Students from Carnegie Vanguard High School plant hundreds of native plants to stabilize creek banks, ward off erosion, and to increase biodiversity
HOUSTON, February 27, 2018 – The Bayou Preservation Association and the Student Conservation Association (SCA) teamed up recently with students from Carnegie Vanguard High School (CVHS) in HISD for a stream corridor restoration project at Japhet Creek Nature Park in a small east Houston neighborhood.
Twenty students planted more than 200 native plants including Wood Fern, Tropical sage, Loblolly Pine, Turk’s Cap, Giant Cane and more to advance a project initiated earlier by Bayou Preservation Association. The effort is part of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to SCA designed to “increase environmental literacy, promote environmental stewardship and positively influence consumptive behavior among CVHS students, by providing them with water conservation and protection education.”
The project also entailed removing invasive, exotic plant species and planting native flora to deter bank erosion and establish a healthier habitat in this City of Houston park. Japhet Creek feeds into Buffalo Bayou.
Previously, 50 SCA students removed invasive, exotic plants, shrubs and trees at the Park under the guidance of the Bayou Preservation Association’s Eric Ruckstuhl, a botanist who is an expert on native and invasive, exotic plant species. After Ruckstuhl marked the plants for removal, students eagerly took to eliminating the invaders to make room for native plants later on.
Students in Carnegie Vanguard’s AP Environmental Science and Wildlife Studies classes and members of the National Honor Society donned gloves and employed shovels and spades to dig holes for the new plants. Also joining the students for the three-hour project was Pre-AP biology teacher Jamie Scott, who gave guidance and imparted knowledge about the ecosystem. Additionally, Ruckstuhl, habitat restoration technicians David and Helen Handley and SCA’s Valeria De Casas and Ian Shelton provided instruction and assistance.
“The collaboration between the Student Conservation Association and Bayou Preservation Association is invaluable in giving students hands-on experience and practical knowledge about our waterways and how invasive, exotic plant species are detrimental to areas in and around the water,” says De Casas, SCA’s program coordinator. “These young people are learning about bayou stewardship from the experts at Bayou Preservation Association, whose mission is to restore the natural richness of bayous and streams. I’m proud of the kids’ commitment to improving our environment one project at a time.”
“Bayou Preservation Association is excited to partner with SCA on this project and others like it to help protect and restore sensitive areas of land near waterways,” says Linda Shead, acting associate director for the Bayou Preservation Association and one of the organizers of the Japhet Creek Park planting event. “This supports part of our organization’s goals for the Steam Corridor Restoration Program, which is to restore vegetation along bayous and creeks in the region.”
Stream corridors include riparian buffer zones, which are the vegetated lands adjacent to bayous and creeks. When healthy, these areas are covered with native grasses, flowers, shrubs and trees, which provide important benefits for the waterways. When invasive, exotic species such as Chinese Tallow, Chinaberry, Ligustrum, Salt Cedar, Chinese Privet, Caribbean Lantana and other non-native plants are introduced into habitats, they can choke out the native plants. These pesky invasive, exotic plants decrease native biodiversity and the wildlife habitat it supports, including pollinators and other beneficial species.
Shead notes that these buffer zones have been lost or damaged along many of the bayous and creeks in the Harris County area. That’s why collaborative efforts by the Bayou Preservation Association and partners such as SCA and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Inmate Community Work Program, are important in the removal of destructive invasive, exotic species and in the reintroduction of healthy, native plants along waterways. The native plants also help with erosion control and can benefit water quality by preventing sediment, nutrients and pollutants from reaching the streams.
About Bayou Preservation Association
The mission of the Bayou Preservation Association is to celebrate, protect and restore the natural richness of all our bayous and streams, with a vision of a network of healthy bayous, streams and watersheds. It works to Increase understanding of area bayous and creeks and their watersheds by providing educational programs and opportunities, activities and events to engage all the region’s demographics. Bayou Preservation Association also strives to expand stewardship and stewardship opportunities to improve the health of our watersheds, creeks, and bayous. For more information or to get involved, visit bayoupreservation.org or call 713-529-6443. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.
About the Student Conservation Association (SCA)
The Student Conservation Association (SCA) is America’s largest and most effective youth conservation service organization. SCA’s Houston program aims to build the next generation of conservation leaders and environmental stewards by engaging local Houston youth in their community and environment through hands-on service to the land. The programs aim to teach area young people how to:
- work outdoors (volunteer service)
- live outdoors (camping)
- have fun outdoors (outdoor recreation activities like hiking, geocaching, kayaking, etc.)
- love the outdoors (environmental education – connecting youth to their environment, empowering them with the knowledge
The success of SCA programming in Houston is due largely to SCA Houston’s many partners, including Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, TPWD State Parks, Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, Memorial Park Conservancy, Bayou Preservation Association and the City of Houston, as well as many local environmental organizations, schools, youth development organizations and community groups.
General Photo Caption: The Bayou Preservation Association and Student Conservation Association members from Carnegie Vanguard High School in HISD teamed up for a restoration project at Japhet Creek Nature Park. Photos courtesy of Bayou Preservation Association.