At correctional facilities in Idaho, Oregon, and other Western states, inmates are growing sagebrush.
“From sowing the seeds in May to boxing up the seedlings in October … they’re in charge of fertilizing, watering, thinning, and checking out for diseased plants,” says Alyson Singer of the Sagebrush in Prisons Project in Idaho and eastern Oregon.
Scrubby sagebrush landscapes provide critical habitat for hundreds of plant and animal species.
But many of these areas are threatened by the growing risk of wildfire. And after a fire, invasive grasses can take over, providing more fuel for future blazes.
So the seedlings the inmates are growing will be transplanted into areas that have burned.
Patrick Kirk took part in the program while an inmate at Snake River Correctional Institution in eastern Oregon.
He says working in the greenhouse taught him new skills that are invaluable after prison: “how to make your own decisions … and learn to overcome problems,” he says. “Now that I’m out and in the community, you have to problem solve every day, so I think it really helped. … So not only does it help the environment, but it helps the people.”
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media