Local students get in on wildfire rehab efforts | NevadaAppeal.com

Local students get in on wildfire rehab efforts

Cory McConnell
Appeal Staff Writer
Rick Gunn/Nevada Appeal Brittany Owens, 8, sits near the squirrel tail seedlings Wednesday at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School. The students will plant the seedlings in the Waterfall fire burn area.

Hundreds of Carson City children will get some on-the-job training in the next couple of weeks, planting grasses and wildflowers in a west Carson City meadow touched by wildfire last summer.

More than an actual rehabilitation effort, the hands-on lesson plan is designed to teach kids about fire safety and the importance of vegetation to Carson City’s hillsides, wildlife and water.

“It would be optimistic to think we’re going to have real good success once they’re planted,” said Meri McEneny, a University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension official. “Fall might have been a better time to plant.”

Still, if the spring is as wet as the winter, the plants will have a good chance, she said.

The upside, from a revegetation standpoint, is that seedlings are generally better than seeds, and the soil in the Kings Canyon meadow is already partially tilled, from drill seeding done there earlier this spring.

The project began earlier this year when Cooperative Extension officials presented the idea to schools and PTA groups started pushing the idea to administrators.

First- through fifth-graders at Bordewich-Bray Elementary, as well as Mark Twain Elementary first-graders, started a couple months ago coaxing sprouts from dry seed supplied by the Nevada Division of Forestry. Reno-based Comstock Seed also donated seeds for Lupine wildflowers.

“(Students) really key in on taking ownership of (the plants),” McEneny said.

The real focus of the project, however, will be the lecture students receive about why they’re participating in the project.

Getting desirable vegetation established in burned areas is crucial, McEneny says, not only to save wildlife habitat and stop soil erosion but to keep undesirable vegetation from taking over the hillsides.

Russian knapweed, an invasive weed that is toxic to animals as well as native plants, is already beginning to take hold in parts of the meadow slated for the school projects. There was already some knapweed in the area before the fire, McEneny said, but land managers fear the decimation of native plants will open the way for a devastating infestation.

The field trips’ chaperones will also be a welcome addition to the event, since Cooperative Extension educators are trying to teach as many people as possible the dangers and effects of wildfires.

“This allows us an opportunity to talk to the parents, too. We want to supply this kind of information,” McEneny said. “Hopefully, we can build upon this.”

Fremont Elementary School is scheduled to begin a similar project this month.

n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at cmcconnell@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.