New Prairie Restoration Community Crew

By Carl Elliott
Conservation and Restoration Coordinator


Inmate work crews from the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) have worked in the community for over 20 years. These off-site crews maintain the infrastructure along highways and at parks and public facilities throughout the state. The Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) recognized the value that the crews from Cedar Creek Correction Center (CCCC), could bring to restoration work on south Puget Sound prairies. Through a close collaboration with the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Washington Department of Natural Resources, a CCCC community crew of ten men dedicated to prairie habitat restoration just began their first week of work.

The new crew’s enthusiasm and eagerness to learn was evident from the first day. Many expressed a sharp interest in the cultivation techniques of prairie plants at the nursery site and the seed farm. We expect their learning curve will be steep. Restoration on prairies is a complex and interdisciplinary undertaking. The crew will gain and improve skills in a wide variety of techniques, including plant propagation, noxious weed control, seed production and processing, prescribed fire techniques, and plant re-introduction.

The staff, officers, and inmates at CCCC have shown incredible support for establishing the new crew. SPP and CNLM look forward to providing instruction, resources, and guidance to the crews so their work will be an enriching educational experience at the same time as they contribute to regional restoration efforts. The on-going conservation programs at WDOC facilities raising Oregon Spotted Frogs, Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, and prairie plants, will provide a foundation of curriculum, restoration reference materials, and protocols that can lead to the crew’s success. The investment and optimism shared by all parties suggests a bright future for this new endeavor.




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