Inmates raising sagebrush to help lands destroyed by fire

Published: Nov. 13, 2019 at 7:03 AM PST
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Local inmates are doing their part to help revitalize Nevada’s wilderness. Around a dozen inmates at the Warm Springs Correctional Center in Carson City grew sagebrush to replant areas destroyed by fire.

This is part of the

. It’s a partnership between the Nevada Department of Corrections, Bureau of Land Management, and Institute for Applied Ecology. The program started back in 2016 and works with inmates in Lovelock, as well. This year alone the inmates helped raise more than 200,000 plants.

Scott Kelly with the Nevada Department of Corrections said, “Wildfires are happening more often and wildfires are more intense.”

Kelly added, “If they don’t get sagebrush out and plant it in these areas, these areas can be overran by cheat grass and other more flammable things.”

Shannon Swim with the Institute for Applied Ecology said the plants have such a vital impact on Nevada’s wilderness. “Sagebrush is a keystone species, it essentially holds this whole ecosystem together. Without the sagebrush the whole system kind of falls apart,” said Swim.

From seed to plant, seven days a week, and most of the year the inmates tend to the plants before the BLM replants them in the scarred areas.

Inmate Patrick McKinnon said the project has taught him a lot about the plant.

“I’ve never cultured plants like this before so as a team, we’ve all gone through a huge learning curve,” said McKinnon.

It’s not just the growth of the plants that has Swim excited, but the growth of the inmates too. She said, “I’ve done the program over the years and it’s really about so much more than that. It makes a difference in these guy's lives and really helps them contribute to something positive.”

McKinnon said it’s taught him teamwork too. “We’re able to work together, just putting 20 people from all different parts and different backgrounds together and be able to make a cohesive team to work on this.”

According to Kelly the planting will focus on areas scarred by the Martin Fire, which burned 435,000 acres north of Winnemucca last July.

Kelly said the program has been such a success and NDOC hopes to expand the project locally and to other prisons too.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2019

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