for an overnight on the Long Trail, again hunting for invasives and vistas. One team headed north while the other set out south, spending the night at Cooley Glen and Emily Proctor shelters fending off the elusive - yet dangerous - wild Long Trail mouse.

Over three days of hiking and many miles covered, only two invasive plants were found: a stray honeysuckle and an aquatic plant in a high ridge pond. Old vista information was updated and a handful of new ones were added to the vista directory.

The next morning each team hiked down from the ridge to meet the van. Unfortunately, the hike was much shorter than anticipated, and the six crew members waited for a few hours in torrential downpour for the van to arrive. Forutnately, spirits wre high and food was plenty, so an experiment began to create the best stew we possibly could, given the conditions. The winner was a deliciously awful peanut butter-veggie-tortilla soup, which held over until the van arrived to rescue the rain soaked crew.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the soils crew spent one more day testing soils to find out the drainage properties of the soil, to determine the suitability for harvests during the winter as a part of the NEPA processes. On Wednesday, with soil work completed, the crew joined the archaeology group at Rob Ford.

Both Tuesday and Wednesday, mapping was the name of the game at Rob Ford. The site of an old homesteading community in the mid 1800's, old cellar holes, walls, fields and cemetaries are being mapped for new GIS based maps.

Enjoying the company of Dave from the Forest Service, and a few members of the Rainbow Family (Google it, it's kind of a long story!) , the crew toiled endlessly for three days to map the extensive area. Dexter claims he felt like Indiana Jones, journeying across the wild for signs of "anceint civilizations" - minus the hat and the whip.

After a long three days, the wet rats of the LANDS crew piled back into the van for the long drive home. Two hours later, we all emerged from the van, still wet, to pile and sort the gear. Everyone exhausted, we all stumbled home, took our showers, and were in bed by 6.

Thursday and Friday: Being careful not to have too much fun, or to let our computers become dusty, we spent the end of the week wrapping up our Stowe Land Trust projects, finalized Burlington Parks and Rec, and began to put the finishing touches on the Tunbridge project. With our final presentation on the horizon, we are speeding up on the end of the program!

Friday, July 18, 2008

and Week 7 flies by....

Monday 7/14

Once again we found ourselves convened Monday morning in that infamous room 9 we've come to regard as something between a living room and tech lab. Today was reserved for working on our BPR document-Burlington Parks and Recreation and editing. Its amazing really how much work goes into compiling natural resource inventory.

We also worked diligently on our NAF project-New Acadia Farm. This program is acronym prone-we work with so many partners that it would take days to say their entire name every time we need to mention them. Maybe a little acronym song to help us remember BPR, UVLT
say can you seee, LHCF, GMNF, SLT RLT....

Tuesday 7/15

Out on the road to Montpelier where we visited Vermont Land Trust representative Dennis Shaffer and talked about some of LANDS previous projects as well as getting the organization run-down from him. The picture on the left shows our meeting with the Vermont Housing and Community Board which is conveniently located right next door to VLT. After Dennis, we walked approximately 200 feet through a woody trail to the VHCB building. There we had a great discussion about the goal of VHCB, some recent projects, their funding initiatives and their organization. Bill Costner and Karen Freeman helpfully answered our questions and spared us their time. Thanks to them!

Wednesday 7/16

This morning was spent thinking about our various projects for Stowe Land Trust. There are 3 different projects we are doing for them and we broke up into our groups and starting talking turkey. This land trust has conserved over 3000 acres of critical habitat and other natural areas in the Stowe area-that famous ski town we all know and love. The lands crew then headed out to the site, starting at the Mill Trail Property a 31 acre property acquired in October 2003 onwhich sits several historic cabins and areas.

At right is one of the Cabin's that used to be used as a blacksmith's shop

The group got a tour from Becca Washburn who showed us around the property and also from Jean whose knowledge on the history of the landscape gave the lands crew an excellent idea of the site. We returned to Burlington full of ideas and inspiration for this next project which would be quite unlike any we had done...

Thursday 7/17

The morning was occupied by a visit from Rick Zamore, our coordinator at the SCA and another SCA rep. They came to check out what we had been up, see our office and meet our interns. It was a great visit-and we showed them a few of the projects we've been working on including a extensive version of the Burlington Parks and Rec document.

In the afternoon, we headed back out to Stowe to help the property description team who are putting together information for the Stow Land Trust website. Our group split up and examined several sites including the Page Tract, the Weissner Property and Joe's Pond.

Friday 7/18

After a weeks worth of SLT in the field work, we were finally ready for a looong in office day to begin to put it all together. We all worked diligently on our respective projects: the curriculum crews working to put together in the field classes for adults and youth alike, the brochure team putting together information about the historic Mill Property and the property description team assembling all the information we had all compiled about several of the different sites conserved under the Stowe Land Trust that we had visited. And then finally, at 5:00pm came the weekend! signing out

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mix of old and new

Our week started with working indoors and gradually transitioned into working outdoors in the rain to doing forest inventorying. We had an opportunity to work in collaboration with VYCC crew and explore the Little Hogback Community Forest.


After a long weekend we were back full of energy and tales of adventures of our weekends. Today we worked indoors on Tunbridge project and continued to work on where we left on Thursday. Biota/ Natural History group was assigned the task of formatting document structure for Tunbridge project, Public Resource team was assigned to design map template for all maps and Historical/ Cultural/ Agricultural Soils group was assigned the task of editing the document. While the crew worked indoors on maps and write-ups, the Historical/ Cultural/ Agricultural Soils group made visit to the Map Room, Special Collections, and the Periodicals at the Bailey Howe Library at the University of Vermont to use historical resources.


We continued to work on our Tunbridge project. Different groups worked on maps, interpretation of maps, online research, and additional write-ups. Around noon, the lands crew gathered around the table to talk about interesting things they found in modified website of Land Trust Alliance. Highlights of this modified website were about LTA being responsible for providing guidance to the collaborative effort of Natureserve and National Geographic to develop a new website called “Landscope America” that will allow people to explore nature from their desktop in the most striking and useful ways, conservation defense, interpretive toolbars and more. Today the Historical/ Cultural/ Agricultural Soils team had an opportunity to converse via phone with Euclid Farnham, town historian of Tunbridge. He had interesting tales about the Whitneys and the history of Whitney Hill. In the afternoon, the lands crew met up with Kevin Case, the Acting director of Northeast Region for Land Trust Alliance. He presented to the crew a slideshow on Land Trusts in New England and New York State and land trusts at national level. He also talked about accreditation, and both external and internal challenges that Land trusts face. He also emphasized on the importance of early monitoring of easements by Land Trusts and selection of lands for conservation by Land Trusts.


Finally after two days of work indoors, the crew was excited to work outdoors and meet with Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. We were ready to hit the road in the morning with our hardhat, rain gear and lunch. We headed towards Niquette Bay State Park located in the northern shore of Mallet’s Bay in Colchester, Vermont where we met up with VYCC crew. The VYCC non-residential crew comprised of two crew leaders and eight members who were high school students. They had been working on building trails in this park from the beginning of this week and were directed by Jessica who works with the state of Vermont on trail building and applying grants to build trails. After a quick introduction we broke up into two groups and came up with mix of both groups. One group worked on making another turnpike in front of the one that had already been built by the VYCC crew. The other groups carried lumbar into the woods for building trails on mucky areas. After lunch in a big circle, we participated in WORD session of VYCC in which we all read Lorax by Dr. Seuss and discussed about it.


This morning we had an opportunity to meet with Cecilia Danks, professor of environmental policy at the University of Vermont and one of the 16 shareholders of Little Hogback Community Forest (LHCF). Located in Monkton, Vermont this wooded knoll was founded by Deb Brighton who envisioned forest ownership and management not just by an individual or family but by a larger group from the community that involved members coming from varying income levels. We were also joined by Jared Nunnery who talked to us about role of forests in taking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in different parts of the tree and forest floor. He trained us how to measure coarse woody debris or dead trees fallen on forest floor. Measurements of coarse woody debris will then be included in the model which will help to measure amount of carbon that is present in this community forest. We also had an opportunity to meet up with Brendan who talked to us about the role Vermont Family Forest plays in this community forest and how shareholders get timber from this community forest. After lunch, we split into groups of three and went to assigned plots to do coarse woody debris inventorying. On our way back, the sight of Hinesburg Farmer's Market made us make one stop before we hit our parking garage.


Without wasting any time we headed for the Little Hogback Community forest to do more forest inventory. This time we had chance to work using prism and diameter tape. In tree inventory, wedge prism is used to calculate the basal area of a stand and diameter tape allows one to take diameter at breast height which gives the measurement of diameter of tree trunk. Today we worked in groups of three and went to assigned plots. We took the measurements of in trees and every other borderline tree and identified the tree species and also noted down whether they were live trees with full crown, or declining trees or dead standing trees. We came across various tree species such as butternut, black cherry, chestnut oak, sweet birch and shagbark hickory and herbaceous Indian pipe in the understory. After finishing inventorying plots, we gathered in circle to write our reflection for this week on our perspectives on managing forest for carbon.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Week 5: Getting Things Done

This week was a relatively short one, but that didn't stop us from getting a lot of work done. We made good progress on both our Burlington Park and Rec. and New Acadia Farm projects.
Monday We spent the day in the office focusing on our Ethan Allen Park project. We worked on writing and formating reports and designing maps. By the end of the day, we were able to send maps for trails, soil type, invasive species, rare and threatened species and cultural features to Burlington Park and Recreation. 
Tuesday Another office day - this time working on our New Acadia Farm project. During the morning, we took a mini-field trip to Special Collections at the library to learn about the books, maps and documents about Tunbridge, VT where the farm is located. In the afternoon we broke down into our sub-groups to collect more information and make some maps.
Wednesday Back in the field! After a brief bakery stop in Vermont's capital city and admiring its gold-domed building we were back at the farm. We broke up into teams in order to talk to the landowner, map the fields and trails, and study the plants and soil characteristics. It was a great day to be outside.   
Thursday Half-day. We worked in the office and at the library on our individual parts of the New Acadia Farm project. We also met individually with James and Emily for our grueling mid-program evaluation. We ended at 1 ready for the big weekend.
Friday Happy Fourth!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Getting our hands dirty

This week was jam-packed with different projects! Switching gears and keeping positive attitudes were the themes of the week. We were kept busy putting our previous skills to use and developing new ones. We went from field work and collecting data, to compiling and organizing a way to present our findings, and even started new projects.

We finished up data collection from Ethan Allen Park and started some office work.

Our first full office day! With great days out in the field it was time to get to the nitty-gritty task of making GIS maps and organizing our information into a more presentable manner. In the afternoon, we spoke with Tom Hark, founding president of Vermont Youth Conservation Corps at the Monitor barn in Richmond. We discussed our projects and what it is like to be a LANDS intern. This was a way for the VYCC to see our goals and possibly incorporate this innovation internship for future land stewards.

Switching gears, we headed out of town early for a new project in Tunbridge working with the Upper Valley Land Trust and New Acadia Farm. We met with Monica of UVLT and landowner, Robin Russell, to learn more about the organization and the task ahead. Robin is interested in options to conserve her land and our job is to search out the property for special cultural and natural features and to get a sense of what is on this 280 acre parcel of land. The group split up and we spent the day investigating the property and mapping the trails. So far, we have worked with projects on the stewardship side and conducted monitoring assessments, but this is an interesting project for us to see how conservation works on the acquisition side.

We were a generous distance from Burlington and Robin of New Acadia Farm was gracious enough to allow us to camp out, which let us get another full day in the field. We got up early to enjoy a beautiful morning birding with Walter Poleman, faculty at UVM and director of the PLACE program. We spent the next part of the morning reflecting as a group on what we found the previous day, what we want our final product to look like, and how to get there together. After getting our bearings together, we split up into groups to tackle different geographic regions. In two full field days we have a lot to compile before we head back next week!

Again, switching gears, in the morning we met with Deane Wang, faculty at UVM to discuss the carbon market for a future project at Little Hogback Community Forest. In the afternoon, we headed out to Jericho Research Forest to scope out another project with Kate and Forest of the Agency of Natural Resources. We learned about the complexities of mitigation easements and discussed what they wanted to be completed for this parcel. With limited time and resources, this property hasn’t been properly monitored and our job will be to create a map of the trails, properly mark boundaries, and possibly map deer wintering habitat. We ended the week with a reflection on how our impressions of conservation have change over the past four weeks.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

..and the projects begin

So at the end of week 2 our fearless leader, James, claimed that week three would be much more intense than the first two weeks. Well, he wasn't kidding. The week contained the same elements of education and service as we had experience before but this week marked the first of many longer projects we will be completing this summer. It was an action packed week in which we met with some really important players in this game of land conservation.


Let's preface this day with the fact that it was over a 12 hour day...but nobody seemed to mind. In the morning we met with the owners of a property in Orwell which they had recently obtained an easement on with the Lake Champlain Land Trust. While visiting the property we were able to observe the interaction between the land owners and the Land Trust employee. We also helped establish the easement boundary by marking it on the ground using the skills we had aquired in the prior weeks.
The afternoon was spent with Nancy Bell, an extremely influencial and powerfully inspiring woman. She is currently an employee of a national organization known as the Conservation Fund. She has been fighting for land conservation for years and has been extremely successful. Her success lies in her ability to help others realize how they are personally connected to the land. She not only shared her time but also made us an awesome dinner.


We began our first 'real' project. We are doing a natural resource assessment for Ethan Allen Park which is owned and managed by Burlington Parks and Rec. Our assignment is to complete the management plan which was started about ten years ago and never finished. The crew went out to Ethan Allen Park and met with Lisa, an employee of Burlington Parks and Rec. who introduced us to the park. The morning consisted of exploring the property and getting a feel for the area we would be working in.

The afternoon was spent planning. We discussed how best to split up the work and how to best use our time for the rest of the week. We decided on four main categories: vegetation, soils, trails, and cultural aspects of the park. In teams of two, using GPS and GIS we would create useful maps for Burlington Parks and Rec and the completion of their management plan.


The morning was spent in the field at Ethan Allen Park. In our teams of two we spread out and began mapping various aspects of the park. The afternoon consisted of a a fabulous potluck lunch and GIS analysis.


We put our project on hold because we were blessed with the opportunity to spend a day with the Chittenden County Forester, Mike Schnieder. We went out to the PresCo property which is a 1,700 acre parcel of land that is under the current use program and an easement. The crew gained a lot of knowledge about the responsibilities of a county forester, the current use program and forest management.


In the morning we were accompanied by the talented and brilliant Liz Thompson on a search for rare and endangered plants at Ethan Allen Park. With her expertise we were able to find eight different types of rare and endangered plant species. I think we can all agree that it was a pleasure being able to work with her again. The afternoon was spent doing more GPS work at Ethan Allen Park. Afterwards we had our weekly reflection and began planning for next weeks project in Tumbridge.
Although the work has begun to pile up it has simply ment more excitement and personal responsibility. I think everyone can agree that the people we met with this week are unbelievably inspiring but also seem to be very greatful for our interest which makes the whole experience much more rewarding.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Week 2: Excuse me. It’s great here.

The LANDS crew was quite busy during week 2 of the internship experience. We had a great balance of training and service that will help us all in the future work we do for the summer and the future work for a career. The topics for the week primarily covered the legal side of conservation and stewardship, but we also learned about Vermont natural communities and rich site indicators.

Monday the LANDS crew discussed what a conservation easement was and how they are prepared with Steve Libby of the VT River Conservancy who we worked with in week 1. The LANDS crew also spent part of the day getting to know the Land Trust Alliance, and their principals and practices.

Tuesday unfortunately was a short day due to the extreme weather that mostly missed Burlington and went straight for the mountains to our East. The crew had a great lesson about survey technique and basics from professional engineer Jim Sullivan.

Wednesday was a day of all learning and trying to cram information from two great individuals. In the morning the crew met with Liz Thompson author of Wetland, Woodland, Wildland at Camel’s Hump State Park. This was a highlight for many of the crew members. We hiked around a small section of a Northern Hardwood Forest in the park and Liz helped us understand why the forest looks the way it does. We covered topics such as soils, drainage, plant identification, and reading what is going on around you. The afternoon brought us back to UVM for surveying basics field work with Jim Sullivan. Jim taught us how to set up a Theodolite and how to use it for finding if a boundary line is correct or not. This was an intense session that showed us all how hard surveying must be and how precise the surveys need to be when you are dealing with someone’s property.

Thursday was Green Mountain Club day at LANDS. We met with Pete the Stewardship director for the GMC and discussed what the GMC does and how they protect the land along the trail. The day was great fun and humbling at the same time. We worked on boundary identification and signing for a conservation easement that the GMC holds on a piece of land in Johnson, Vermont. The day consisted of a bit of bushwhacking, a few unexpected surprises, the group working great, and the group struggling. In the end the crew inspected and marked half of the parcel with flagging and then followed old logging roads back to the Long Trail for a nice walk back to the van.

Friday was more boundary monitoring with the GMC this time the LANDS crew was on their own. The day went by quick because of limited field time but all four corners were found for the property and temporary flagging up so Pete can come back and paint the boundary.

The week flew by and the LANDS crew is ready for the next round. I think everyone rested well over the beautiful weekend, reenergizing themselves for another busy week.