By Josh Sacree & Sara Smith
The AmeriCorps NCCC team, Oak 7, consisting of eight members comes from the North Central Region campus of Vinton is currently serving in Hot Springs, SD and Glyndon, MN to work with The Nature Conservancy-Western Dakotas.
Oak 7 is on their second week in Hot Springs and things are looking good. The team has gone through chain-sawing training and is now in the field removing invasive species. The team is assisting with the revitalization and improvement of the Whitney Preserve where they will be removing tree, brush, and woody fuel. This will ultimately create healthier and more historic landscapes that are less prone to catastrophic wildfire. There have been multiple fires that have taken place on the preserve and in the Black Hills, and the team is helping to prevent this from happening.
So far, Oak 7 has cleared about an acre of invasive species and loaded 9,000 pounds of cut wood onto trailers where they will be bought or burned. The team has also created 30 piles of brush and falling branches, which will also be burned. The process of burning the brush and wood is very important as it gives nutrients to the ground and grass. This process will also help in preventing fires in the future as there are less big trees and brush to catch on fire.
The team has also had opportunities to do Independent Service projects with Fall River County Fair where they helped set up and work at the fair. This was a great experience as the team got to interact with the community and explain what they have done so far and what they are doing in South Dakota.
“These first weeks have been very tough, but a great learning experience for me. I have learned a lot about fires and cutting down trees. I would have never expected to use a chainsaw in my life, but learning this skill might be very useful for my future. I have enjoyed the project so far and I am looking forward to the rest of it,” says Oak 7 member Ariel.