Cedar Creek Prairie Conservation Crew 2014

Carl Elliott, SPP Conservation Nursery Manager

Photos by Jaal Mann, SPP Conservation Nursery Coordinator

The 2014 prairie restoration crew.

The 2014 prairie restoration crew.

The 200,000 plant pots require a delicate and precise process of weeding.

The 200,000 plant pots require a delicate and precise process of weeding.

This is the second spring for a crew from Cedar Creek Corrections Center dedicated year-round to prairie restoration work. The program links community service to education and training in a range of ecological restoration skills.

The crew participates in every facet of restoration ecology on Puget lowland prairies in Thurston County. Their work is guided by regional land managers from The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and The Center for Natural Lands Management, and by SPP’s Conservation Nursery staff. Their activities are highly varied. Spring work centers on the identification and removal of noxious weeds, reducing brush and tree competition in oak savannahs, and identification of prairie sites with a high amount of native biodiversity. In summer and fall their tasks move to seed collection and cleaning as well as providing support for the prescribed burn crews.

Conservation Nursery Coordinator Drissia Ras demonstrates seed sowing techniques.

Conservation Nursery Coordinator Drissia Ras demonstrates seed sowing techniques.

More formal workshops and classroom education occurs while the crew works at the seed nursery managed by the Center for Natural Lands Management and the plant nursery (Shotwell’s Landing) managed by the Sustainability in Prisons Project. At the three seed farms in Thurston County, nearly fifteen acres are cultivated with more than 100 species of seed plants. The offender technicians receive training in plant identification, soil fertility, integrated pest management and a wide range of practical landscape skills. At the plant nursery, they develop adaptive cultivation skills: cultivation techniques that adapt to changing weather and plant needs throughout the growing season. They hone their abilities to monitor plant growth and manage pests to produce the highest quality plants. Adaptive cultivation management is particularly challenging when working with a group of native plants rarely or never grown before.

Crew members prepare early blue violet for plant out at the seed farms.

Crew members prepare early blue violet for plant out at the seed farms.

The plants produced at the nursery go towards the production of seed and habitat enhancement for the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. Our goal this year for SPP’s three nursery sites (Shotwell’s, Washington Corrections Center for Women, and Stafford Creek Corrections Center) is 400,000 plants. Outplantings will be a substantial contribution toward creating nectar and larval host plants at sites in Thurston County where the butterfly larvae and adults will be released. Other plants will be used for seed production–with increased availability of seed, even more prairie acreage can be restored. The offender technicians participate in all these efforts; as you can see, they are a primary force in the restoration and habitat enhancement for Puget lowland prairie species for future generations to enjoy.

A crew member scarifies (scratches the seed coat of) American vetch seed prior to sowing; this was done as a comparison study with unscarified seed.

A crew member scarifies (scratches the seed coat of) American vetch seed prior to sowing; this was done as a comparison study with unscarified seed.

 

A crew member covers sown seeds with a gravel cover; a gravel cover reduces moss competition and keeps light seed from floating to the surface.

A crew member covers sown seeds with a gravel cover; a gravel cover reduces moss competition and keeps light seed from floating to the surface.

 

 

3 Comments:

  1. Graduations and Transitions | Sustainability in Prisons Project

    […] the same time, major transitions have happened in the Prairie Restoration Crew from Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Several inmates on the crew were released, and others moved on […]

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  2. 10 Prison Programs Making A Difference | Care2 Causes

    […] state prisons in Washington and offers a dizzying array of programs. Beekeeping, frog rearing, and prairie conservation are just a sampling of the initiatives that engage inmates with the environment. SPP also offers […]

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