Joshua Tree National Park has been using native plants to restore impacted areas within the park for over 30 years. Seeds are collected within five miles of project locations and used to produce native plant materials in the Park’s nursery, called the Center for Arid Lands Restoration. Volunteer groups help with all aspects of the restoration program, including plant propagation, installation of out-planting and vertical mulch treatments, and maintenance of treatments. High levels of recreation use has led to a network of user trails, called “social trails” to access climbing boulders and other features within the park. Efforts are underway to concentrate the impact into designated access trails and to use native plant materials to restore impacts. Other projects have involved highway realignment where native plants displaced by construction activities have been salvaged, temporarily maintained off-site, and re-transplanted in the footprint of disturbance. Out-plantings are maintained with periodic irrigation and protective cages. Despite the many success stories, the restoration program faces tough challenges for the future that the park is working to overcome. Neil Frakes will introduce us to the Center and to some of the success stories it has achieved over the years.
Neil Frakes is the Vegetation Branch Chief in the Division of Resource Management at Joshua Tree National Park. He oversees a variety of vegetation based programs at the park including native plant restoration, invasive plant species management, field botany, climate change monitoring, and rock climbing stewardship. He started at Joshua Tree in July of 2015. He holds a B.A. in Geography and Environmental Studies from Macalester College , and an M.A. in Geography from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Prior to working for the National Park Service, he worked for the U.S. Forest Service in the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program. He grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.