Picture this: You’re kicked back in your camp chair, a grass skirt around your waist, a lei around your neck, a pineapple upside down cake is upturned directly in front of you. The sky is brilliant with a mid-summer sunset, and the gentle sound of crickets and trickling water fills your ears. A group of friends and strangers surrounds you, each wearing brightly colored Hawaiian shirts, cheerfully celebrating your life’s accomplishments no matter how well they know you.
Where are you? On a Friends of Nevada Wilderness volunteer trip, of course! This was the exact scene that unfolded during a Friends of Nevada Wilderness volunteer trip to the Santa Rosa Mountains, part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, in June, 2019.
When you think ‘National Forest’, Nevada may not be the first state that comes to mind, but with over 80 percent of the state publicly owned, it is actually home to the largest National Forest in the lower 48 - the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest! The Santa Rosa Ranger District is one of the most isolated ranges in Nevada, with old-growth groves of quaking aspen, rugged granite rock formations, and verdant hillsides filled with spring wildflowers.
Despite its remote location, the mountain range hasn’t escaped the trappings of civilization. Barbed wire fencing interrupts otherwise continuous hillsides where it stretches across huge portions of the range and poses a threat to native wildlife and an eyesore for recreationists. The greater sage grouse who leks in the sage steppe at the base of the mountains often find themselves in a deadly entanglement with barbed wire fence, and the long lines of fencing interrupt habitat and migration corridors for bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and a variety of other larger mammals.
Enter: Friends of Nevada Wilderness volunteers. In June of 2019 with the support from the National Forest Foundation Matching Awards Program, these intrepid volunteers worked tirelessly to remove barbed wire fence from where it plunged down steep hillsides, entwined itself in gnarled sagebrush, and wove through thick groves of aspen. Ripped shirts and sweaty backs didn’t stop this crew, and at the end of the day there were piles of wound barbed wire and unearthed t-posts, all safely removed from the wilderness - the sage grouse will live to see another day!
The determination to improve our outdoor spaces is what brought this group together, and whether it’s giving back for one afternoon or spending your first full day of retirement winding up barbed wire fence in a Hawaiian shirt, the world could always use more volunteers.
Click here to learn more about the Friends of Nevada Wilderness.