ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., -- What do you get when you invite a group of young girl scouts to help create burrowing owl habitats in an arroyo? You get an excited and energetic group of girls ready and willing to assist and learn.
On Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, eight members of Girl Scout Troop 35, arrived at the Calabacillas Arroyo to meet with Lt. Col. Gant, commander, US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Albuquerque District; Christopher Parrish, regulatory division, USACE; and Kurt Wagener, Field Engineer for the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA).
“We are all here today to construct habitats for burrowing owls,” said Wagener.
AMAFCA has been working in the arroyo for several months to create bank stabilization and protection. Prior to beginning the work, AMAFCA came to the Corps of Engineers Regulatory Division in order to obtain a 404 permit. A 404 permit is needed by anyone who is planning to perform any type of work in any water body of the United States. The Corps and AMAFCA determined that several burrowing owl habitats would be destroyed by the needed construction.
“Working together, the Corps and AMAFCA determined that the best way to help keep the owls in the arroyo was to recreate and construct owl habitats that were as similar to the original owl habitats as possible and that meet the nesting requirements that the owls need,” said Wagener. “By constructing these habitats, we hope the owls will, once again, come back to this area to nest, and have babies,” he said.
Wagener showed the scouts photos of the burrowing owls – the actual ones the construction crews saw in the arroyo when they began their work. “We know this is a perfect place for them to nest – that is why we have worked with AMAFCA to create habitats as close to the original nests,” he said.
“Research we have completed demonstrates that these types of artificial habitats can provide suitable habitat for the owls.” said Parrish.
Lt. Col. Gant, a former Girl Scout herself, shared both her experiences and information with the girls regarding the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), as well as participating in this particular project. “When you girls grow up, you may be responsible for projects similar to this one, or for saving other types of wildlife,” said Gant. “This is a wonderful time for you to learn all you can about all types of wildlife and their interrelationship to their environment,” she said.
The event was a success: for the scouts, the Corps, AMAFCA by shoveling dirt and digging holes for the 55-gallon drums that were buried in the ground as part of the habitats. They also collected rocks to place in front of the habitat openings. “Placement of these rocks is important because it keeps predators out of the owl habitats,” said Wagener.
“Participating in projects such as this is right in line with the Girl Scout Leadership Experience model: Discover - Connect - Take Action,” said Carol Ann Short, Communications and Public Relations Manager for Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails, Inc.
“For the first step, Discover, the girls learn about an issue,” she said. During the second step, Connect, the girls connect with resources in the community who address or work with a particular issue. As a result of the first two steps, the third step, Take Action, enables the girls to think critically about how to address an issue,” said Short. As leaders, we continue to coach the girls to choose solutions that are sustainable,” she said.
“A general summary of what Girl Scouts tend to do when they participate in programs like this one is to focus on educating (educating themselves, then other Girl Scouts as well as the public), advocating (if there is an issue/endangerment/etc., the girls will help educate to advocate), and help to sustain a project or initiative,” said Short.
The scouts that participated in Saturday’s event will receive an environmental badge for their efforts, said Charlotte Mangiaca, Girl Scout troop leader. “This will be a great addition to their many badges that they have already earned,” she said.
“We are looking forward to further collaboration with the Corps of Engineers,” said Short.