College Students Fight Drought by Restoring Meadows

Kernville, CA – Two college seniors working for the Sequoia National Forest this summer are making progress toward increasing the Forest’s water storage capacity.  Ryan Salas, a senior at Humboldt State University, and Frank Padilla, a senior at California State University Bakersfield (CSUB), have been trekking through high elevation meadows and streams to map existing watershed conditions.  The knowledge they collect will assist the Forest Service in planning and implementing meadow restoration projects—leading to improved water storage and carbon sequestration.

Salas and Padilla both joined the Forest Service as temporary employees for the season in internship positions paid through the WRI program (www.facebook.com/WRI.WRPI).  This program gives deserving students the opportunity to gain on-the-job training with the USDA Forest Service and USDA NRCS.  Salas said that he is very pleased with the experience; and that he has enjoyed the opportunity to go into the field and apply the knowledge he gained studying forest hydrology and geographic information systems (GIS) at Humboldt.  “Stream condition inventories make a lot more sense after being out in the field,” he stated.

Padilla majors in environmental resource management with a concentration in safety at CSUB.  He explained why this summer’s work is important to him, saying, “I am excited about this internship because I’m not only gaining experience for my own future; but I’m also lucky enough to be giving back to my home, since Bakersfield benefits from the neighboring forest having  improved water storage.”  Padilla grew up visiting the Kern River and is excited to be part of preserving the natural environment that feeds Bakersfield water.  He also benefited from the mandatory safety training that is integral to working for the Forest Service.  “I want to be a safety officer in some capacity in the future, and the Forest Service’s culture of safety, like performing job hazard analysis before each job, has been very educational for me,” he explained.

The ongoing drought has made meadow restoration a priority for both the State of California and for the USDA Forest Service.  “As funding becomes available to conduct these projects, the work that these students have assisted with will greatly increase the potential for getting meadow restoration projects approved and implemented,” stated Andy Stone, Kern River Ranger District Hydrologist.  The students’ field work will contribute to updating the overall picture of the Kern River Ranger District’s watersheds—a picture that has not been fully updated since last completed in the early 1980s.  Healthy meadows act like a sponge storing water.  They keep streams running longer during dry periods, and thereby provide healthier fish habitat and clean water to downstream communities for drinking and agricultural use.
(via US Forest Service)

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