Battle at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal

Russian Olive vs. Houndstongue, Trailblazers vs. the MEGA crew (Rockclimbers and Pathfinders), Annie vs. Michelle whichever way you want to put it, the sawyers and the trail builders are at it again.

M: So I pulled weeds for a week in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in 90 degree heat covered in mosquitos, what did you do all week?

A: Well Michelle, I was also in the Arsenal in 90 degree heat covered in mosquitos…and chaps and long sleeves and a hard hat….And, instead of casually walking through the forest in some sort of formation like a synchronized swimming team pulling tiny, defenseless weeds, I was chopping down large, thorny, water-hungry Russian Olive Trees.

M: Interesting, I hear that my crew saved the lives of a billion Bison last week by removing Houndstounge from existence.

A: Funny, every time my crew saw yours, you guys seemed to be relaxing, enjoying the sunny weather. I’m not sure I totally understand how you’re saving bison (which by the way, there are about 20 in the Arsenal) or removing Houndstongue. Please enlighten me.

M: You fail to understand the mental strength of my crew. Every morning we envision the complete destruction of what seems like a defenseless, purple flower. When in fact, it is a toxic, yet tempting treat to the Bison. Think Snow White’s evil Queen and her beautiful yet deadly red apple. As for the removal of the weed, it takes a strong back and Gaston-like arms to eradicate this beast of a plant from the prairie lands of the Arsenal.

A: Oh I am sorry, I fell asleep for a second. Last week my crew took down 486 trees and I’m very tired.

M: Good to know my crew has more stamina. I have to ask, why are you taking down oxygen-giving trees when our environment is so polluted?

A: I’m glad you asked. Although they do give off oxygen, they are an invasive species to Colorado and require a large amount of water, taking from an already delicate, highly drought susceptible environment. My crew has worked very hard, cutting down these complex, massive trees with our trusty chainsaws. You know that heavy, sharp, unwieldy tool I carry with me all day long. Have you checked out these guns (and by guns I mean arms) recently? I’m not the only one… My crew pairs up each day to chop down trees and haul massive limbs to a burn pile. Its a tough job but someone’s gotta do it.

M: I haven’t heard that slogan in 50 years. Way to be original. Unlike the sawyers, we don’t let a machine do our work. The MEGA Crew works all day with just a shovel to remove invasive species, dirt and roots. We know how to work hard as a cohesive group and get the job done, but fun can always be had in our crew. Journey, Disney and Queen are just a couple of the favorite musical numbers we like to preform as we march along like a well-tuned machine, churning up all weeds in our sight. With a great balance of productivity and fun, our first week at the Arsenal is over, with two more weeks of hard work ahead.

A: Enough chit chat, I’ve gotta get back to work. Only one more week in the Arsenal and the Trailblazers are off to Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Lots to do before we leave, that chainsaws not going to sharpen itself. See you out there, maybe this time with a tool in hand?

-Michelle Shea and Annie Matouka, 2010 AmeriCorps Leadership and Conservation Corpsmembers

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