Last week, a newly hired ESLT crew started work removing hardstem bulrush at Benton Ponds, as part of the speckled dace restoration project. For more information on this project, check out our previous blog post: Enhancing Habitat for Native Fish through Partnerships.

The first order of business for this hardy group of individuals was to don waders, plunge into the cold water, and start hacking a channel so that the California Department of Fish and Game weed cutting boat could gain access to the areas of the lake most choked by bulrush.

Although hardstem bulrush is a native plant, it is able to aggressively colonize open water, and has significantly reduced the surface area of these ponds. Open water is important in providing the amazing migratory bird habitat that is found at Benton Ponds, and as we clear the bulrush and replace it along the banks with three square rush, this habitat will improve. Open water will be very important in removing the non-native Sacramento perch and establishing the native speckled dace.

ESLT's AmeriCorps member, Hillary, starts clearing a path.

“It’s been great to get out in the field on one of our easements this past week and do work that is really making a difference for the wildlife that thrives in and around these ponds. I’ve enjoyed spending time here and leading trips on this property over the past 10 months, and this is a great way to finish up my service.” – Hillary Behr, ESLT AmeriCorps member

Crew Member Paul Satterthwaite breaks trail into years of accumulated bulrush thatch, in what used to be open water.

Crew member Sarah Musselman rakes cut bulrush up from the water onto the bank.

Crew Leader Mike Davis pitches bulrush on to the bank after the boat channel has been completed.

“When I think about why I do this work I think of one my predecessors who, when faced with the question “What good are native fish?” liked to retort “What good are you?” In a way my work is an effort to answer that question. It’s about making a modification to the landscape that will, without doubt, improve the status of imperiled native fish in the Owens Valley. It’s my contribution to the solution. The most important reason for doing this work is because there simply aren’t many people out there doing it. If it weren’t for us and the work we’re doing on the Bramlette property, the species (speckled dace) would be significantly worse off.” – Mike Davis, Crew Leader

An overview of the area of the pond that has been taken over by bulrush. The hidden crew cuts through a forest of rushes.

The completed channel!

Stay tuned for more updates and success stories as the battle continues!