By Amanda Barker

Watershed Stewards Project volunteer

Despite strong winds and heavy rain, over 300 plugs of native grasses were planted on Prosper Ridge in Petrolia on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Eighteen volunteers arrived at the Mattole Restoration Council (MRC) Native Plant Nursery to assist Americorps Watershed Stewards Project (WSP) members Vimal Golding and Nora Talkington plant bunch grass plugs on Prosper Ridge.

Talkington and Golding coordinated this planting to fulfill their Individual Service Project requirement with the WSP. The WSP, a special project of the California Conservation Corps, enrolls members through Americorps and works to enhance, restore, and conserve salmon and trout habitat. Golding, Talkington, and 42 other colleagues must fulfill community service requirements before the end of November to complete their term.

Golding and Talkington collaborated with Monica Scholey, the MRC Native Plant Nursery Manager and WSP Alum, to facilitate this project.

”Our ISP gave community members the chance to learn about various native grasses in the Mattole Valley and to take an active role in enhancing grassland diversity on Prosper Ridge,” says Talkington.

Scholey welcomed the volunteers with a tour of the Native Plant Nursery, introducing them to the species of bunch grasses that are collected in the spring and summer to be replanted in riparian areas in need of erosion and landslide stabilization.

After the tour and a brief lesson in transplanting, Talkington guided a carpool to Prosper Ridge. Prosper Ridge is an 'in situ' native plant nursery in the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean, managed through the Bureau of Land Management Arcata Field Office. The newly planted plugs will assist with erosion control and other types of riparian dysfunction.

”Grassland habitat in the Mattole Valley has decreased significantly over the past 50 years due to conifer encroachment from fire suppression,” explains Talkington. “Additionally, many invasive annual grasses tend to have more shallow roots than native perennial grasses, making them less able to stabilize soils.”

The deep roots of the bunch grasses hold them in the soil, protecting the grassland habitat from erosion and landslides. Also, since some species of bunch grasses can live over 100 years, they provide a long-term and consistent source of food for animals.

The WSP members and volunteers planted six different species of bunch grass, including California oatgrass, Idaho fescue, Junegrass, tufted hairgrass, and leafy reed grass. The leafy reed grass is an especially interesting specie, as it is endemic to the Northern California coast.

The MRC will continue to work with the members of the WSP to restore riparian habitat through cultivating native species in their Native Plant Nursery. For details about the Watershed Stewards Project, go to www.watershedstewards.org.

photo by Amanda Barker

Nora Talkington and Vimal Golding of the Watershed Stewards Project answer questions from volunteers on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at the Mattole Restoration Council Native Plant Nursery before heading up the mountain to Prosper Ridge to plug native brush grass.