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Sgt. Alberto Garcia (left), an infantryman with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, from Corpus Christi, Texas, and Pvt. Nicholas Pezzuto, also with 3rd LAR, from Lakewood, Calif., finish watering a newly-planted Joshua tree at Joshua Tree National Park during a restoration effort April 7. Volunteers and park staff dug holes for 120 plants from the Joshua Tree National Park's nursery.

Photo by Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt

Marines, sailors plant new beginning for national park

9 Apr 2010 | Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Five Marines and sailors with 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion assisted Joshua Tree National Park Resources’ staff with an environment restoration project along the Lost Horse Mine Trail in Joshua Tree National Park, April 6 and 7.

Volunteers planted new trees to help rejuvenate the environment after a fire swept through the area and burned 450 acres last May.

Although Joshua Tree National Park firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze in just two days, the scorched earth bared no resemblance to the untouched areas around the rest of the park.

“If we were to let the environment run it’s course, it would take 25 to 100 years to return to normal,” said Dr. Victoria Chang, the science coordinator at Joshua Tree National Park.

“Restoring the vegetation quickly helps to restore the ecosystem and bring animals back to the area,” added Katy Mathews, a biologist with Joshua Tree National Park staff, and Rochester, N.Y. native.

Volunteers and park staff dug two-foot-by-one-foot holes for 120 plants from the Joshua Tree National Park’s Center for Arid Land Restoration Nursery, which collected seeds from within a five-mile radius of the burn site and cultivated the seedlings until they became resilient enough to live in the wild. This process takes anywhere from six months to a year.

The plants and other supplies were then airlifted to four separate cites within the burn area.

The various vegetation included Joshua trees, apricot mallow, cheesebush, black bush, buck wheat and desert almond.

Planting the native vegetation from the park’s nursery helps to prevent further degradation and will help visually blend the site with surrounding areas.

“We are planting perennials. That way they will be coming back year after year,” Chang said. “These plants will, in turn, seed and be spread by wildlife, offering a multiplying effect. We restore small areas and let nature take its course.”

After planting, volunteers put up fencing to protect the plants from wildlife consumption, to end a two-day restoration process which has left a mark on Joshua Tree National Park.

“It was an amazing experience,” said volunteer Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Herrera, a 3rd LAR corpsman, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who volunteered for the two-day project. “I’m glad I could help to repair the damage done by the fire so others will have the chance to see what the real Joshua Tree looks like.”

To volunteer, call 760-367-5579.

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms