INDIAN ISLAND, Wash. (NNS) -- Sailors from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) participated in a beach cleanup on Indian Island June 24 as part of an effort to restore the natural habitat and curb the spread of invasive grasses on the island.
Equipped with gloves, bags and shovels, Lincoln volunteers spent a full day alongside wildlife experts, combing the shores for invasive grass and washed-up sea debris.
Indian Island Environmental Manager Bill Kalina oversees and monitors the ecological state of Indian Island.
The volunteers helped contribute to a better habitat for indigenous wildlife, said Kalina.
"Bravo zulu to the Lincoln crew for coming out here today; more folks showed up than we expected and it's making a big difference," said Kalina. "We're doing a two-part project here today, Spartina grass removal, which is an exotic invasive species, and also a beach cleanup, where we're removing debris off the beach that can entangle marine mammals."
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website, Spartina grass, also known as Smooth Cordgrass, is an aggressive weed that displaces native species, destroying habitat and food sources for native fish, waterfowl and other marine life.
Indian Island is home to a number of critical habitat areas for fish and game such as Bull Trout and Bald Eagles, said Kalina.
Navy Region Northwest Senior Biologist George Hart sees the effect Spartina grass has on the tidal salt marshes.
"Spartina is a grass that's indigenous to the East Coast, and it's a very invasive species that is considered a noxious weed here on the West Coast. It will out-compete all native floras growing here and literally just wipe them out, so you have nothing but a beach full of Spartina," said Hart.
Under the expert eyes of Hart and Kalina, Lincoln's Sailors filled up several trash bags of the pervasive weed.
Along with Spartina removal, Lincoln's crew also scoured the beach for various debris and trash washed ashore.
"We're looking for any kind of man-made objects that can be moved that are here on the beach," said Hart.
Lincoln's Sailors found many items including old car tires, mooring lines, plastic bottles and rusted metal.
Personnelman Seaman Allison Burns, from Omaha, Neb., said she felt a sense of pride after the clean up.
"I got to meet Sailors from other departments and had fun because I know I played my part in making a difference for our environment," said Burns.
Hart said the turnout was a big help in preserving the island's coastal wetlands.
"Anytime you can remove manmade objects from the shoreline it makes a difference to the environment by affording the ecosystem an opportunity to recuperate, so it's a very positive effect the Sailors are having," said Hart.
For more news from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn72/.