Over 3,000 sagebrush seedlings planted in 2022

(Lander, WY) – “The sagebrush planting went great,” stated Josh Oakleaf, Project Manager and Vegetation Coordinator with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality Abandoned Mine Lands (DEQ-AML) Division.

Oakleaf was referring to the AML Native Plants Project (NPP) fall planting, which is a partnership created in 2016 by the DEQ-AML Division and the Bureau of Land Management AML Program in coordination with other governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations. Its quest is to re-establish sagebrush (and other native species) on reclaimed abandoned mine lands throughout Wyoming.

Gina Clingerman, AML archeologist and project manager for the BLM-Wyoming, heads up the NPP.  She pointed out why this is such a critical program. 

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“Sagebrush is crucial for the survival of sage-grouse.”  She went on to add that sagebrush also plays an important role for more than 350 sagebrush obligate species, including mule deer and pronghorn antelope.

In 2018 DEQ and BLM worked together with the WY Department of Corrections (DOC) to establish a pilot project from the Institute for Applied Ecology called the Sagebrush in Prisons Project (SPP).  The SPP taught Honor Farm inmates to grow sagebrush seedlings for restoration efforts in Wyoming. Since then, Honor Farm inmates have grown a total of 84,845 seedlings for restoration projects in Wyoming and Idaho.

Oakleaf noted that this year six inmates at Wyoming’s Honors Farm helped grow 30,478 seedlings in a greenhouse that was funded through grant dollars and DEQ.

“Last month, two planting sessions took place where 3,773 seedlings were planted through the NPP in the Gas Hills area” he stated. The first planting saw more than a hundred Lander Middle School students plant 729 seedlings at the Day Loma Mine over two days. Students were given a tour of the mine and current reclamation techniques. The BLM gave ecology tours of undisturbed sagebrush habitat to help students understand plant diversity.

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The second planting saw ten inmates from the Honor Farm plant over 3,044 seedlings over three days at the Andria Hunter Mine. “It’s important for the inmates involved in the program to get out and plant the seedlings they have worked so hard to grow. It gives them a sense of completion and satisfaction around the work they do in the summer in the greenhouse,” Clingerman said.

Additionally, DEQ and the BLM organized two days for the ten inmates to pick sagebrush seeds for the coming year’s grow-out. “This will be the first year of growing seedlings in the greenhouse at the Honor Farm from seeds the inmates have collected themselves,” stated Oakleaf.

“It is exciting to see the progress of NPP,” stated Clingerman.  “It really is a win-win situation for Wyoming.”

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