BEAVER COUNTY – Sagebrush plants grown by inmates are being used to rehabilitate land damaged by wildfire.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Cedar City Field Office is planting sagebrush in areas affected by the 2012 Baboon Wildfire in Beaver County south of Minersville.
The Baboon Fire was started by lightning July 12, 2012, and spread quickly, eventually burning more than 20,000 acres south of Minersville.
The fire triggered the closure of state Route 130 and the temporary evacuation of Circle Four Farms, a major producer of hogs and one of the area’s largest employers.
Rehabilitation efforts began in September 2012 using seeds and grasses dropped from a helicopter, which were then worked into the soil with chain harrows.
Further revegetation efforts came in the form of approximately 20,000 plants grown by inmates at the Salt Lake County Jail that were delivered Friday morning, BLM Color Country District spokesman Christian Venhuizen said.
Work crews and contractors planted through the weekend; the efforts are a part of Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative.
The “Sagebrush in Prisons Project” is a collaborative project with the BLM, Utah Department of Corrections, Institute for Applied Ecology, Sustainability in Prisons Project and the University of Utah, Venhuizen said.
The sagebrush project teaches inmates how to seed and grow a variety of sagebrush species, which then get planted on BLM lands to improve the ecosystem.
Seeds for each project are gathered by BLM biologists from the damaged area to ensure the plants are adapted to that specific area.
The program is funded by “Seeds of Success,” a national native seed collection program led by the Bureau of Land Management.
The project started in 2014 with 20 inmates at one prison in Oregon and has expanded to 11 prisons across six Western states.
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