The students and Forest employees collected hundreds of cuttings of mature Bebb Willows from a riparian exclosure in the Fawn Creek area located about 16 miles north of Sundance, WY on the Bearlodge Ranger District.
In 2011, the Youth Natural Resource Program, a partnership between Black Hills National Forest, Boxelder Job Corps, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Little Wound High School and Pine Ridge High School, constructed the riparian exclosure around the riparian area that the willow cuttings were collected from.
Last summer, the Veterans Fire AmeriCorps program, a cooperative program between the Student Conservation Association, AmeriCorps and the U.S. Forest Service that prepares military veterans, from all branches of the armed forces, for positions as wildland firefighters, planted additional willows in the exclosure to enhance wildlife habitat, stabilize the soil, and protect plants and watersheds.
Students are planning to plant and grow the willow cuttings in the Bearlodge High School greenhouse. The grown willows will eventually be re-planted by the Forest Service and possibly the students in the Togus Spring area on the District. The school was also issued a special forest products permit which will allow them to sell a small portion of the shrubs to raise funds for the school.
Hydrologists on the Forest contributed funds for the project, which included potting supplies, caging materials and soil for the students.
“This is a great opportunity for the kids to get out and see the forest and take some sort of ownership and pride in helping the environment,” said Callie Ackerman, Hydrologist, Bearlodge Ranger District.
Rob Nagel, Biological Science Tech, Black Hills National Forest said the project was a win-win for both the Forest and the students. “The students learn new skills and the addition of new willows will benefit the Forest by enhancing other riparian areas on the District.”
The Bearlodge High School’s greenhouse will tentatively open May 1, 2015 to the public.
For more information on the Black Hills National Forest, call (605) 673-9200 or visithttp://www.fs.usda.gov/blackhills.