By Billy Franz – Troop 399
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I knew that for my Eagle Scout Project, I wanted to help the environment in some way. In my project, I helped out the Travis County Parks and Natural Resources Department in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. There were several types of non-native plants that were harming the native plants. There is a species of salamander that lives in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve – the Jollyville salamander. The salamander lives in a creek not far from the oppressive exotic plants. The non-native plants were suffocating the native ones and needed to be removed. We couldn’t use chemicals because that hurts the salamanders and it might even kill them.

On November 19, 2005, we went to the Preserve to work on getting rid of some of the non-native plants near the creek. The non-native plants that we took out were bamboo and vinca. The majority of the time was spent on getting out the bamboo. There were about 1 ½ acres of ground of which about 1/3 was bamboo. The vinca was scattered all over the area. We asked the Project participants to bring gloves and some tools for gardening. Since we had about 15 Scouts, they came in a caravan and then we got to work.

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I separated the group into two smaller groups: the bamboo group and the vinca group. Half of them took loppers, clippers, shovels, and a machete to get the bamboo out. The other half took trowels, small shovels, and gloves to go pull up the vinca. We worked inside the fenced area of the Preserve and outside the fence next to the road. One of the Scout parents was out there, helping to keep an eye on everything. The two groups finished at about the same time. Then we pulled the plants that were cut and put them in piles. Two piles of the non-native plants we had pulled were over 5 feet high and about 10 and 20 feet wide respectively. The area we had been working on was now clear of non-native plants.

We said goodbye to Laura Zebehazy, Amber Ahrns, and Steve White, the Park Ranger, and went to Rudy’s for a filling lunch.

Overall, I would have to say that everyone had fun and that the area we worked on was pretty clear of non-native plants. I bet the salamanders really appreciated it.

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