Hands in the Dirt: Dusting It Off for Restoration

By Zade Clark-Henry, January 2024

Another year of restoration has come to a close. The end of the year is always a crunch-time for the IAE restoration team, as we try to fit in all of our plantings and treatments after the intense heat of the summer, but before the first true frost of winter. As our restoration projects progress and expand their scope, that window seems to get smaller and smaller by the year!—which is why it is so crucial for us to sponsor an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) team each fall. These eight rockstars make possible feats that seem otherwise overwhelming on a very tight timeline. This year we partnered with Greenbelt Land Trust and Camp Whispering Winds to host the team.

Our labor in 2023 was heavily focused on two endangered species: Willamette daisy (Erigeron decumbens) and Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori). The team was involved in planting many thousands of endangered daisy plugs (16,500, to be precise), and many more thousands of bulbs and bare-root nectar species (23,430, but who’s keeping track?) for Taylor’s checkerspot habitat restoration and enhancement. Throw in over 1,000 Nelson’s checkermallow plugs (Sidalcea nelsoniana) and that’s over 40,000 plants in the ground in just seven weeks! The team also managed to squeeze in clearing 15+ acres of weeds and encroaching saplings from meadows, as well as moving and/or chipping at least 6 tons of woody debris, helping to remove nearly a mile of fence line for a new Greenbelt property, and many other impressive feats.

Most of the team came from east of the Rockies, but each of them enthusiastically tackled these challenging tasks in Oregon’s notorious “liquid sunshine” while maintaining a nigh-unflappably positive attitude. They even managed to teach me a few new dance moves throughout the planting season—bonus!

We would like to thank AmeriCorps NCCC for their continued partnership and support for this work. We would also like to thank Greenbelt Land Trust for their co-sponsorship, Camp Whispering Winds for housing the team, and all of our funding partners for making this work possible. A final shoutout goes to the fine folks at the IAE Farm and the Plant Materials Program for providing the plants that are the backbone of our restoration work.

Support Our 2024 AmeriCorps Housing Fund

IAE is applying to host an AmeriCorps team in the spring and fall in 2024 to support restoration projects in the Willamette Valley. If you are interested in supporting their work and opportunities for young people in the field of environmental conservation, please consider donating to our AmeriCorps housing fund. This fund will help us cover rental costs during their time working with IAE. We hope to raise $10,000 by April, with your help! Thank you for your support.