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Cody High Schoolers Plant Buffaloberry For Sage-Grouse

Bureau of Land Management
Public Domain

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently partnered with a group of high schoolers from Cody to plant seedlings for sage-grouse habitat. The students, who were part of The Buffalo Bill Center of the West's Youth Advisory Board, were interested in finding a conservation project that would help preserve the Greater Sage-Grouse population, so they turned to the BLM's Cody office.

The survival of sage-grouse chicks is incredibly important for the survival of the species and chicks rely on shrubs for protection and food before they transition to eating insects. So increasing the shrub diversity at a nearby Priority Habitat Management area - habitat that's been identified as high quality and can support a sage grouse during its life cycle - within the McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Herd Management Area was a project that wildlife biologist Abel Guevara knew would make an impact.

Fourteen people stand around a small area with panel fencing.
Eli Rothleutner
Bureau of Land Management Cody Office
Members of The Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Youth Advisory Board were joined by members of the Wyoming Bureau of Land Management's Cody office.

"It's going to be more of a cover but also they could eat the berries that are on there, [and] silver buffaloberry's a plant that would help all kinds of species," he said. "It would help any sage grouse that are looking for berries to eat, and then also the loggerhead shrikes use the thorns of the buffaloberries to impale grasshoppers."

To fund the project, the students applied for and received a $500 grant from the Smithsonian's Teen Earth Optimism program. Another $500 was donated anonymously. That money was used to purchase 100 young buffaloberry bushes from a local Buffalo, Wyoming nursery, potting soil, and sunshades. The BLM provided panel fencing to protect the seedlings from being eaten.

On June 3, ten high-schoolers, youth advisors, and BLM personnel planted the seedlings in small clumps. Guevara routinely monitors the plants, watering them and keeping an eye on their survival until they become established.

"It's important as a biologist, especially for me, to nurture that love of the outdoors that the kids have, because they're going to be the next generation of biologists, ecologists, you know, whatever they want to do with their lives," Guevara said. "This is important to nurture that for them and show that hey, you know, we're doing legit work and habitat is important for all wildlife."

In the fall, a native seed mix will be broadcast seeded across the area too.

Two people pound a post into the ground near Cody, WY.
Eli Rothleutner
Bureau of Land Management Cody Office
High school students from Cody helped put the fences up that will protect the seedlings.

"That's going to consist of Indian paintbrush, Rocky Mountain bee plant, Scarlet globemallow, and fringe sage," said Guevara. "The reason we chose those is because those are the forbs that when they do sprout, the sage grouse chicks, that's usually what they eat before they transition over to insects, and plus it's good pollinator plants - I was thinking about the bees also."

It will be another three to five years before the bushes are mature and the fences can be removed, but the panel fencing will allow chicks to access the bushes before then.

Ivy started as a science news intern in the summer of 2019 and has been hooked on broadcast ever since. Her internship was supported by the Wyoming EPSCoR Summer Science Journalism Internship program. In the spring of 2020, she virtually graduated from the University of Wyoming with a B.S. in biology with minors in journalism and business. When she’s not writing for WPR, she enjoys baking, reading, playing with her dog, and caring for her many plants.
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