Recognizing the importance of using native plants to restore rangeland sites in the western Great Basin, staff members from the Bureau of Land Management’s Surprise Field Office in Cedarville are working with partners on programs to harvest seeds and grow seedlings for planting on the range.
High School students, a local ranch couple, the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the North Cal-Neva Resource Conservation and Development District have been involved in programs that aim to increase native plant populations on public lands that have been burned or lack native plants for other reasons.
A team of students from Surprise Valley High School in Cedarville is now in the plant growing phase of their project which involved collecting antelope bitterbrush seeds from public land range sites and germinating them.
Students will soon be moving the tiny plants into larger growing pots and adjusting the watering schedule to mimic the conditions of the sage-steppe environment of the Surprise Valley region. The plants will be turned over to the BLM for planting next spring.
Meanwhile, BLM staffers and specialists from NDOW are identifying burned sites where native plants are needed. The wildlife agency will provide sagebrush plants to be interspersed with the student-grown bitterbrush plants to provide a vegetative mosaic important for mule deer and pronghorn antelope.
“We hope to continue this program that benefits health of our public rangelands and provides students with an educational experience that extends beyond the classroom,” said Allen Bollschweiler, manager of the BLM Surprise Field Office.
While the students have been toiling in their greenhouse, ranchers Wendy and Ed Lutz of Three Ravens Ranch have been assisting the BLM in developing a Native Plant Development Project that focuses on a wider range of native plants.
With support from the North Cal Neva RCDD, the Lutz’s are working on ways to grow native plants and develop a local, genetically adapted native plant seed source that can provide plants for range improvements on public land sites identified by the BLM. They have collected seeds from various public land range sites and experimented with different germination and propagation techniques.
So far, the Lutz’s have provided more than 1,000 plants representing 13 species. They will be planted on range sites in the spring of 2012.
The local project started in 2009, building on the 2001 “Seeds of Success” program established nationally to collect, conserve and develop native plant materials for stabilizing, rehabilitating and restoring lands.
“We are encouraged by the support of our partners and the progress in these programs,” Bollschweiler said. “They hold great promise for improving public rangeland sites for a variety of users.”