Public Lands Steward: Looking Back at Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge

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Things are coming to a close for me at Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, but I can confidently say that committing to an AmeriCorps volunteer internship has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had thus far. Every weekday, I am assigned a new project, providing me many different skills while being here. My main job task has been fencing construction and maintenance, but I have also been able to test my ability to learn quickly through installing drainage devices, building a new hiking trail, fyke net setting, and invasive species management.

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After I leave Glenwood, Washington, I will be making my way back to Phoenix, Arizona to be close to home, friends, and family. I would like to continue exploring career options and find a field that I am truly passionate about working in. This AmeriCorps assignment has allowed me to see inside environmental fieldwork and consider it as a possible career option, however I would like to experience other fields as well.

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Looking back on the last 15 weeks, my favorite part of AmeriCorps has been the cultural experiences in this geographic region. Aside from career exploration, working in Washington has given me the chance to explore the Pacific Northwest, a very scenic region. I shared a weekend camping in Netarts, Oregon with a Phoenician friend of mine, where we indulged in fresh oysters and observed the workings of a fish hatchery. The following weekend, I explored Seattle with my Conboy Lake fencing compadre and witnessed the organized chaos of Pikes Place Market and toured the Space Needle. Cultures are fascinating to me, and now I can accurately depict that of the great Northwest, thanks to AmeriCorps.

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For anyone who is considering a service commitment with AmeriCorps, I would recommend it as a way to explore career options, discover new places, and to provide essential public service. Giving your time and energy can be extremely gratifying and rewarding, as it has been for me. Take a chance and be an active member of your government and community!

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Look out! Bees!!!

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Public Lands Steward: Adventure & Discovery

 

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Today marks the beginning of my seventh week in Washington, and I must say this is one of the grandest states I have ever visited. Phoenix, Arizona, which is home for me, is pretty brown and dry, however Washington has offered endless greenery and beautiful summer days. Here at Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Glenwood, I am a Refuge Technician. My fencing compadre, Nate, and I build and repair barbed-wire fences that border the public lands in order to keep the ever-present open range cattle from destroying refuge habitats. We are first assigned a fence to assess its damage, after which we gather equipment to make it whole again. By now, I have learned how to stay clear of our sometimes-dangerous fencing tools, but I wasn’t as lucky in the beginning of my term. I’ll definitely be taking some intimidating scars back to Phoenix, courtesy of the sharp barbs. From time to time, I also work alongside some local high-schoolers. This encourages, as AmeriCorps values state, that the community remain engaged.  Also, I’ve officially been on a frog hunt, where we catch invasive bullfrogs that are endangering the Oregon Spotted Frog population.

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Fences aren’t the only part of my season here though! When I am not working, I’ve been able to fill my time with lots of fun and recreation. I took a trip to Twin Harbors State Park in June, where I witnessed big sandy beaches, a small fishing community, and families gathering for fireworks at dusk. Nate and I also backpacked 20 miles in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. It was such a peaceful and serene setting there that reminded me of a storybook, each landscape more beautiful than the last. Additionally, I’ve been able to make some friends that I join at the local poetry slam and enjoy a cold drink every so often. Finally, I went rafting down the White Salmon River this past weekend, where we washed over and into the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the lower 48. It’s safe to say I’m really enjoying my time in Washington.

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I think the things I value most about being here are the wide-open spaces and disconnect from city life. I have come to realize that we over-stimulate ourselves in urban settings and move at a pace much faster than necessary. I’m really hoping to bring this “take is easy” lesson back to Phoenix with me. I’m positive I have grown personally and gotten to know myself better in the last seven weeks, and am optimistic about the continued self-discovery to come. I have also become more aware of the complexities of our environment as a whole. Humans have barely chipped the iceberg when it comes to understanding Earth’s natural systems, yet I learn something new every day, just about ecology.

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From maintaining the refuge, to recreating, to learning, my service in AmeriCorps has been a great opportunity thus far. It not only serves the community I’m surrounded by, but myself as well. I can’t wait to see what adventures this place holds for me in the future.

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