Photos and Post by Jorgen Gulliksen, Communications Associate

On a hot July day this past summer, the Land Trust welcomed an American Conservation Experience crew to our Linda Falls Preserve. American Conservation Experience, otherwise known as ACE, is a non-profit that provides hands-on conservation experience for young people from all over the United States, helping other groups with projects like wildlife surveys, trail maintenance and creek side restoration.

The Land Trust hires ACE crews with grant and donor funds to help us in the work of restoration on our preserves. At Linda Falls Preserve, invasive plant removal remains a high priority for us, and in July, that’s what they came to work on.

During a lunch break, while relaxing under a dense canopy of trees next to Conn Creek to stay cool, I took some time to learn a little bit more about who these hard working people are, how they got there and why they chose to get involved with ACE.

Matthew Larsen of Tampa, Florida takes in the view of Conn Creek near Linda Falls.

Matthew Larsen of Tampa, Florida graduated recently as a biology major from St. Petersburg University. He started working with the American Conservation Experience in May and joined up to get more hands-on experience in the field. He likes California, with the mountains and ocean close by, and even surfs on his off days. Working at Linda Falls Preserve is a good fit for him precisely because of the restoration effort.

“I love doing invasive (plant removal) work,” said Larsen. “That’s the basis of habitat restoration.”

Elizabeth Riesenberg of Omaha, Nebraska pulls out the invasive Himalayan blackberry.

Elizabeth Riesenberg of Omaha, Nebraska started working for ACE five months ago after having graduated with a biology degree. Working in previous locations like Pinnacles National Park and on locally protected land in Irvine, California have been highlights not only for their scenic views, but also for what she’s encountered. The invasive work in Irvine, for example, consisted of pulling artichoke thistle and mustard of a size she could hardly believe.

“The mustard was huge,” remarked Riesenberg.

Benjamin Strickland of China Grove, North Carolina rests during his lunch break.

Benjamin Strickland of China Grove, North Carolina graduated in March and got involved with ACE right away. Strickland wanted the hands-on experience as well, but also wanted to meet new people.

“Plus, I like being outside,” said Strickland. “I definitely like being outside more than inside.”

Finally, crew chief Jenny Diamond of Westminister, Maryland came to California in 2015 after joining ACE. With the leadership role she has now, her job is part restoration work and part making sure the crew is safe and comfortable.

“I like the role of passing on my knowledge to new members as that is part of what makes ACE great,” said Diamond. “It’s a great introduction to the hard work involved in the field of conservation.”

Once I had finished chatting with the crew members, I said goodbye and gathered my things for the relatively short trek back to my car. As I made my way alongside Conn Creek, carefully trying to tip-toe around any poison oak I spotted, I ended up feeling good about the people I met. Our restoration partners were making strides not just with us, but all around the United States. Young people with a strong work ethic committed to conservation can only be a good thing.