Different Parks, Same Goal.

Hello everyone! For this blog, I want to discuss some of the differences that I have noticed between my current internship site and my previous internship site.

(Photo: Me removing the seed heads from jubata grass)

As a reminder, this is my second Environment for the Americas internship. My first internship was through EFTA’s Mosaics in Science Program. I was fortunate enough to be selected for a 5-month internship at North Cascades National Park (NOCA) as a Native Plant Propagation Assistant.

NOCA is part of the North Cascades National Park Complex, which also includes Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas, which puts the total acreage at approximately 680,000. Most of the complex is designated as the Stephen Mather Wilderness, which means that most areas within the park have been left undeveloped. In fact, only 7 miles of road reach into NOCA the rest can only be accessed by trails!

(Photo: Me at North Cascades)

Before arriving at Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GOGA), I was not entirely sure what to expect. I knew that GOGA had a large urban interface, so I imagined that meant that natural resources would be sparse, and I was also not sure what that would mean for resource management. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that within its 80,000-acre boundary, GOGA contains a surprising amount of remnant wildlands. GOGA is located within California’s floristic province and is a biodiversity hotspot boasting over 1,200 native plant species.   

Management goals of plant communities in both these park units are relatively similar. Both parks emphasize the importance of conservation/restoration of native plant species and management of invasive plant species. However, there are some differences in the methods used to achieve these goals as well as the challenges encountered when managing these areas. For example, a challenge of managing natural resources in a park such as NOCA is the remoteness of restoration sites. Often, accessing restoration sites at NOCA required hiking into sites or utilizing multiple modes of transportation to reach sites in the park. This often limited the equipment that we could bring to sites as well as how much time we could spend on site. At GOGA, most restoration sites that my team manages are a short drive from our office. This allows for more time-on-site, and it also allows my team to bring more equipment to our sites. It also provides more flexibility in scheduling maintenance.

California’s climate also allows for year-round management at GOGA. This makes it simpler for my team to prioritize the management of invasive species month by month.  Where management at NOCA was often limited by seasons. For example, when my internship at NOCA was ending it was already beginning to snow in certain areas of the park, and when I arrived at GOGA it was still consistently around 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Certain areas in NOCA are still covered with snow into mid-summer and when combined with the remote locations of restoration sites it was a little more challenging to schedule management months in advance.

The difference in visitation is also something to consider when comparing resource management in these park units. In 2021, visitation at GOGA was approximately 14 million and when combined with Muir Woods National Monument and Fort Point Historic Site, visitation was over 15 million. Total visitation in 2021 for the entire North Cascades National Park Complex was slightly under 1 million. For GOGA, vegetation management responsibilities are split by county. Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties each have their own vegetation management team. At NOCA, vegetation management was mostly handled by the Native Plant Restoration team and the Invasive plant team.

It has been so interesting and informative being able to experience and participate in natural resource management in these different park units. I feel that these experiences will help me greatly in my future career.

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