Sagebrush season begins at SBWCC

Inmate waters seedlings
By Breonna Crosby-Martinez, Instructor, South Boise Women's Correctional Center

It’s that time again: the birds are out, the weather is finally getting warmer, and the women of South Boise Women’s Correctional Center are working with the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) on the Sagebrush in Prisons Project.  This project also finds the IDOC collaborating with the Sustainability in Prisons Project and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as well.

SBWCC has been a part of the Sagebrush Project since 2015 and, subsequently, has “grown over 233,000 sagebrush and bitterbrush seedlings for habitat improvement projects on public lands.”  This year alone, with the help of 20+ dedicated women within the facility, we plan to grow 25,000 sagebrush and 5,000 bitterbrush, according to local lead Nancy DeWitt, of the IAE.  

Although it comes as a shock to many in the area that sagebrush is an endangered plant, the truth is that over the years invasive species have threatened this special plant, thereby effecting the habitats of other important wildlife, chiefly that of the sage-grouse.  In an effort to protect and benefit imperiled species, like the sage-grouse, that depend on the sagebrush for their habitat and in order to rehabilitate habitat that has been damaged by wildfire, the Sagebrush in Prisons Project finds us growing sagebrush and replanting damaged areas throughout the state.  In this vein inmates involved in this project attend lectures about the wildlife and ecology of the sagebrush-steppe, plant and care for sagebrush and other plants, box up seedlings for agency partners, such as the BLM and Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and, as of last year, engage in “plant outs” wherein sagebrush seedlings are planted in areas of need.  Finally, at the end of the season, participants receive certificates recognizing their work and participation in horticulture, teamwork, problem solving, and science education.

Of last year’s plant out, Nancy DeWitt stated: “This is the first time we’ve been able to take the inmates out to plant their seedlings.  It’s wonderful that they can see their efforts come full circle, from sowing seeds and watering thousands of little seedlings every day, to actually putting their plants in the ground for the benefit of wildlife.”  Further, “The sagebrush program also provides an opportunity for [those] incarcerated to gain a sense of accomplishment and a chance to give something back to their community.” 

SBWCC is excited and honored to once again be a part of such a wonderful and important project.  We look forward to continuing to outdo ourselves in our work as citizen scientists and fellow environmentalists. 

Story published: 05/13/2019
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