Volunteers collect to re-seed Nevada

JOHNSON LANE - It was a harvest of sorts in a thicket of dense vegetation in south Carson Country on Saturday.

Only the pickings were not of the kind usually prepared for the dinner table.

Retirees, housewives, hunters and service club members - about 40 in all - pitched in to gather seeds from four-wing salt brush.

It is the kind of seed that produces a native plant that's found in Nevada's high deserts. It is also the kind of brush that was consumed by fires that has charred more than 1.6 million acres statewide this year.

"We're here to do our part so the animals will one day be able to come back home," said Bev Butler, a Genoa resident who was joined by her husband Mark and friend Alice Rogers in the state Division of Wildlife volunteer project.

The seeds are essential for re-vegetation efforts taking place statewide, said Kelly Clark, spokeswoman for the state. The impact of fires on the high desert brush will have an enormous effect on every species that lives and thrives there.

"There are animals that live in every area devastated," Butler said. "Everything from snakes, to food for hawks, deer and mice. They're all a part of this fragile system devastated by fire."

It was the notion of wildlife preservation that brought Galena's Tom Valaika and John McBride to join the effort.

"It's a good idea to give something back to the earth after fires," Valaika said.

McBride, a sportsman, worries about the impact the fires will have on species that thrive in the desert.

"As a native Nevadan and one who likes to hunt and fish, I think it's necessary for us to see the land return to normal," McBride said.

The goal of Saturday's gathering was to harvest about 200 pounds of four-wing salt brush seed, said Kim Toulouse, volunteer coordinator for the wildlife agency.

Volunteers are essential to the project because there are not enough seeds available on the market to buy and not enough manpower within the agency to harvest them. Even the lunch, prepared by Nevada Bighorns Unlimited, was donated.

The seeds - collected in a hopper after batting a bush with a stick - will be released from airplanes on the burn areas beginning next week.

The hope is for the seeds to germinate quickly and thereby providing a canopy for wildlife during winter. Once reseeded, it will take about 10 years for the burn areas to fully recover, Toulouse said. Providing that cheat grass - a noxious weed that prohibits growth of native vegetation - doesn't set in.

For Teresa Weigel of Silver Springs, Saturday's outing wasn't a matter of spending her day volunteering as it was a belief that it was something necessary.

"There was a lot of damage and there needs to be a good base to repair it so it will come back the way it was. The only way to make that happen is to reseed," Weigel said. "It's about keeping the wild, wild."


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