AmeriCorps Team Helps IAE Restore Prairies

Ten young adults, a van, and a mission of service
By Emily Sugarman (AmeriCorps NCCC Green 2 team member) and Peter Moore (IAE Restoration Ecologist)

The Green 2 AmeriCorps crew and Guy Banner (IAE) during a day’s planting of Nelson’s checkermallow and other prairie species.

The Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) recently had the good fortune to sponsor a team from the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), a federal program that sends 18-24 year olds to serve across the nation.  After training in Sacramento in early November, the 10-member team, called ‘Green 2,’ headed to Corvallis, Oregon. With a large van as their transportation, and Beazell Memorial Forest Education Center as their lodging (thanks to a generous partnership with Benton County Natural Areas and Parks Department), they set up camp for a five week whirlwind project restoring native ecosystems across the Willamette Valley, and giving time to other independent service projects.

Lincoln Ruggeberg, Kiley Bourdeau, Dorothy Sloan 
and Kelly Cline of AmeriCorps NCCC 
preparing Nelson’s checkermallow
 rhizomes at Heritage Seedlings near Salem.

Eager to get their hands dirty for the sake of environmental stewardship at a range of IAE sites, Green 2 worked under the guidance of IAE’s Habitat Restoration team Ben Axt, Guy Banner, Peter Moore and Ian Silvernail. Together they advanced restoration efforts at Fitton Green Natural Area, Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Lupine Meadows, Herbert Farm and Natural Area, EE Wilson Wildlife Area, and other conservation sites in the Willamette Valley.

With a primary focus on improving prairie habitat for Nelson’s checkermallow, Fender’s blue, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s Checkerspot butterflies, and Western Meadowlark, the team planted over 50,000 native flowers to increase habitat diversity, native species cover, and provide nectar sources for the butterflies.
 “The AmeriCorps folks have been extremely helpful to the restoration team. Even with their planting time cut short by snow, they’ve helped us get tens of thousands of native plants in the ground. Getting to know the crew and seeing them learn about ecology from soil to butterflies has been a real joy,” said Ben Axt, IAE Restoration Ecologist.

Emily Sugarman and Kiley Bourdeau of AmeriCorps

 planting camas, and a range of prairie forb species

 at Lupine Meadows, a Greenbelt Land Trust

property near Corvallis.

Although Green 2 witnessed the peaceful colorful autumn of Oregon as they traveled from site to site, the down-on-the-ground restoration activity was meticulous, with toes and fingers often becoming numb. When it poured, they were still out there, in the field, donning their bright yellow rain suits and continuing their important work. And when a snow storm hit, and restoration efforts halted for a few days, they persevered with positive attitudes – and found indoor projects like sowing seeds of native plants in a greenhouse.
For some, the work with plants was a completely new venture. For all, learning the techniques used to restore, maintain, and study at-risk natural communities has allowed them to develop a unique relationship with Oregon’s environment, while gaining great respect for the importance of IAE’s work.

Throughout Green 2’s journey, their smiles have endured as bonds deepened with each other and IAE’s restoration staff…

Kelly Cline of AmeriCorps holds a

camas bulb ready for planting.

Green 2’s team leader Kelly Cline from Pennsylvania said, “Working with IAE has been an exciting experience! I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to work alongside an organization that is extremely compassionate and dedicated to the mission of restoring natural habitats. Green 2 has gained a lot of knowledge not only about themselves but also about the surrounding environments. The team has grown into a strong, cohesive unit that is dedicated to getting things done!”

“I am inspired by IAE’s work and the wonderful knowledge Guy and Peter shared in the process of allowing native landscapes to be recreated. Bring back the ecosystems!” said Brandon Erny, from Wisconsin.

“Each fall, IAE plants thousands of native plugs and bulbs in many restoration sites using contract crews and volunteers,” said Peter Moore, IAE Restoration Ecologist.  “This year, hosting the AmeriCorps crew has not only provided us with a labor source, but it has also been an opportunity to give these fine young people a unique experience that they will carry with them into their future lives and careers. It has been a pleasure working with them – they are a great group.”  

Brandon Erny of AmeriCorps planting native prairie species at Lupine Meadows.

The team has enjoyed other aspects of the Corvallis community as well, through their involvement in other independent service projects. They have served delicious food to the hungry at the Stone Soup Kitchen and lost their voices cheering and directing Turkey Trot runners, experiencing a taste of the local culture and humanness of the Corvallis community.  
Projects for AmeriCorps NCCC include natural disaster response, infrastructure improvement, environmental conservation, energy conservation and urban and rural development. There are five AmeriCorps NCCC campuses in different regions of the US, and Green 2 is based at the Pacific Region Campus in Sacramento, California. The 10 members of the team come from all over the US and have diverse backgrounds. During a 10-month service period they expect to participate in four 5-8 week projects located across the Pacific Region, which include the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Alaska, and Hawaii.
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IAE wishes to acknowledge our funders and partners associated with the above projects: AmeriCorps, Benton County, Bureau of Land Management, Greenbelt Land Trust, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and US Fish & Wildlife Service. And a special thank you to Benton County Natural Areas and Parks Department for kindly donating accommodations for Green 2 at the Beazell Memorial Forest Education Center, a historic, environmentally friendly building adapted from the 1930s Plunkett family barn in Kings Valley.