AmeriCorps team removes 9.5 tons of waste from Mojave Desert, installs 674 OHV signs

Contact: Jessica Dacey, Director of Communications

Phone: 760-820-2275, Email: jessica@mdlt.org  

Joshua Tree, CA – An AmeriCorps NCCC team is concluding a three-month service project with the Mojave Desert Land Trust, having helped restore 3,465 acres of wildlife habitat.

Gold 2, an 11-member NCCC Pacific Region team, worked across the Mojave and Sonoran deserts performing restoration activities, monitoring MDLT land, and removing over 9.5 tons of solid waste. The team helped MDLT staff clear items such as carpets, TVs, and glass from conservation lands.

In the Chuckwalla Bench, the team installed 674 signs marking legal off-highway vehicle routes. In the West Mojave, the team helped restore 27 acres of animal and plant habitat at Palisades Ranch, a 1,600-acre property acquired by the Land Trust in 2018.

At MDLT headquarters in Joshua Tree, the team installed 969 feet of irrigation in the native plant nursery and sowed over 2,300 native plants. The nursery grows thousands of native plants for restoration projects and community sales.

NCCC Gold 2 also helped establish the infrastructure for a new public demonstration garden at the Land Trust’s headquarters, digging trenches and installing gabion walls. The garden was a chance to learn about the different building materials used in natural landscaping. That garden is now taking shape thanks to their hard work.     

During their time with the Land Trust, the team worked with 126 volunteers, including National Honors Society pupils from Yucca Valley High School in clean-ups, Northeastern University students in restoration work, and community volunteers in weeding days.

Gold 2 arrived in Joshua Tree on January 10. Ahead of their last day on April 10, they will head to Afton Canyon on April 6 and 7 to help in a riparian tree planting project coordinated by the Bureau of Land Management. (NOTE TO EDITORS: See photo opportunity)

The team ranges from 18 to 25 years old, and includes a geoscience graduate, a wilderness first responder, a Redtail boa owner, and a shark attack survivor.

“My team and I have worked through rain, snow, sun and wildflowers. We have had long days full of walking mile after mile, hauling never ending trash, moving gravel and lumber until our backs ached and planting thousands of seedlings until there was dirt under our nails. Through all this work we saw the beauty of the desert, the different plants and wildlife. Being able to experience, learn and work with the Mojave Desert Land Trust to protect all that the Mojave Desert and beyond has to offer has brought my team closer to nature and closer to each other.” – Rachel Canning, AmeriCorps NCCC Gold 2 Team Leader

For Becca Kennedy, this experience has inspired her to work with a land trust and confirmed her choice of a college major in wildlife ecology and conservation biology.

“When I came to AmeriCorps NCCC, I had just graduated high school, and my goal was to figure out what I wanted to do. My first project gave me some ideas, but then working with the Land Stewardship team, I realized that I love this kind of work. I love being out in the field and getting to see everything. I love the work, the monitoring, even the trash pick-ups. You’re making a difference you can see. I like that impact. Back home in Wisconsin, it’s forests and small space. Here, I can see mountains and these incredible vast spaces. When I found out we were going to the desert, I thought are you kidding me? And I fell in love with it in the first two weeks.” – Becca Kennedy, AmeriCorps NCCC Gold 2 team member

The service period with the Mojave Desert Land Trust was the longest of the team’s 10-month program. The team will now head to Oregon and Northern California.

“We are deeply grateful for the tremendous hard work that AmeriCorps NCCC Gold 2 has done over the past three months to support this vital conservation work. Their service has helped return many acres of desert to its pristine and natural state. The team has enabled the Land Trust to make great inroads across the Mojave Desert and locally in Joshua Tree. We look forward to following their work in the year ahead and wish them all the best.” – Michael Mora, Director of Volunteer and Outreach Services, Mojave Desert Land Trust

NOTE TO EDITORS:

Photo opportunity from 11am-1pm on April 6 at Afton Canyon Campground in Mojave Trails National Monument. AmeriCorps NCCC Gold 2 will be taking part in a desert willow tree planting event organized by the Bureau of Land Management. To arrange an interview, contact jessica@mdlt.org

The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with the mission to protect and care for lands with natural, scenic, and cultural value within the Mojave Desert. Since its founding in 2006 the land trust has conserved more than 78,515 acres, donating more tracts of land to the National Park Service in the last decade than any other organization. In addition to acquiring land, the land trust established a seed bank to ensure the preservation of native species. MDLT operates an onsite nursery at its Joshua Tree headquarters which propagates native species for ecosystem restoration. MDLT educates and advocates for the conservation of the desert, involving hundreds of volunteers in our work. For more information, visit mdlt.org.