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Eighth Annual Latino Conservation Week Kicks Off This Weekend (July 17 –25),

Initiative Breaks Down Barriers to the Outdoors and Inspires Tomorrow’s Stewards

Communities throughout the country will enjoy and connect with the great outdoors during the 8th annual Latino Conservation Week (LCW), an initiative of Hispanic Access Foundation. From July 17 through July 25, Latino communities, organizations, families and individuals will participate in a variety of activities, both virtual and in-person, like hikes, park clean-ups, online expeditions, roundtable discussions, Q&A sessions, scavenger hunts, film screenings, etc., with nearly 140 events being celebrated nationwide.

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PUBLIC NEWS SERVICE: Report: CA Latino Heritage Sites Need Greater Protection, Recognition

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Sites tied to Latino history and culture are underrepresented on the list of historic places, according to a new report from the Hispanic Access Foundation.

The study, called "Place, Story and Culture," identifies seven sites it said deserve more recognition and protection, including three in California.

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NBC LATINO: Latino heritage sites, including a park, river and bodega, need preservation, group urges

Latino preservationists listed a Dominican-owned bodega in Providence, Rhode Island, an east Los Angeles park that served as the gathering place for historic Chicano student walkouts, and five other locations as Latino heritage sites in urgent need of conservation.

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New Report Highlights Seven Latino Heritage Sites in Need of Protection

A new report, Place, Story and Culture: An Inclusive Approach to Protecting Latino Heritage Sites, released today by the Latino Heritage Scholars, an initiative of the Hispanic Access Foundation, emphasizes the need for the protection of seven Latino heritage sites that embody the architectural, cultural and deep historical roots of the Latino community currently in need of preservation. The scholars are a group of young Latino professionals focused on historic preservation and ensuring that Latino history is protected, shared, and celebrated as part of the U.S. narrative.

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Latest Blog

Future Prospects for Prospect Bluff

Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc within the Apalachicola National Forest in 2018 felling trees and tearing up archaeological sites. One such site is the Negro Fort at Prospect Bluff. This site is listed as a National Historical Landmark and is incredibly important for both African-American history and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

In the early 1800s this fort was established by the British along the Apalachicola River and served as a beacon of hope for the enslaved residing in Georgia and South Carolina. The fort was inhabited by enslaved runaways, free black persons, and black Seminole who, following the War of 1812 and the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, were considered emanicipated once they set foot on British-controlled lands.

Americans hated this symbol of freedom which threatened their labor force. On July 27, 1816, American Ships rained cannon fire down on the fort which at this point housed over 300 people, but the fort was massive and well built and very difficult to siege. In a last ditch effort, the Americans created "hot shots" cannonballs which are superheated in the galley of the ships and loaded into cannons. Their likely intent was to reach the back side of the fort to burn the houses there to the ground.

By sheer luck for the Americans, a hotshot pierced the roof of the fort's ammunition storage, which contained massive amounts of gunpowder and powder kegs, causing an immense explosion that killed nearly everyone within the fort. This included women and children. The massacre was near unbearable to look at when the Americans entered the fort, with some describing the scene as unimaginable horror.

This history is being further investigated using new archaeological technologies to tell the real story of the people who lived within the fort. The USFS and the National Park Service are working together to restore the site after Hurrican Michael's destruction. NPS is also using ground penetrating radar to locate where the unmarked graves of all those who died that night. Discovery Science Channel is also involved, filming a documentary of the site on location to remind everyone of what happened that night.

We as a nation still have a long road ahead of us in telling the actual history of America, rather than the one that espouts our victories, but efforts are actively being made, like at Prospect Bluff, to ensure those peoples sacrifices are not forgotten.

 

Agency: U.S Forest Service

Program: Resource Assistant Program (RAP)

Location: Apalachicola National Forest

Operación Polinización and Other Fun Projects

Since my last blog, it’s been an amazing few weeks! I have been very focused on translating fishing, hunting, and refuge information brochures as well as trail signs and reformatting them to have them ready to be put out in the refuge. I’ve even done some translating for a few of Muscatatuck’s partner organizations such as the Junior Duck Stamp Program! I’m not sure why but, I have always loved translating and I hope I get to do a lot more of that while I’m here!

Another exciting project that I have been working on is our Latino Conservation Week event for this summer, “Operación Polinización” (“Operation Pollination”)! During this event, I will give a talk in Spanish about the different pollinator species that we have at Muscatatuck and their importance to the maintenance of our ecosystem. The focus will be on one of everyone’s favorite butterflies – the monarch butterfly. We’ll talk about their love of eating milkweed, the incredible two-way migration that they make every year, and easy ways that anyone can help protect and maintain their populations. After that, there will be a fun crafts activity for kids and a free lunch. This week, I have started taking flyers around town and meeting with community leaders and other contacts in the Latino community that I have gotten to know during my stay in Seymour to get the word out about our event. We will also have a booth set up in Seymour’s Farmers Market this week to let people know about Operación Polinización! Hopefully, we’ll have a great turnout!

I’ve also just completed the online portion of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Basic Firefighting Training course. Within the next few weeks, I should be able to complete the in-person portion of the course and have my basic certificate which will be a great asset for me as I continue to gain experience in federal positions.

A lot of the outdoor work that I’ve been able to help out with has been great as well! I helped the Department of Natural Resources band geese in a nearby town, assisted with one of the weekly waterfowl surveys in the refuge, and am helping clear out invasive plants growing in front of the refuge’s main office. I also just bought a kayak and finally got to take it out on one of Muscatatuck’s lakes last weekend and it was so relaxing!

I’m looking forward to helping out much more and continuing to learn about the awesome natural resources and people in the area!

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Location: Muscatatuck NWR

Preserving the Past Through Community Engagement in the Present

When we imagine our National Forests and Grasslands, the first things that come to mind are natural landscapes and resources. Media coverage on efforts to preserve our forests and grasslands tend to focus on the critical need to protect the biological ecosystems and fresh water supplies contained in those spaces. What we hear less about are the rich array of cultural resources tucked within these public lands. As an archaeological resource assistant, my work with the forest service has focused on preserving the cultural remains of thousands of years of human habitation.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve worked with archaeologists across the state of North Carolina who have been tasked with researching, evaluating, and monitoring archaeological sites on U.S. Forest Service lands. These sites range from prehistoric settlements built by early Native American inhabitants of North America to more recent contexts like Spanish colonial fortifications, Civil War gravesites, and vestiges of the Trail of Tears, which commemorates the traumatic history of Cherokee Removal. These significant pieces of human history are just a few of the hundreds of sites that exist in our National Forests. Unfortunately, our efforts to preserve these pieces of human history can be thwarted by modern human activities like looting, vandalism, and poaching.

Although these types of problems are difficult to combat, one of the most critical tools at our disposal is community outreach and public education. I recently had the pleasure of stepping out of the office and getting away from the field for a few days to spend some time doing public outreach with local schools in Yancey County, North Carolina. Summer camp students from elementary schools across the county came to participate in hands-on educational sessions taught by natural and cultural preservation specialists. I got to spend the day teaching kids about things like what archaeologists do, how we study the past, and why it’s so important to preserve the Native American sites and artifacts remain targeted by looters today. The kids got a chance to play some historic games while learning about the ways in which we can use material culture to understand human history and experience. These types of service events help us inform the public about the need to protect cultural resources and they help us strengthen our relationships with local communities and stakeholders who we serve. One of the things I value about the archaeologists I’ve gotten to know over the past couple of months is their conscious effort to engage with local communities even when it means volunteering on their time off. Ultimately, those efforts pay off in the form of long-lasting partnerships with local communities.

Conserving Complicated Fish in a Complicated Place

Looking at a map of the Sacramento Delta, you’d think that you’re looking at a giant wetland. Or, at least I did, and that’s what it used to be. Today, the Delta is a highly modified landscape that hardly resembles a wetland. Nearly every aspect of the land and water are regulated for agriculture, drinking water, shipping, and highway infrastructure. Upon visiting the Delta and witnessing the landscape modifications, it became difficult for me to see a landscape full of roads, farms, and water diversions as a migratory corridor for fish traveling between mountain streams and the ocean. These contrasts illustrate the complex strains on the land and water within the Delta and the difference in needs between humans and wildlife.

This summer, my task as a fellow for the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Directorate Fellows Program (DFP), is to conduct a population analysis of steelhead Trout living within the Sacramento Delta watershed in the Central Valley of California. Conserving steelhead in the Central Valley is a difficult task in part because steelhead migrations require many miles of connective stream habitat in a place where water usage is disputed and management practices can cause streams to flow backwards, lead to dead ends, or run dry. Steelhead populations are also difficult to evaluate because they belong to the species Oncorhynchus mykiss  which utilizes several different life cycle strategies to survive. To begin my task of designing a population analysis, I spent the first two weeks of my position learning about the water-landscape of the Central Valley and the natural history of steelhead.

To learn how steelhead move through the watershed, I took a trip to Lodi, California, where my team gave me a tour of the Delta. Historically, steelhead reproduced in streams on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Today, dams form barriers, blocking fish from accessing most of their historic reproductive habitat and causing fish to reproduce below dams. Mountain streams flow into the Sacramento River in the North and the San Joaquin River in the South then meet at the Delta where they branch out and form a maze of water and islands. The Sacramento Delta is an estuary in the middle of California about 40 miles as the crow flies from the mouth of the San Francisco Bay. Before European Settlers developed the region for agriculture, it was a network of seasonally flooded wetlands and home to the Me-Wuk (Miwok) people. Since then, the Me-Wuk people have been forcibly removed, the wetlands have been drained, the waterways have been channelized, and levies separate land and water. Water is extracted and moved within and away from the Delta in a complicated manner which alters water quality and creates treacherous migratory paths for steelhead. My team showed me a number of places where steelhead can get lost or trapped in the system and methods used to guide fish towards safer paths.

The name “steelhead” is one of the common names of the species Oncorhynchus mykiss, or O. mykiss for short. O. mykiss is a species of fish that uses multiple lifecycle types. Under ideal conditions, O. mykiss are born in freshwater streams that are cold and highly oxygenated. At some point in the life of each fish, it will become either anadromous, adfluvial, or residential. Anadromous O. mykiss, also known as steelhead, will migrate to the ocean where they will spend part of their life while adfluvial fish will migrate only part of the way and live in the bays that connect the Sacramento Delta to the ocean. Anadromous and adfluvial fish can start their migrations away from their home streams as mature or immature fish and will return to those streams to reproduce. Residential fish, known as rainbow trout, have much simpler life cycles, living their entire lives near their home stream. The offspring of residential fish can become anadromous and vice versa. The variability in life cycle strategies allow O. mykiss populations to persist in a variety of habitat conditions. However, the migratory strategy of steelhead, which requires connective habitat throughout the Delta, is diminishing, especially in the southern populations.

Conserving Central Valley steelhead is as simple a restoring reproductive habitat and migratory corridors. Humans are reliant on water extractions and diversions for electricity, agriculture, and drinking water, meaning that returning habitat to pre-industrialized conditions would leave communities throughout California without vital resources. Instead, water resource and wildlife management agencies are working together to develop water management strategies that meet the needs of humans and sustain steelhead populations. My work this summer is to describe steelhead population trends to inform future water management plans. Stay tuned for updates as I work through my project over the next 7weeks.

 

Image Description: A view of the Central Valley's extensive agriculture as seen out of my window while flying into the Sacramento Airport. 

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP

Location: Lodi Fish and Wildlife Office

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