Author Archives: Erin Lynam

Cross Pollination: Violet Program Presents in the Workshop Series

Text and Photos by Erin Lynam, SPP Workshop Series Coordinator and Alexandra James, SPP Conservation Nursery Coordinator

The Prairie Conservation Nursery Crew: pictured from left to right are technician Fred Burr, TAs John Thompson and Situe Fuiava, and technicians Michael Johnson and Dustin Sutherland.

July’s Environmental Workshopat Washington Corrections Center (WCC) was a very special one. This month’s guest experts were Conservation Technicians from SPP’s Conservation Nursery Program at WCC. Presenting alongside were the Teaching Assistants (TAs) that work with and support the technicians every day.

The workshop was about the technicians’ day-to-day work in WCC’s greenhouse and gardens to promote ecological and cultural restoration projects across Washington State. They covered the ecological importance of the early blue violet, especially its connection to the silverspot butterfly. They described the tedious but incredibly important process of growing violets and collecting their seeds, and how that work directly impacts the greater South Sound communities. They spoke to personal impacts their environmental work has had on them. In addition, they talked about the future of their work and the initiation of new conservation-minded projects at WCC.

SPP’s Conservation Nursery hosted by WCC continues to be among the most generative nurseries for native violet production for restoration of South Salish lowland prairies. The violets grown at WCC are used in prairie restoration efforts by state and federal agencies and conservation organizations including U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Joint-Base Lewis McChord, WA Department of Fish and Wildlife, WA Department of Natural Resources, and the Center for Natural Lands Management. Violet seed collection is the focus for WCC’s Conservation Nursery Program, where Technicians learn how to nurture thousands of violet plants to optimize seed production. Technicians collect seeds from June to November. Collected seeds require cleaning, which requires sifting through a 5-plate seed sifter, inspection, and stowing in seed-safe containers. The technicians’ careful work ensure that seeds are well cleaned and ready for delivery to the various agencies and organizations.

Pictured on the left side of the table, TA Situe Fuiava and technician Dustin Sutherland show the process of sorting violet seeds.

Just like anyone who has to speak in front of a group of people, the technicians and TAs were nervous, but it didn’t show: they were cool as cucumbers through the presentation. However, by sharing their immense knowledge, demonstrating how seeds are sorted, and addressing challenging questions about the conservation work they do, their workshop was both engaging and interesting. After the workshop, it was evident that the successful experience had been a boost to their confidence. They were chatty with excitement, and were even walking a little taller.

And it wasn’t just the technicians who were positively affected by their presentation; the staff was affected as well. They showed honor and excitement for the excellent crew. WCC’s Workshop Series Liaison, Jeff Sanders, said he could not stop smiling through the whole workshop. Nursery Coordinator Alexandra James expressed that she felt incredibly proud of the crew for their hard work, dedication, and passion for the program and its positive impact on our prairie ecosystems.

Technicians and TAs present; Conservation Nursery Coordinator, Alexandra James, was only needed for technical support.

Let yourself germinate

One of the sage-grouse images Mr Jenkins created to develop the Sagebrush in Prisons logo.

In addition to his work as a Sagebrush technician at the Washington State Penitentiary, Lawrence Jenkins is also an amazing artist. In fact Lawrence was the artist behind the logo for the Sagebrush in Prisons Project! This post is his letter of reflection following the Climate Change Symposium held at Stafford Creek Corrections Center this past October.

Hello World,

My name is Lawrence, I’m from Seattle, Washington and I’ve been in prison since the age of 18. I am now 29 years old and with 20 years left to serve in the state and a possible life sentence pending in the federal prison system. My crimes involve law enforcement and I have a long history of violent crimes/gang violence. Along with this I struggle with P.T.S.D., social anxiety, and depression. As unfortunate as all of this sounds, just imagine an entire neighborhood swarming with individuals just like me.

For now, let’s focus on the question: “How do we overcome race/class in order to do something about global warming, climate change, starvation, extinction, preservation/conservation, disease, etc?” 

A “quick” drawing he made of three bee-eaters.

I would like to use myself for example…

I completely destroyed my life. I lost everything (which was not much), I even made attempts on my life. I hurt so many other lives. I was probably the most toxic living thing on this planet. Why? Because I wanted to make a difference so bad that I told myself that “right or wrong, I’m going to put a end to all of the bad that is happening to my family, my friends, and my community.” I had good intentions but the way I went about it was all wrong.

So when they tried to bury me, they didn’t know I was a seed [paraphrase from a Got Green presentation]. Unfortunately it took all of this for me to finally “germinate”. To finally realize just how loving, caring and compassionate I am. Just like every other violent gang member, drug dealer, or robber – trust and believe those individuals are willing to die in order to help their people. But the only difference between you and them is the very soil that you are rooted in.

With the global problem we face today, there’s no need to “up-root” people of different race/class in order to address this issue. Just amend the soil in each community just like you did in each prison.

Lawrence Jenkins at work in the sagebrush nursery last summer. Photo by Gretchen Graber.

Mr Jenkins made this drawing of a black-tailed jack rabbit to raise funds for Tapteal Greenway. This species of rabbit lives in a protected piece of land supported by Tapteal.

Climate Change Symposium in Prison: Incarcerated people creating solutions

Text by Erin Lynam, Workshop Series Coordinator
Photos by Ricky Osborne

On October 18th at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, we held the first ever Climate Change Symposium in a prison. The five hour event brought together 91 environmental students, eight SPP-Evergreen staff members, five guest speakers, and five DOC staff members.

First up was Mike Burnham from Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC) who gave a presentation about region-wide planning and action for climate change resilience. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

 

TRPC asked participants to break into small groups to play their board game, Resilience Road. Each group collectively selected and prioritized responses to a climate change challenge for a hypothetical community. This small group included SPP Co-Director Kelli Bush. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

The exchange of ideas and insights was a highlights of the symposium. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Students had the chance to show just how knowledgeable they are regarding environmental issues. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

But the game wasn’t all work, it was fun too! Photo by Ricky Osborne.

TRPC graciously donated a copy of Resilience Road to Stafford Creek Corrections Center so that students can continue to play and inform their work as environmental stewards. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

During the symposium students were given an opportunity to mingle and engage with guest speakers and SPP staff about climate change. Here they talk to SPP’s former Turtle Program Coordinator Sadie Gilliam. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Next up was incarcerated environmentalist and longtime SPP participant, Toby Erhart. He shared what climate change means to him and what actions he’s taking to address it. He is an active member in the conservation nursery program, beekeeping, and the composting program at SCCC. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

After staff, guests, and students had a lively discussion over a shared lunch, members of Got Green gave a presentation. Johnny Mao, Johnny Fikru, and James Williams of Got Green presented on Got Green’s social and environmental justice work in low income and communities of color. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

During Got Green’s presentation, James Williams stated that even though the students may be apart from their community, they were not forgotten and he considered them part of his community. This acknowledgement of oneness is an incredibly rare moment in the prison environment and was moving to witness. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

To wrap up the symposium and reflect on everything they learned, SPP invited the students to share what they found most important and what steps to take next. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

To have the opportunity to spend the day learning alongside individuals who are emphatically committed to keeping our planet healthy was inspiring. Photo by Ricky Osborne.