Monday, January 29, 2018

Dropping Seeds from the Sky

 When we went out for a Sunday afternoon family outing yesterday, we noted a helicopter south of town. We guessed that they were doing some aerial seeding on the area that burned last Fourth of July. On the way back from our hike, we pulled over and watched the helicopter flying back and forth.

Then we went down to the gravel pit to talk to the crew that was with the seed. I knew a couple of the folks, so we peppered them with questions.

The seed mix they're using has about 20 species in it, a mix of grasses, forbs, and shrubs. Some of the species are galleta grass, Indian rice grass, wild rye, hopsage, blue flax, yellow beeplant, kochia, and globemallow.

When the helicopter took off with one hopper, the truck drove up, and the crew loaded 600 pounds of seed into it.

The helicopter switched out hoppers about every ten minutes. They are applying 16,000 pounds of seed to this fire at about 20 pounds of seeds per acre.

Desert Girl got out to watch.

There's a little bit of snow still left on the ground, so hopefully that will help. We'll also need some well-timed rainstorms so that the seeds will germinate. Fortunately, some of the seeds will stay viable for many years, so even if conditions aren't just right this year, they may have a chance in future years. But once the cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) gets going, it's quite a force to be reckoned with it. And there's also concern about predation, mainly by rodents.

We're crossing our fingers this effort will work, as it would help restore about 800 acres to a wildlife-friendly ecosystem. Plus it would help reduce the probability of wildfire, as cheatgrass-dominated rangelands have a very short fire return interval, sometimes as short as just a couple years. We don't want wildfires that close to town on a frequent basis (or anytime!).
Thanks to everyone who is making this happen, we appreciate your efforts!

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