AmeriCorps crew’s assistance welcome at refuge

The staff at Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge was happy to receive the assistance of nine AmeriCorps members this past week. AmeriCorps is a federally funded organization of young adults ages 18 to 24 who devote nearly a year to assisting with various projects throughout the country.

“They not only work for wildlife refuges but also parks and cities,” said Duane Anderson, Upper Souris NWR. “For us, it gives us an extra workforce for a few weeks.”

At Upper Souris, an AmeriCorps team began their duties by constructing beaver-proof fencing around trees at the Downstream Recreation Area. Beavers have chewed down several trees in the popular public area. They also did some planting of young trees and added a protective barrier around them.

“Later we’ll be doing some chainsaw work and some fence removal,” said Keanu Harris, team leader. “Whatever is needed from us.”

AmeriCorps personnel receive a modest stipend for their 10-month commitment which, said Harris, makes them more service members than volunteers. Harris graduated from the University of Denver last May. Others on his team come from California, New York, Virginia, Ohio, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. They are being housed at the J. Clark Salyer NWR near Upham while working at the state’s Souris River refuges.

“We’ve been together since February. Before this we were in Wisconsin doing controlled burns. It’s a good working team. They work hard together and get along pretty well. They’re good people,” said Harris. “I was just kind of looking to do some good work to give back to the country. That’s why I decided to join AmeriCorps.”

Anderson has experienced several AmeriCorps work crews at the refuge in past years and agrees that the quality of personnel has been excellent. They can be counted on, said Anderson, to get work done efficiently and correctly without constant supervision.

“When they join AmeriCorps it’s a commitment they make. The organization itself is very good. They run a pretty good program,” said Anderson. “The kids that they bring in are very high quality students and workers. It helps a lot when you can rely on them. They have good work ethics. You can count on them to get a project done.”

While Harris’ AmeriCorps crew was keeping busy with assigned projects in the Downstream Recreation Area this past week, several firefighting suits and helmets were neatly arranged on the ground nearby.

“While we’re here in North Dakota, our primary function is to do controlled burns with the Fish and Wildlife Service on the refuges,” said Harris. “When days aren’t conducive to burning, we do whatever they need us to do.”

The AmeriCorps crew is expected to assist with upcoming controlled burns at both Upper Souris and J. Clark Salyer NWRs. Anderson said he expects the team will be available to Upper Souris for up to three weeks.