WRANGELL, AK – Members of Wrangell’s Boy Scout Troop 40 joined forces with the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), the Sitka Conservation Society (SCS) the United States Forest Service and local Wrangell volunteers to conduct a number of Wilderness stewardship activities on the Stikine River. The outing, funded in part by a grant through the National Forest Foundation, focused on managing invasive weeds near Twin Lakes and was part of a nationwide effort by the Forest Service to steward Wilderness areas.
“The ultimate goal of this trip was to ensure that future generations inherit landscapes and watersheds like the Stikine that continue to provide opportunities to hunt, fish, and reflect in wild places that have been available to generations before them,” said Daven Hafey of SEACC. “The Stikine is the lifeblood of Wrangell, and we want to help make sure it remains healthy.”
The group focused on managing the aggressive reed canary grass along the Twin Lakes shoreline by covering it with sheets of black plastic. Hand pulling and shovels were also used to remove the non-native buttercup and dandelion at the lakes’ landing. Reed canary grass is a tall grass that invades and dominates riparian areas, displacing native plants and reducing the richness and diversity of insects. Non-native buttercup and dandelion are not as aggressive, but can push out native plant species. In total, the group worked a collective 304 hours over the course of five days.
“We want to make sure reed canary grass doesn’t take up native plants because moose and other animals don’t eat reed canary grass,” said Boy Scout Tymon Teat.
Invasive plants can change the dynamic of an ecosystem, ranging from microorganisms to plants to birds, amphibians, and mammals. The Forest Service has developed plans to manage the invasive weeds on the Stikine with the help of local youth volunteers.
“We need the help, and I thank the Boy Scouts for that, I thank SEACC for stepping up, and I thank Sitka Conservation for their help,” said Dave Rak of the US Forest Service.
“I’ve been moose and bear hunting this area since 1980 and never noticed any dandelions or other invasives until just recently,” said Assistant Troop Leader Glenn Smith. “Having my son up here, it’s important to show him the things that aren’t native.”
When the Scouts and volunteers were not pulling weeds, they had an opportunity to reaffirm their connection to the land and enjoy what it means to be in the Wilderness. Scouts spent their lunch breaks and evenings swimming, catching insects and amphibians, and watching the sun set from the desert on Andrew’s Island.
The Twin Lakes trip came just a week after Troop 40’s trash clean-up on Zarembo Island, where they collected more than 900 pounds of trash.
“More stewardship,” said Assistant Scout Master Kim Powell. “We are willing to help in any way we can.”