Setting the S(t)age

Smokey Bear is a timeless figure none of us dare challenge. If we’re being honest, there isn’t single bear we would challenge. Throughout the decades we’ve all have that furry, clawed finger sternly shook in our direction. “Only You”… A simple phrase consisting of only a few words forever ring unwavering in the ears of all enjoying a trip into the wilderness. At least it should.

The Deschutes National Forest suffered an, thankfully relatively minor, incident from a lingering campfire that decided to take an early morning stroll in the woods. The consequence – acres, and acres of land left flattened, barren, and blackened. That furry pointing finger would promptly turn into a forceful throttle if the culprits responsible were discovered. It’s understood that accidents do occur, but due to unpredictable environmental conditions we see out of our windows today, the stakes are too high for any fault.

However! A disturbance, depending on how you look at it, is an opportunity to set a new foundation.

The acres lost, enjoyed by a variety of wildlife, particularly Sage Grouse, displaced their habitat. The burn returned nutrients to the soil, yes, but when native species are faced with invasives that don’t play by the rules, open fertile soil is seized before they can wrap their roots around it. In a game of Risk, Sage would have no means of defense. No lucky roll of the dice would thwart the efforts of the lawless invasive shrubs, and grasses. In other words, no real hope.

…That was until we came along.

Although my time at the Bend Seed Extractory is satisfyingly spent testing the various lots of seeds coming in, a change of pace is refreshing for anyone. Planting sage plugs to restore Sage Grouse habitat was an effort that needed no convincing. We were absolutely up for it. We packed our shovels, our lunches, and headed out with the district botanist.

Below are a few photos of our time spent out in the fields. The dust was in no short supply, and the sun may have been persistent in a cloudless sky, but we couldn’t have asked for more ideal high-desert Fall days.

(Not pictured: The ~2,000 plugs planted!)

So although we may not be present to see the results of our efforts, we left confident that they would not go unrewarded. I guess I’m slightly expecting an ice cream or something from Smokey.

From the Bend Seed Extractory
Corey Skeens