Category Archives: Conservation Programs

A Convicts Redemption

By Jamar Glenn, Western Pond Turtle Technician

Who would’ve thought a turtle’s life was so parallel to mine? I was given a great opportunity to work with an endangered species, the western pond turtle (WPT), which was placed here at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC). These animals were infected with an illness called “shell disease.” This disease eats at the plastron, which is the bottom half of the turtle shell. If not treated immediately this disease can kill the animal.

Jamar Glenn studies a turtle after a trip to the vet; both he and SPP's Graduate Research Assistant Fiona Edwards (left) helped build the prison's facility for the turtles.

Jamar Glenn studies a turtle after a trip to the vet; both he and SPP’s Graduate Research Assistant Fiona Edwards (left) helped build prison facility that houses the turtles.

From the beginning of the turtle’s life it’s faced with an obstacle to reach its destination of “freedom.” In the beginning stage the mother lays her eggs along shore, leaving her young to fend for themselves. It’s up to the turtle to follow nature’s designed course to make it to its final destination. To get there the turtle has to go survive a series of threats to finally be free:

  1. Predatory animals who feast on the young hatchlings
  2. Human consumption, commercial trapping for food and pets
  3. Loss of habitat
  4. Rare illness

In this particular case of shell disease, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) run a series of tests and administer intensive treatments with the turtles. Once the turtles are treated, they are then given to CCCC for additional care: we give 20-minute iodine baths, feed them a diverse diet, weigh them, and give additional care to any lesions located on the plastron. We then submit observation notes to the scientist and veterinarians so they can keep records on each individual turtle. The turtles stay under my care for 2-4 months. Once healed, the turtles are released back into the wild to carry on with their turtle lives.

As I released my first turtle, I thought about the turtle’s life and the events it had to endure. Constantly on the run from predators, being captured and taken away from its natural habitat, and riddled with illness, to finally returning home healthy and determined to stay free if she has anything to do with it. She was tagged upon release, so she’ll be under the watchful eye at all times.

As she swam away, I thought about my own life. How I also had to go through my own life struggles ever since I was a youngster. I’ve been alone with no assistance. Predators were my enemy (rival gangs). My illness was my addictions (drugs/alcohol), and my loss of habitat was prison. I too will be tagged and watched by “the eye.”

Turtle technicians Timothy Nuss and  Jamar Glenn on turtle release day.

Turtle technicians Timothy Nuss and Jamar Glenn on turtle release day.

The author releases a turtle.

The author releases a healthy turtle.

I came to prison when I was 16 years old; I’ve been incarcerated now for 17 years. My time has come for me to be released here next year. This program has really enlightened my heart and mind, opening my eyes to a whole new world of opportunity. It’s taught me how to be consistent, responsible, great job ethics, and communication skills. These are tools I didn’t possess in my younger years. I finally can give back to society in my own special kind of way, doing something I never could imagine myself doing. I too will be under the eye, I too will return home healthy, and determined to stay free if I have anything to do with it! Who would’ve thought a turtle’s life was parallel to mine.

For more about the turtle release, see Fiona Edward’s blog on the event.

Western Pond Turtle Release

by Fiona Edwards, SPP Graduate Research Assistant

Anthony, Fiona, Tim, and Jamar prepare to release the turtles.

Fiona, Anthony, Tim, and Jamar prepare to release the turtles.

In mid-April, 10 western pond turtles (WPT) were released from Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC) back into the wild. The turtles were housed at CCCC for 4 months where they received care from 2 inmate technicians, Jamar Glenn and Timothy Nuss, for shell disease. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and veterinarians at PAWS determined the turtles were healthy based on new shell growth, regular basking, and consistent appetite. WDFW biologists will monitor their progress as they reenter their natural habitat.

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Tim and Jamar finish releasing turtles.

The release marked the end of SPP’s first season participating in the WPT recovery effort. A WDFW biologist organized the release. Participating in the release were: inmate technicians Mr. Glenn and Mr. Nuss, along with SPP Liaison and CCCC Classification Counselor Anthony Pickard, CCCC Superintendent Douglas Cole, CCCC Correctional Unit Supervisor Cheryl Jorban, Correctional Officer James Erwick. Upon arriving at the site, we geared up into our muck boots and carried the turtles into the water. Mr. Glenn and Mr. Nuss released the first set of turtles, wishing them well as they swam away. Then the rest of us took turns returning the turtles to their home. Afterwards, the biologist taught us more about the turtles’ habitat and their behavior in the wild. We were shown a turtle nest and learned about how they lay their eggs and the long period the eggs and hatchlings remain underground before emerging and crawling towards water.

Fiona releases a turtle.

Fiona releases a turtle.

After months of hard work, including the construction of a new turtle facility at CCCC, it was rewarding to be a part of this crucial step toward recovery. It was especially enjoyable because the inmate technicians were able to attend the release, a first for SPP – thank you to WDFW and CCCC for making their attendance possible. Visiting the site allowed all of us the chance to better understand the significance of rehabilitating the turtles and reminded me of the importance of each of our partners’ contributions to the recovery effort. The turtle release wouldn’t have been possible without the collaborative power of PAWS, WDFW, CCCC, and Woodland Park Zoo. Thanks for your continuing support!

Stay tuned for a blog from SPP Technician Jamar Glenn about his experience working with the turtles. For a video on the release, click here.

WDFW Biologist, Mr. Erwick, Jamar, Tim, Superintendent Cole, Mrs. Jorbin, and Anthony look at a turtle nest.

WDFW Biologist, Mr. Erwick, Jamar, Tim, Superintendent Cole, Ms. Jorbin, and Anthony look at a turtle nest.

So Close to a Million Plants We Can Almost Taste It

By Carl Elliott, SPP Conservation Nursery Manager

SPP’s Conservation Nursery continue to thrive at three facilities in Washington State: Stafford Creek Corrections Center, Washington Corrections Center for Women, and Shotwell’s Landing Nursery. Since 2010, we have delivered almost 1,000,000 plants for restoration and habitat enhancement projects on Puget lowland prairies— just 33,000 more plants and we’ll be there! In 2013 we provided 375,000 plugs for prairie projects (see the table below); this is a 14% increase over what we produced the year before. We achieved the increase by adding nursery capacity at Washington Corrections Center for Women, plus increased support from the dedicated prairie restoration crew from Cedar Creek Corrections Center.

This was the first season for nursery production at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW). The crew of five inmate technicians carefully cultivated and shipped 80,000 native prairie plants. They were particularly success at growing blanket flower, Gaillardia aristata, a species that in past years showed low germination and growth rates. The warmer conditions in the propagation hoop houses at WCCW proved to be just the environment that allowed this species to thrive. The Conservation Nursery program benefits enormously from having a new site with an enthusiastic crew of technicians and staff.

WCCW Conservation Nursery Crew loading Gaillardia aristata to be delivered to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo by Bri Morningred.

WCCW Conservation Nursery Crew loading Gaillardia aristata to be delivered to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Photo by Bri Morningred.

SPP’s Conservation Nursery continues to be a highly collaborative effort. Regional coordination is provided by the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM); they bring together managers responsible for prairie habitat to develop detailed restoration and habitat enhancement plans for the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. The plants cultivated by SPP’s Conservation Nursery directly benefit the regional stakeholders such as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Natural Resources, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wolfhaven International, and CNLM. This year we also increased the number of plants going to land managers of prairies in the northern portion of the Puget lowlands, Whidbey and the San Juan Islands; we hope to further those relationships in the future.

The delivery truck is almost full with 400 trays, a load of 39,000 plants. Photo by Bri Morningred

The delivery truck is almost full with 400 trays, a load of 39,000 plants. Photo by Bri Morningred

Though we came up just short of the magic number of 1,000,000 in the 2013, we feel confident that in 2014 we will blow right past that goal, and on to our next milestone!

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Americorps volunteers planting out SPP-grown plugs on the prairie at Glacial Heritage Reserve. Photo by CNLM staff.

Americorps volunteers planting out SPP-grown plugs on the prairie at Glacial Heritage Reserve. Photo by CNLM staff.

Fire in the Demonstration Garden

An inmate helping to burn the demonstration garden ducks to avoid the smoke as he moves burning logs across the ground.

An inmate helping to burn the demonstration garden ducks to avoid the smoke as he moves burning logs across the ground. Photo by Jaal Mann.

Last month, as part of the ongoing cultivation of the demonstration prairie garden at Shotwell’s Landing nursery, the inmate prairie restoration crew got to burn an area for seeding with native species.

They used the technique of building a large burn pile and then raking the burning wood along until the entire desired area had been burned. They will be using the area to compare different seeding methods; they want to see which technique most reduces bird predation, knowledge that could help landowners succeed with their small-scale prairie restoration projects.

The crew had a lot of fun and it’s exciting that they are able to be involved with the project from start to finish! We’re looking forward to seeing some species beginning to flower this spring.

Jaal Mann

CNLM's Audrey Lamb and an inmate on the prairie conservation crew rake fire through the demonstration garden.

CNLM’s Audrey Lamb and an inmate on the prairie conservation crew rake fire through the demonstration garden. Photo by Jaal Mann.

Raking burning pieces of wood along the ground to simulate a natural fire moving along the landscape.

As others observe the progress, an inmate and CNLM’s Audrey Lamb rake burning pieces of wood along the ground to simulate a natural fire moving along the landscape. Photo by Jaal Mann.

Counting the Birds instead of counting the days until summer at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women

By Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program coordinator and Graduate Research Assistant, Lindsey Hamilton

At Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) four inmate technicians rear Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies as a contribution to recovery efforts for this endangered species.  These  technicians are hired to work year-round even though the workload is not consistent throughout the year.  In late July the butterfly larvae enter into diapause, which means that they cuddle up with their brothers and sisters to sleep until late February.  During this life stage the technicians have minimal butterfly-related responsibilities.

For the first time this year the technicians are participating in a citizen science project organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology called Project FeederWatch.  Project FeederWatch surveys birds that visit feeders all across North America throughout the winter months.  Feeders that are surveyed can be located in backyards, community areas, nature centers, and even prisons!  The inmates at MCCCW watch three different bird feeders for a period of time on two consecutive days of every week, and record how many birds of each species that are attracted to the feeders.  This data is collected by an SPP Graduate Research Assistant and entered into the FeederWatch database online.  The information collected by this project helps scientists track movements of winter bird populations on a broad scale and is also used to monitor long term trends in bird distribution and abundance.