On January 11, 2017, students from the Youth Engaged Stewardship (YES!) program celebrated the completion of an interpretive sign project on the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area near Tucson, Arizona. YES! students have worked at Las Cienegas over the last five summers, concentrating their last three summer activities at the Gardner Sacaton restoration site.
Representatives of the YES! class of 2016 unveiled a new sign that explains why sacaton grasslands are important to the riparian and surrounding ecology and how their project work contributes to restoring the soils and plants at Gardner. As part of the restoration work — beyond creating erosion prevention structures, planting over 300 plants, and transferring cryptobiotic soils — the YES! participants came up with a sign concept. Caldwell Design completed the design, artwork, and fabrication.
YES! is a partnership program that combines land restoration with developing youth leadership skills. YES! founding partners include the Cienega Watershed Partnership, Ironwood Tree Experience, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Tucson, and the Empire High School (Vail School District). At the Gardner Sacaton site, YES! partners also include The Nature Conservancy, the University of Arizona, and Vera Earl Ranch. YES! is being funded in 2016 and 2017 by the BLM and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Equal accolades must go to the Empire High School advanced studies class (taught by Chris In-Albon) since these students monitor the Gardner Sacaton location periodically, analyzing the soil, mapping plant and soil growth, and comparing controlled plots with uncontrolled areas.
Photos by Cienega Watershed Partnership unless otherwise noted.