‘Seeding Success’: Increasing health and connectivity of our lands and waters

(Provided image/Oscar Romero)

(Provided image/Oscar Romero)

This is the fifth of a series of seven stories featured ahead of the seventh annual NCW Community Success Summit, which IRIS (Initiative for Rural Innovation & Stewardship) is convening in Quincy on Nov. 15. This year’s event, “Seeding Success, Growing ONE Community,” will celebrate stories about our environment, community, and economy that are helping to connect and strengthen our region. Each story will focus on one of seven different themes IRIS is using to highlight successes. For more information about the summit, to register, sample more stories and submit a story, visit www.irisncw.org.




Linking Prisons to Land Restoration

Contact: Molly Boyter


What is the situation?  

Big sagebrush does not survive most wildfires. 2014 and 2015 were two of the largest wildfire seasons for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in the Columbia Basin, and in the state of Washington. Reintroducing sagebrush into these burned landscapes provides for faster recovery of important habitat.

What is the challenge?

Finding sagebrush seed or plants that are genetically adapted to the Columbia Basin and grown in the area has been a challenge. The Sustainability in Prisons Project brings scientists and locally-sourced seeds into prisons enabling the BLM to work with inmates to grow sagebrush seedlings for use in restoring lands within the Basin. The program benefits prison crews by providing them with educational background on shrub-steppe ecology, horticulture, and wildland restoration in a collaborative arrangement that also benefits BLM lands.

What are key activities? 

*  The Institute for Applied Ecology, Evergreen State College, and Coyote Ridge Correctional Facility have worked together to bring a Sustainability in Prisons Project program lead into the prison to teach and work directly with the crews. This on-site presence has ensured good training for the crews and very good quality of sagebrush seedlings.

*  The prison hosts evening speakers on natural resources to provide more education to crews.

*  BLM staff visit the prison to share success stories on previous plantings as well as the importance of the native plant materials program, so that pride and ownership in the seedling’s success stays with the crews.

What is the successful outcome?

In November 2015, 20,000 sagebrush seedlings were planted on BLM lands in the Columbia Basin. The majority of the seedlings were planted using inmate crews in the Palisades burned area near Ephrata. This November, as many as 20,000 sagebrush seedlings will be planted in the Douglas Complex burned area, with another 20,000 being planted into a wildlife project near Swanson Lakes in Lincoln County. See sustainabilityinprisons.org.

Molly Boyter may be reached at mboyter@blm.gov.


A member of a prison work crew plants sagebrush. (Provided photo)

A member of a prison work crew plants sagebrush. (Provided photo)