BLM - Special K Ranch Partnership a Win-Win

BLM staff joined Special K Ranchers on March 6 to plant native sagebrush seeds. Once established, the plants are destined for rehabilitation efforts on land burned by the 2021 Robertson Draw Fire south of Red Lodge, Montana.

This planting is the latest chapter in a long-running assistance agreement between the BLM Montana/Dakotas and the Special K Ranch. What began in 2006 with much smaller seasonal projects has become a year-round partnership that provides tens of thousands of native seedlings for BLM rehabilitation projects as well as meaningful –and important--work for the Ranch’s residents.

Woman in pink shirt sprays water onto a large container of potting soil.
A Special K Rancher waters down a container of potting soil in preparation for seed planting.

“The residents helped us collect this seed from Action Recreation Area and unburned areas in the Robertson Draw Fire area,” said Wendy Velman, BLM botanist and a key player in the partnership. “Most of these plants will be used for post fire rehab in the Robertson Draw burn area, but anything unused will be made available to other projects across eastern Montana.”

Sagebrush seeds are miniscule, and most of them won’t grow, even under ideal conditions. Consequently, a substantial surplus is needed to meet goals. That’s a lot of plants.

“Our goal is to produce 100,000 seedlings this year for the BLM,” said Marvin Schieldt, Program Director for Special K Ranch.

Two women plant seeds in a greenhouse.
Planting native sagebrush seeds. This section of the greenhouse holds nearly 40,000 planting tubes.

Special K Ranch is a working ranch near Columbus, Montana, that provides a home and vocation for people with developmental disabilities. Besides its partnership with the BLM to produce native plants and shrubs, the ranch also grows tomatoes and bedding plants that are sold by vendors locally and across Montana.

Ann Boucher, Printing Services Specialist

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