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Ecotourism (N. America) with native habitat restoration theme?

Posted by lrobins z6b MD (My Page) on
Sun, Apr 4, 04 at 22:26

This is a question about an idea that occurred to me. I am starting with the thought that there are many volunteer opportunities in my local area for half-day-length native habitat restoration work trips, necessarily focused on invasives pulling. Has anyone heard of a vacation-length "tour" that includes volunteering to help with a large-scale prairie (or other native habitat) restoration project, anywhere in North America?

There is such a thing as "ecotourism" that includes volunteeer work by the traveller, usually to help with with a scientific research project. I checked an organization that runs this kind of trip, Earthwatch.org, and didn't find any trips specifically aimed at habitat restoration, although they do have trips with related missions, e.g. "Mountain Meadows of the North Cascades [Washington state] Research Mission: Collecting baseline data on butterfly and plant populations to support conservation of montane meadows" (http://www.earthwatch.org/expeditions/mclaughlin.html).

Thank you for any help with this question!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Ecotourism (N. America) with native habitat restoration theme

I do professional prairie restorations in Ohio. The problems are these.

1)Amateur volunteers cannot distinquish weeds from native plants,especially in non-flowering periods.

2) Pulling weeds out of a prairie means that the restoration was poor to begin with -- never should have been any to start with (if site prep and planting was done properly).

3) Planting of prairie restorations requires complex prairie seed drills and other mechanical devices amateurs can't use.

4) Planting cannot be scheduled ahead of time. One must usually plant when weather and soil conditions are perfect, and that can change after one rain period.

5) Seed collection is often done by hand, but again, amateurs often collect the wrong seeds and aren't available for the varying 4-6 day period when seeds are available. And this varies (and seldom coincides) for each species.

6) These activities are usually spring and fall events, not the summer vacation period when most want to participate.

And need I mention the training needed to conduct prescribed prairie fires?

Wish it were easier, but it isn't.


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RE: Ecotourism (N. America) with native habitat restoration theme

The Ontario Federation of Naturalists has vacation length trips and some are done in prairies. See the link below, although a lot of the trips are full now.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nature Volunteer Trips


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RE: Ecotourism (N. America) with native habitat restoration theme

We have a large volunteer stewardship network here in northern IL and the people who lend their time do an excellent job. Obviously most have some background or interest in nature, so it is not difficult for them to learn to identify an undesirable species. The presence of exotic species doesn't necessarily mean a restoration is bad since we spend some time during the year targeting a few weeds that show up in prairie remnents. White sweet clover is particularly bad because it thrives under a normal fire schedule.

Volunteers are out working in the forests preserves every weekend throughout the year. We have seed collection days and there is a place where volunteers can go to help with the cleaning of the seed. At many locations the seeds are collected individually. At others sites seed is collected randomly simply to replant areas that have been reclaimed like old building sites or parking lots.

Many volunteers undertake midwest ecological prescription burn training so that they can work on burn crews. I have done this myself. Maybe our situation is unique here but the thousands of free hours that people dedicate to the nature preserves in invaluable. Don't know how well it would work as "ecotourism" though. People are dedicated to their preserves because they are part of the community. I participated in a workday at a naval base one time where a good portion of the volunteers didn't do a bit of work. The particular location is closed to the public and they only used the workday as an opportunity to do some birdwatching there. Personally, I think if we could get the average tourtist to our national parks and local natural areas to simply respect the resource a little more, that would go a long way towards preserving them.


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RE: Ecotourism (N. America) with native habitat restoration theme

jeeze!
its hard enough for me to get jobs. now u wanna get ppl that are willing to PAY to do my job.

oy! burger king here i come.

froggy


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RE: Ecotourism (N. America) with native habitat restoration theme

Thank you for interesting comments on this topic. John Blakeman, I had not thought about the particular features that would make it especiallly difficult for "amateur" volunteers to contribute to a prairie restoration project. Invasives removal in an Eastern woodland setting, in contrast, is usually very easy to teach to amateurs (for example, in late winter, instruct volunteers to "pull out the tangles of vines with little green leaves" (Japanese honeysuckle) when few other plants have any leaves, and even the most naive amateur is unlikely to start digging up a Holly tree by mistake!).

Judy, I looked at the Ontario Federation of Naturalists web site, and they do have many trips with a native plant restoration component (from 1 to 10 day duration), so it seems like other organizations could learn from them.

Finally, Froggy, to cheer you up, isn't it true that the more volunteers there are for a given type of project, the more **paid, professional** volunteer coordinators are required to instruct and supervise the volunteers?


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RE: Ecotourism (N. America) with native habitat restoration theme

There are plenty of organizations that would point you in the right direction; however, if you are looking to become a travel host, not sure. Here is a good project I think is deserving of your inspection: Just click on the link:

http://nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/indiana/preserves/art2375.html

Here is a link that might be useful: Kankakee Sands Nature Conservancy project


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RE: Ecotourism (N. America) with native habitat restoration theme

ok here is my problem with this.

why is a doctor and lawyer not need 'eco doctorism or volunteers lawyersism'?

why is the ecology put in the relm of 'only worth it if ppl do it for free'? what...im not a pro? what...the earth isnt worth anything but free? u can pay ppl 25-30$ hr to put in roads but to take them out = free?

the more i hear about these kinds of projects, the more i think that the earth's ecology isnt worth squat to anyone.

im sorry but in my very honest opinion...this is a recipy for disaster. the road to hell is paved with good intentions. and i think with 40 years of real grass roots conservation, it doesnt seem to be moving in the right direction.

by the way...how are conservationists gonna attract the best and brightest into the fields with out proper pay? why would anyone in their right minds decide to go into restoration givin the fact they cannot make a living at it much less pay off student loans? how on earth are ppl gonna get into the habbit of realizing that the cost to live on the earth is more than u pay at the gas pumps?

i know how not to put value on something...make it valueless.

froggy


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RE: Ecotourism (N. America) with native habitat restoration theme

froggy, why not take the "glass is half full" view of this?

An ecotourism approach would serve to make more people aware of the importance of ecological restoration projects. Participants would learn how restoration is done and where it is done; they would learn some interesting facts about the plants and animals involved, and they could come away with a better understanding of the importance of this work and the need for funding. As a result, the professionals would have more opportunites and therefore be better paid.

Back in 1988, my husband and I went to an outing sponsored by the local Nature Conservancy chapter. At that time, I was unaware of ecological restoration. As a result of that simple half-day walk in the woods, the following has evolved:

1. I became a volunteer at the site.
2. I took several classes, including a series of restoration classes taught by Steve Packard.
3. My husband and I eventually bought property with some natural areas worthy of restoration.
4. The payoff to froggy - we have hired some professionals to assist us!
5. I have become a board member of a local environmental group.

While restoration work does need to be overseen by someone who understands what they are doing, I think there are a lot of opportunities to train volunteers on specific tasks and then use them. Consider this: start the day with breakfast and a lecture on buckthorn - why it is a problem, what it looks like, how to control it. Then out to a wooded area for a few hours of buckthorn removal. After a lunch break, the group moves on to another wooded area that has been cleared of buckthorn, and they see the end results of their morning's work. That evening, a lecture by a rep of a non-profit group that supports such restoration efforts. This would be along the lines of educating the participants as to the group's mission, not a blatant pitch for dollars, but of course the appropriate info would be in their packets. Substitute your local ecosystem and restoration problem accordingly.

Some of those people will leave and become supporters of the cause, and eventually more professionals will be hired. Some of the people will go home and find similar projects in their own back yard, and still increase the opportunities for professionals. The more the word is spread, the better.

Yes, there is a seasonality factor. But remember, tulip time in Holland is big, as is cherry blossom time in Washington. No one makes those trips in August. Seasonality does not mean it can't work; it just has to be scheduled.

V.


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RE: Ecotourism (N. America) with native habitat restoration theme

4. The payoff to froggy - we have hired some professionals to assist us!

a living wage?
a wage that will pay for the prof. results that u will be getting?
a wage that will pay off student loans and let ur raise a family?

or a wage of 8$/hr and no insurance?

the glass isnt half full, the glass is pretty much empty.

An ecotourism approach would serve to make more people aware of the importance of ecological restoration projects. Participants would learn how restoration is done and where it is done; they would learn some interesting facts about the plants and animals involved, and they could come away with a better understanding of the importance of this work and the need for funding. As a result, the professionals would have more opportunites and therefore be better paid.
^^^^
that is an assumption that i dont see playing out in the end.
the fact is...if ppl in an capitalist society puts 0 value on something...it goes away. period. and that truth is happening slowly but obviously as we speak. my greatest fear is that in 100 years...u will be volunteering at the last 4 acres of prairie left in the world, but oh u are so proud of urself.

one more comment...why dont u do ur job as a volunteer?
or maybe u could call ur local landscaper and ask if they would like to volunteer to redo ur lawn?
yet something as important as ecology is almost nuthing but volunteering...

froggy


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RE: Ecotourism (N. America) with native habitat restoration theme

Okay, obviously your glass is empty. We did pay in excess of $20.00 per hour to the professionals that we hired. I don't have the specific $$ here in front of me, but yes, we paid professional level wages to these folks. And they didn't even whine when they billed us.

"the fact is...if ppl in an capitalist society puts 0 value on something...it goes away" So we won't bother to educate them on why the value should be other than zero?

Restoration ecology is in the realm of volunteerism because most of the large-scale projects underway are sponsored by government bodies or non-profit agencies, both of which are historically underfunded for these types of projects. But I said "most" not "all." In my neck of the woods over the last fifteen years I have seen an ever-increasing awareness of ecological restoration, and today individuals and a precious few corporations are beginning to do this work on their own lands with their own money.

So we can encourage this or we can give up.

If it's the latter, please remember that I don't like pickles on my whopper.

V.


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RE: Ecotourism (N. America) with native habitat restoration theme

And they didn't even whine when they billed us.

that's because they have one of the very few precious jobs because of so many ppl doing the work for free. im curious. how many paid hours there was to the whole of the project? 20$/hr x 50 hrs a year isnt a living wage. i dont know ur situation, this is not a critique of ur situation. this is a problem of priorities. and my contention is that if pay for it, it becomes important and a priority.

In my neck of the woods over the last fifteen years I have seen an ever-increasing awareness of ecological restoration, and today individuals and a precious few corporations are beginning to do this work on their own lands with their own money.

i agree with that statement but what does volunteering have to do with that. obviously it is starting to become a priority. they hire someone. they buy seed. they pay for mowing and landscaping. or they do it themselves with their own employees. great! that is what im talkin about. ppl doing real work for real wages. stepping up to the plate of capitalism. giving value to their land.

infact. u heard it first here. i propose there should be a 'tax' for NOT having natives landscaping on ur city and corporation lands. :)

froggy


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RE: Ecotourism (N. America) with native habitat restoration theme

Okay, I guess I'm stubborn because I'll try this one more time. I'll address your second point first.

Encouraging volunteers for restoration projects is one way of increasing awareness of the need for and purpose of ecological restoration. "obviously it is starting to become a priority." This just doesn't happen in a void - it happens because the general public somehow, someway becomes aware of the need. John's scout troop puts in a service day at the local nature preserve, John comes home talking about what he learned and drags his parents back the next month, and several months later John's family begins restoration work on their own property. I have seen this very thing happen in my community.

On your first point - you're right, I didn't pay them a living wage for an entire year, but I paid them a living wage for the portion of time that they worked for me. Yeah, they had to go out and find other work for the rest of the year, but they seem to be actively engaged in the pursuit of more work. It is far easier to do one project for $100,000 than 10 projects for $10,000 each, but not all of us can afford to spend $100,000. I am speaking here as an individual land owner, not as a representative of a large corporation or government agency.

I guess being the eternal optimist, I think that every little bit counts.

And froggy, hold the fries, I'm doing that low carb thing.


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RE: Ecotourism (N. America) with native habitat restoration theme

Just saw this t-shirt and couldn't resist passing the message on to froggy - "It ain't easy being green!"


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RE: Ecotourism (N. America) with native habitat restoration theme

I have a bit more information to add: someone on another discussion list suggested the Sierra Club national service trips. Sierra Club runs 70 (!) service trips per year, and many of these trips (probably increasing every year) feature invasive plant removal or related habitat restoration activities. The appropriate link is below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sierra Club service trips for native habitat restoration


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