Cattle could protect butterflies, conserve prairies
Butterflies, cattle, and the military may seem like unlikely bedfellows, but for native prairies — some of the most threatened habitats in the world — the trio are closely connected.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the improbable pairing of cattle grazing and native prairie conservation is not only compatible, but mutually beneficial. Carefully managed grazing regimes can improve weed control and plant health, help re-establish native plants, and increase plant diversity compared with an unmanaged system.
However, until now, no systematic study has attempted to track the impacts of managed grazing on native prairie plant communities in Western Washington.
Scientists at Washington State University, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Center for Natural Lands Management, have established just such a study in order to see how “working landscapes” might support habitat conservation goals.
In Washington State, much of the only remaining native prairie lands are found in Southern Puget Sound, including on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Thurston County. These prairies support a diverse array of plant and animal species at risk for extinction. These include the rare, native golden paintbrush plant, the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, and the Mazama pocket gopher, which was recently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Southern Puget Sound prairies are the focus of the Sentinel Landscape pilot project, a federal, local and private collaboration intended to preserve agricultural lands, plus restore and protect more than 2,600 acres of public and private prairie lands and wildlife habitat. At the same time, the $12.6 million project funded by the DoD, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reduce restrictions to military training activities on JBLM land.
“This is a unique partnership between agricultural and conservation professionals looking to improve productivity and conserve species,” said Lucas Patzek, director and agriculture faculty for WSU Thurston County Extension. “It’s part field research to study how we might be able to integrate native plant species into working livestock operations on south Puget Sound prairies, to extend habitat for the recently listed checkerspot butterfly; and it’s part outreach.”
The three-year study includes plots on Fred Colvin’s 550-acre black and red angus cattle ranch in south Thurston County. Fencing and research plots were set up on Colvin’s property last fall to measure differences between excluding cattle and allowing them to graze.
Certain fields are managed to improve native plant diversity and cover, while others are managed for a mixture of non-native species such as orchardgrass and tall fescue.
“They’re trying to figure out whether cattle can be part of a commercial cattle operation plus help as far as the prairies are concerned,” Colvin said. “Frankly, if you don’t have ag on these prairies, you might as well write the prairies off. Because what’s the other alternative use? Forestry? That won’t work. Pavement? I’ll tell you the pocket gopher can’t live under pavement.” Read more.
– Sylvia Kantor
A decade at the organic farm, a new home for the future
Quinoa plants standing taller than five feet, several buckwheat variety trials, an undulating swale, and all kinds of fruit trees are cropping up and thriving at the WSU Eggert Family Organic Farm. As the original WSU organic farm moves from inside the boundaries of Tukey Horticulture Orchard to the new site closer to campus, farm manager Brad Jaeckel said the farm team is ready to be there in earnest next spring.
In 2014, the organic farm marked 10 years of their community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. This summer, Organic Farm Field Day participants were able to enjoy a tour and try fresh produce, including heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, fresh pesto, and more, straight from the garden. For regular updates on the WSU Organic Farm, be sure to follow the team on Facebook. You can also subscribe to the WSU CSA/Organic Farm Newsletter, here.
A Washington State University alumna and faculty member, Lynne Carpenter-Boggs was honored recently with the Washington State University Alumni Association (WSUAA) Alumni Achievement Award in recognition of her outstanding accomplishments as a researcher, professor and scientist in the fields of soil microbiology, sustainable agriculture and crop and soil sciences.
Carpenter-Boggs worked as a soil microbiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service in Minnesota for three years after earning a doctoral degree in soil science from WSU in 1997. In 2000, she returned to WSU to accept a position as a research associate and instructor with the WSU departments of plant pathology and crop and soil sciences.
In 2006, she was appointed biologically intensive and organic agriculture (BioAg) coordinator for WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR). She subsequently was named the BIOAg research leader for CSANR and was recently appointed an associate professor in crop and soil sciences. She was nominated for the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award by colleagues Stewart Higgins, a research associate with the WSU Department of Crop and Soils Sciences, and Jeffery Smith, a soil biologist with the USDA’s land management and research unit in Pullman.
The pair cited her numerous accomplishments while working at CSANR in their letter supporting her nomination. “In the few short years since 2006, Lynne has been the face of WSU, not only for many Pacific Northwest farmers, ranchers and foresters, but for numerous farmers and families across the United States and around the world,” they wrote.
They cited her leadership in numerous research projects that have benefited farmers in Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the U.S., as examples of the broad reach of her work.
Read the full article in WSU News.
Support Oso mudslide recovery efforts at Sept. 5 banquet
The WSU 530 Slide Recovery Team and the Associated Students of WSU (ASWSU) invite you to the Pullman campus on September 5, 2014 for a banquet and silent auction in support of the communities affected by the mudslide near Oso, Washington.
A portion of each dinner ticket purchased, monetary donations and silent auction proceeds will support WSU mudslide recovery efforts.
For more information and to register for the event, go to: http://mudsliderecovery.wsu.edu/
2014 Women’s Leadership Symposium
The 2014 Women’s Leadership Symposium, “Redefining Body Image,” will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, Oct. 3, in Ensminger Pavilion on the WSU Pullman campus. This full-day workshop will empower participants to live life by intentional design. Register now to create a blueprint for conscious living by exploring how to develop courageous relationships, discover beauty within yourself and in the world, and share wisdom through skillful actions.
Symposium facilitator Krista Petty, M.A., is an international life skills enhancement coach and trainer who has created workshops in leadership, personal mastery, individual effectiveness and integral learning. Krista also co-developed with Dr. Kim Kidwell the popular University Common Requirements course Human Development 205, Developing Effective Communication and Life Skills.
Registration for the symposium is $85 per person, or $40 for students.