by SAGE LEEHEY
The nonprofit originally planned to hold their service-learning camping trip in conjunction with The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), but since they currently furloughed, the organization has now partnered with Friends of Black Rock/High Rock. The former trip was set to revolve around restoring land that was damaged by fire, and educate on how wildfires affect Nevada’s desert and ecosystem. Now, attendees—mainly high school students—will be working to help save the desert dace fish in the valley of Soldier Meadows in Gerlach, Nev.
“BLM is not working in the area, so we can’t get into the land,” Lisa Godenick, development coordinator of Enviroulation and AmeriCorps VISTA, said. “Even if they do open, we still had to scramble to find a new project last minute.”
The desert dace is a threatened species that only lives in Soldier Meadows and is being taken over by a non-native fish called the sunfish. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and BLM have put barriers to block the green sunfish from entering the desert dace habitat; vegetation has become overgrown and the sunfish can swim over easily when there is high water flow. Because of this, students attending the trip will work on cutting back this vegetation to preserve the desert dace.
The camping trip will run from Monday to Wednesday, Oct. 14 through 16 and costs $200 per person—at a maximum of ten kids—with much of the necessities included. The students will also visit the area’s hot springs on Wednesday.
“Friends of Black Rock is providing all the camping gear, including tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and then the students have to bring all their personal stuff like toiletries,” Godenick said.
The students will also study the Soldier Meadow’s ecosystem to understand what would happen if the desert dace fish become extinct. Godenick said this will show students firsthand how delicate the balance of ecosystems are.
“We hope to expose them to different careers in conservation [and] to instill them with an appreciation for nature and with that come a sense of responsibility to protect it because it’s a conservation project,” Godenick said. “We want to expose them to it and with that comes a civic responsibility because we’re going to be volunteering with the Friends of the Black Rock, so we’re going to be providing them with a service as well as giving back to the community.”