Growing up in Alamo, Jennie Jones loved animals and thrived in outdoor activities. In 2006 she graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder, with a degree in environmental, population and organism biology.

So, it's no surprise Jennie is doing what she has loved all along, surrounding herself with wildlife. She and is even lucky enough to call a national park her home. Since 2009, Jennie has been involved with Pinnacles National Park, which was established as a national monument in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt and is located east of Soledad and the Salinas Valley. Jennie volunteered with the condor crew, eventually coming on full-time in May 2010.

"Since then, I have worked primarily with the condor crew, but also have spent some time with the habitat restoration and vegetation crew," said Jennie who told me that she holds several titles presently -- Crew Leader, Biological Science Technician and Ranger. Jennie was excited to recently witness her "home" being turned into a national park, when Congress passed the Pinnacles National Park Act was at the end of 2012 and the president officially signed it into law in January.

"What a lot of people are not aware of is that a national monument is (the result of) a presidential act and a national park has to be declared by Congress. So we were a monument for a long time before the park designation," said Jennie. She told me about the rededication ceremony, which was held Feb. 11 with the Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar and U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, among other dignitaries present that day. Jennie boasted that Pinnacles is the country's 59th national park and California's ninth, making California the state with the most national parks.

"The national park designation does not change our management or our funding. It is mostly a change in name and notoriety," she added and explained that there are two entrances to the park. "The east entrance is where the campground and headquarters are located and can be accessed from Hollister or King City. The west entrance is accessed from Soledad and has a new visitor center, which opened last year," said Jennie.

Reservations for the campground are recommended on weekends during their busy season, January through May. In the meantime, Jennie continues her focus on the condor program and Pinnacles as a release site for the California condors. I understand that in the 1980s, the condor population was down to 22 birds, which were brought into captivity, and thus a captive breeding program was begun. There are now four captive condor breeding facilities -- at the Los Angeles, San Diego and Oregon zoos and at Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho.

The birds have been released into one of four wild population areas, Central California, Southern California, Baja California and the Grand Canyon. Jennie and her crew are involved with the Central California flock that consists of more than 60 birds, tracking them on a daily basis using radio telemetry. Jennie told me that each condor is given a radio tag with a unique frequency that can be picked up with special equipment that tunes into each frequency to find out which birds are present and with which they can monitor a variety of behaviors.

Jennie said the park is a popular spot for climbing, hiking, wild flower and wild life viewing. So, if you go, you just might be lucky enough yourself to catch a glimpse of a condor. For more information about the park and its wildlife, visit www.nps.gov/pinn.

Contact Caterina Mellinger at around- alamo@hotmail.com.

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