Thursday, May 1, 2008

Criminals Better Than Firefighters at Identifying Plants

So today I spent the day on the Murphy Motorway with the inmates from Camp 13. The inmates from Camp 13 are women who are low risk criminals (don't ask me what this means - I have no idea, drugs maybe? A friend suggested it means they had one too many bad boyfriends). These low risk criminals live at a camp and do natural resources and fire work rather than being locked in a jail somewhere. We use these camp crews quite a bit in the Santa Monica Mountains. Although they only work for about 4 hours a day there are thirteen of them so they can get a lot done in those four hours. We refer to them as the Ladies.

I had never personally been in the field with the Ladies before. They mostly do work for our fire crew, removing plants in fuel modification zones or what have you. My friend Marti has been using them a lot to weed her post-burn native grass plots. Today I had the pleasure of training the Ladies how to backpack spray herbicide and how to identify three species of non-native invasive plants that we would like to kill.

We went out on the Murphy Motorway (a southern California thing - a motorway is an old road, now unpaved, that is maintained as a trail) to fix the poor thing after it was messed up by a bulldozer as part of fire fighting last year. Firefighters like to run roughshod over the landscape and they bulldozed the Murphy Motorway from a single lane dirt road into a 20 foot wide dirt superhighway while building a "contingency line" In other words, while screwing up a perfectly fine piece of habitat that the fire was never going to reach in the first place.

Anyway the Murphy Motorway has become a weed fiesta so we were out there with the Ladies showing them tocolote (Centaurea melitensis), Italian thistle (Carduus pycnocephalus), and bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare) to spray. There were a lot of native plants regenerating that we didn't want them to kill. When the engine crew showed up with the water truck they implied that we were out of our minds in thinking that the Ladies could learn to spray the weeds and wouldn't just kill all the native plants.

Well, it turns out that the Ladies were psyched to learn the weeds and not kill the native plants. They were very careful and did a wonderful job spraying the weeds. The fire guys, on the other hand, showed absolutely no interest in learning the native plants from the weeds and insisted on calling everything "brush" - as they like to do. So it turns out that if you want to teach some people about native plants, you are better off with criminals than firefighters. I'm just kidding. This did really happen that way but I do know some firefighters who are interested in plants.

1 comment:

Scott said...

I don't have much to say about firefighters v. criminals, but your current poll made me think of this McSweeney's essay "written" by Cookie Monster, which I thought was hilarious: