Yesterday I joined my Sagebrush Habitat Ecology class on a field trip to help restore a piece of land which has seen its fair share of abuse. This land has been grazed, cleared for agriculture, and left for dead. As with most abandoned land, dead would be better than what actually occurs. When the native plants and animals are removed, the land is quickly overtaken by invasives - most notably cheatgrass, medusahead and tumble mustard.
The land we were working on is part of a private ranch which has been purchased by an individual with a history of restoring lands. They are interested in restoring this portion of the land as both Greater Sage-Grouse and Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse occupy nearby lands. The hope is that this habitat could one day be occupied by these species which are both in critical need of increased habitat availability.
The restoration project began last fall when the land was cleared. After clearing, an herbicide was applied to kill all annual grasses most of which are invasive. I am usually against herbicides due to the potential impacts on animal life, but cheatgrass has proven immune to most all other methods. Following this treatment the land was seeded with a subspecies of Big Sagebrush which grows well in the area, native bunchgrass, and a variety of forbs. Unfortunately Antelope Bitterbrush, a native member of many sagebrush habitats, does not grow well from seed. Our task today was to plant 2500 Bitterbrush starts.