Shenandoah National Park’s Habitat Defenders volunteer on National Public Lands Day

Published: Sep. 25, 2021 at 7:33 PM EDT
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LURAY, Va. (WHSV) - Saturday was National Public Lands Day, and people all over the country were volunteering to protect national parks, including one group in the Valley that is dedicated to taking care of Shenandoah National Park.

“Today we’re collecting acorns, and we’re going to take those back to the park headquarters nursery and plant them for future revegetation efforts,” said Bridget Harrison, a Biotechnician at Shenandoah National Park.

Harrison is the leader of Habitat Defenders, a volunteer group that hosts several events each month to work on numerous projects in the park. They work to address problems created by invasive plant species in the park’s ecosystem.

“You’ll see bittersweet growing up trees to the point that they’re being girdled to death or the canopy is covered out by the leaves, and the bittersweet is just out competing anything that is under it,” said Harrison. “We also have emerald ash borer and hemlock woolly adelgid, those are both really affecting some of the more mature trees. The hemlocks have been fairly decimated, but there’s been an effort to treat the healthy mature ones that are still around the park.”

The events usually take place on Saturdays and volunteer turnout can range anywhere from three to three dozen people. Those who are regulars stress the importance of conservation and preserving the park.

“We need to do a lot to protect our lands so they’re there for the future generations to be able to come out and hike, explore, to look at, everything. So, I think we need to do what we can now to take care of it so it’s there for the future,” said Kenneth Eye, who’s been a volunteer with Habitat Defenders since 2017.

The park’s native plants and wildlife are endangered by habitat changes and being crowded out from a variety of invasive grasses, herbs, and insects. This creates a constant need for more volunteers to help staff take care of the large park.

“The invasives crew here at the park is less than ten people for however many acres the national park is, so they rely a lot on volunteers to come up and help, so if you ever have an interest in coming out to help we can always use more hands,” said Kenneth Eye.

Anyone interested in signing up to volunteer with habitat defenders can do so here.

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