Friday, October 28, 2011

Students seek sagebrush seeds

60 volunteers aid Fish and Game

Express Staff Writer

Community School student Jesse Knori uses a seed hopper to collect sagebrush seeds on the Wood River Land Trustís Sheep Bridge Preserve west of Timmerman Junction. The seeds will be raised into seedlings and used to rehabilitate burned wildlife habitat. Photo by David N. Seelig

Volunteers from three local schools and the Wood River Land Trust helped encourage habitat restoration today, roving the steppe on the Sheep Bridge Preserve near Timmerman Junction south of Bellevue and gathering sage seeds.

Keri York, stewardship coordinator for the land trust, said the organization has been collaborating with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for several years to gather sagebrush seeds on the land trust's easements.

The trust organizes the volunteers and provides the land, York said, while the department raises the seeds into seedlings to plant in areas where the sagebrush has been damaged by fire.

"[Our volunteers] are interested in doing a lot of different projects," York said. "Whenever we have a volunteer-type opportunity, we coordinate with [the department]."

The trust organized nearly 60 adults and students from the Community School, The Sage School and the School of Urban Wilderness Survival in Fairfield, a school that teaches outdoor techniques to troubled adolescent boys.

Volunteers strip the seeds off the plants, but in stripping also inadvertently collect leaves and other plant material, York said, adding that it takes roughly 100 pounds of collected material to yield four pounds of viable seed. Volunteers collected 50 pounds of material on Tuesday.

York said the students seemed to enjoy the project, however repetitive.

"They did great!" she said. "They did really well for something that's a little bit mundane. They were just out there, chatting with their friends."

York said the seeds will be raised to seedlings that will be planted on burn areas, likely on BLM-managed land.

Though the plants don't always find a final home in Blaine County, recent plantings have occurred on the site of the 2008 Nature Fire near Picabo and Silver Creek. This year, the plants will be used for sagebrush steppe habitat restoration in the region.

Katherine Wutz:

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