Cody students improve sage-grouse habitat on public land with help from Smithsonian

CODY, Wyo. — With support from the Smithsonian Institution and an anonymous donor, Cody High School students and Bureau of Land Management staff planted 100 silver buffaloberry seedlings on public land near Cody in June, improving habitat for Greater Sage-grouse and other wildlife.

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Youth Advisory Board searched for a conservation project that would address an environmental issue of concern for them—preserving the sage-grouse population. The Center’s Natural Science Educator and Interpretive Specialist, Emily Buckles, reached out to the BLM Cody Field Office to plan a suitable project.

“I mentioned to Emily that forb density is critical to the success of sage-grouse chicks before their transition to insects,” said BLM Wildlife Biologist Abel Guevara. The group contemplated several ideas before deciding on planting buffaloberries in a Greater Sage-grouse Priority Habitat Management Area within the McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Herd Management Area. 

The students applied for and received a $500 grant as part of the Smithsonian’s Teen Earth Optimism program. An additional $500 was anonymously donated to match the grant. With the funds, the teens purchased the 2-year-old buffaloberry seedlings, potting soil, soil moisture and sunshade for the planting project. The BLM provided panel fencing to allow the seedlings to grow undisturbed.

On June 3, ten high-schoolers, youth advisors and BLM personnel hit the sagebrush steppe armed with shovels and seedlings. One hundred silver buffaloberries were planted in two hours. 

“The kids did a great job and seem to feel a real sense of accomplishment,” said Emily Buckles at the conclusion of the project.

A native wildflower seed mix will be broadcast seeded in the same area this fall to benefit pollinators.

For more information about the Smithsonian’s Teen Earth Optimism programs, visit

This year, we invite everyone to reimagine your public lands as we celebrate 75 years of the BLM’s stewardship and service to the American people. The BLM manages approximately 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. 

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Bureau of Land Management


Cody Field Office


Sarah Beckwith