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A day in the Corps

By Gaby Gerken

7:00 AM: The day starts with getting the truck from the “bull pen”, a fenced area where all the DNR and Corps trucks are housed. Our crew leader Steve checks his email or calls our project host to see what we are doing, and today we are heading up to Wild River State Park to work on woody invasives. This means packing up loppers, our chemical kit, toolbox and the always present shovel (just in case).

7:25 AM: Since we are on the Metro Roving crew, we tend to get our fair share of drive time. It’s relaxing and we usually end up drinking coffee and listening to music or the news.

9:00 AM: We arrive at Wild River and stop by their shop to pick up our herbicide for the day. Then we head off to our project site to mix the chemical and stretch. Stretching is my favorite part of the day! After a long drive it’s nice to loosen up and chat.

Siberian pea shrub

Siberian pea shrub

9:30 AM: This week’s project is to cut Siberian pea shrub, buckthorn and honeysuckle. All are woody invasive species that require the application of herbicide after they have been cut. It’s easiest to split into groups of two and have one person cutting and one applying the chemical. The use of chemicals has been a bit of a struggle for my crew… On the one hand we don’t want to use it at all and would prefer to find a more natural option, but on the other we have seen what happens when chemical is not applied, and have come to understand that the problem just gets worse. If you don’t do it these plants will re-sprout with a vengeance and be even harder to remove next time!

The morning hours include gridding through sections of the park in search of these plants. We don’t find much of the pea shrub, which is a little disappointing at first. However, we learned later that groups had gone through here over the past few years, which means that they were effective in removing the shrub!

11:20 PM: We start to wrap it up and because we are working close to the trails, the plants are loaded up and strapped down to the truck to be taken over to the burn pile in the prairie.

Bullsnake named Goldi

Bullsnake named Goldi

12:00 PM: It’s lunchtime! We have an hour and today we go to the visitor center. While there we can relax, talk to the park rangers and play with the snakes that live in the center.

1:00 PM: We head out once again to another work site to do the same work. Because we are working in an area that people generally don’t walk through, we can leave the plants where they lie. A stick bug climbed up a crew member’s arm so we took a short break to check it out.

3:30 PM: We pack up and head back to the shop. Since we used chemicals we need to rinse the spray bottles and funnels three times and return the herbicide to the park’s workshop. During the day we tend to collect specimens of mushrooms and other plants, and on the drive back we usually go through our books to identify them.

British soldier lichen

British soldier lichen

5:00 PM: When we get to the shop we put all of the tools away, sweep the floors and tighten screws on the loppers because they weren’t cutting very well today.

5:30 PM: The day is over and we go home to rest until the next day!