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BLM volunteers.
BLM volunteers await instruction before planting sagebrush.
Planting sagebrush.
A volunteer plants sagebrush
 within a browse exclosure.
Volunteers planting sagebrush.
Volunteers worked hard at the BLM’s sagebrush planting day 
near Worland.

Worland Volunteers Carry out Sagebrush Planting Experiment  

    by Andrea Pettay

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Although originally rained out and rescheduled, the Worland Field Office hosted a successful National Public Lands Day event on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007. Thirty-two volunteers planted 640 Wyoming and basin big sagebrush seedlings.

Nancy Baker, Worland’s Rangeland Management Specialist, organized the event. She explained that volunteers were eager to help because “interest in habitat improvements for sage grouse is growing and people seem to want to become active in ‘doing their part’ to help the birds, and to try to keep them from becoming listed [by the Endangered Species Act].”

BLM employees.
BLM employees plant Wyoming sagebrush and basin big 
sagebrush plugs within 
exclosures, south of Worland.

Despite its seemingly ubiquitous spread, sagebrush populations are significantly declining in some areas of Wyoming. In addition to sage grouse, the plant is essential to the survival of pronghorn, some songbirds and horned toads. In Worland, sagebrush is threatened by a variety of factors including cheatgrass competition, low precipitation and wildland fires. 

Sagebrush can be difficult to reestablish because the young plants are slow-growing and are very vulnerable to browse and drought. In this, the third planting year, Natural Resource Specialist Eve Warren and her colleagues decided to experiment. They randomly assigned a slow-release water pack to some of the seedlings and a protective wire cage to others. The other seedlings received both or neither of those treatments.

In previous years, neither the water packs nor the wire cages were used and very few of the seedlings lived longer than two years. The Worland Field Office is hopeful that their new tactics will result in greater success and will offer new insight into sagebrush reestablishment.

Last updated: 04-03-2009