Ontario, OR - July 14, 2014
Inmates in an eastern Oregon prison are tending about 20,000 seedlings that could grow to provide food and shelter for a bird whose habitat has shrunk and whose prospects are raising concern all over ranching country in the West.
The prisoners at the Snake River Correctional Institution are growing sagebrush, which sage grouse depend on for food and shelter.
Environmentalists have pressed the government to put the bird on the endangered species list, which could mean cutbacks in ranchers' access to public grazing land to preserve bird habitat. That has led to efforts across the West to stave off the listing.
The project was put together by the prison, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Corvallis-based Institute of Applied Ecology, where Stacy Moore has been helping the inmates grow the plants that the bureau paid for, the Ontario Argus Leader (HTTP://BIT.LY/1SUFZYP ) reported.
The institute is a nonprofit that works toward conservation through research and restoration programs. The bureau manages public grazing land.
Three to five inmates work every day to help maintain the sagebrush, recently taken from the prison greenhouse because the weather was heating up.