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Once on a Blue Dune?

Apr 23, 2019 | Healthy Habitats, Mission-Aransas, Texas, Reserves

Members of the ACE team apply herbicide to invasive grasses. With funding from NOAA, this team got hands-on training and experience while furthering restoration at the Mission-Aransas Reserve.

You’ve heard of painting the town red—how about dying the dunes blue? A team of enthusiastic, young land stewards did exactly that as part of a program to combat invasive plants and clean up debris from Hurricane Harvey at our Mission-Aransas Reserve in Texas.

The team is part of American Conservation Experiences(ACE), a national program that partners with organizations like Reserves to provide hands-on habitat restoration experience to young people interested in resource management. In Texas, participants used chainsaws and herbicides to combat invasive and non-native species. The herbicides incorporate a temporary blue dye that helps the crew be more precise in their applications and see which areas they’ve already treated.

“The work the ACE team is doing is something that our usual volunteers—who are often school groups—just can’t tackle,” says Katie Swanson, Stewardship Coordinator at the Mission-Aransas Reserve. “They help us do work that otherwise wouldn’t get done.”

The ACE team takes a well-earned break. Along with invasive species removal, they cleared hurricane debris and repaired trails to restore monitoring access to parts of the Reserve that were still inaccessible after Harvey.

“Invasive species are a true ecological challenge,” says ACE Gulf Coast Director Dan McLendon. “These young adults helped to rid the natural areas of these plants and restore the ecological balance.”

The ACE team’s service was supported by NOAA and funds from the settlement with BP over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Though the dunes within the Reserve boundaries were not directly impacted by the spill, the funds are being used to help restore and create resilient habitats along the Texas coastline.

These efforts had restored only a fraction of the Reserve’s dunes prior to Hurricane Harvey in 2017, a costly and devastating event that crippled the work being done on these fragile habitats. ACE volunteers have been a vital part of the effort to restart the restoration efforts. In the process, they’ve received hands-on experience and certification.

“Through ACE, young conservation professionals get the skills, training, and experience they need to succeed, and the Reserve gets healthy, restored dunes,” says Swanson. “It’s a win-win for all involved.”

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