Field Season Frenzy
It is field season once again for the UDSA Forest Service. Plants are being planted, lawn mowers have been revved up, and campgrounds are filling with our summer visitors. Needless to say, the field season is a busy time for all of us at the ranger station. However, with this busy time comes all the things that make the Monongahela National Forest the special place it is. The forests are lush with full green trees, swimming holes begin to warm, and native plants blanket the forest for all to see and explore. This makes it a great time to educate others on all the forest has to offer in spring and summer. Our staff, volunteers and partnership positions have been hard at work opportunities for the young people of our area to fall in love with a resource they can utilize whenever they want.
Starting things off in March and April, Amy Coleman Ecologist for the forest and Kristen Doss Resource Assistant for the Marlinton Ranger District kicked off the season with Non-Native Invasive Species Lessons at Green Bank Middle School and Marlinton Middle School. The lesson focused on the main invasive species that can be found in West Virginia. We also talked about ways to identify them, how to prevent their spread, and how to record data on them using a GPS. The focus on Non-Native Invasive Species for the children included Garlic Mustard, Japanese Stiltgrass, Autumn Olive, Tree of Heaven, Kudzu and Japanese Knot- weed.
The next opportunity for our students to get involved was at the Sharp’s Knob Spruce Restoration Project. The purpose of this incredible project is to restore abandoned mine lands on Sharp’s Knob that were created by coal mining in the 1940s. The strip mines were highly compacted and could not support growth of trees including the spruce trees that originally covered its grounds. The lands were ripped up in order to de-compact the soil and thousands of spruce trees, hardwoods and wetland species were delivered to the site. Middle schoolers from Green Bank participated in a volunteer day May 18 and planted more than 1,000 trees.
Up next were the snorkeling events that were held for both Marlinton and Green Bank schools. Yes, snorkeling. The Monongahela National Forest is blessed with clean, diverse rivers and streams that provide excellent river snorkeling conditions for viewing wildlife. Believe it or not, there are people who regularly do this on the forest! Personally, I had never heard of this before these events and was slightly skeptical as to the number of species that could be seen. As a local to Pocahontas County, I have been swimming in the Greenbrier River and other local streams and rivers all my life, and this type of activity had never crossed my mind. Other than the occasional crawfish, seeing an abundance of fish or aquatic species was not something I expected when swimming or kayaking. Snorkeling is an entirely different story. I participated in both the Marlinton and Green Bank snorkeling events at Pocahontas Campground and Island Campground. When assisting with snorkeling I was amazed that, after just a few moments, the children and I were spotting multiple species. Rainbow darters, sculpin, crawfish, fan tail darters, mayflies and so much more.
These events also featured several educational stations to teach the children about all aspects of the forest. Stations included: Herpetology, Macro-invertebrates, Non-Native Invasive Species, Tree Identification, and of course snorkeling.
Next was our Garlic Mustard Pulling event at Blue Bend Campground for Marlinton and Green Bank seven and eighth graders. On May 31st the children arrived ready to identify and remove the invasive species Garlic Mustard from the campground and Blue Bend Beach area. After a fun-filled day the children removed approximately 10 trash bags full of Garlic Mustard – that’s 300 pounds of this nasty plant.
Activities at the Marlinton Ranger Station will celebrate International Pollinator Day. They included a pollinator scavenger hunt, plant identification, planting exercises and lessons on important pollinator species.
Until next Time – Get outside and Enjoy Your Public Lands!