Female prisoners help repair fire damage by creating thousands of sage seedlings

Posted at 10:27 PM, Oct 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-11 17:43:01-04

    It's harvest season in the Treasure Valley... and that's good news for the Greater Sage Grouse
    There's a special crop that's been growing since May, designed to help protect the threatened bird's habitat.
    And the farmers involved are anything but typical.
That's because when you live with 300 other women in a correctional facility, the peace and tranquility of an open range becomes something special.

"It's nice to get quiet time and see them grow... Our little sagebrush.  It's like our kids. " ponders Jodi Miller, "We take a lot of care with them.  And we love to be out here and be with each other and get some peace and quiet."
These women started in may planting tiny sage seeds.
And now they're realizing the fruits of their labor  - 30 thousand seedlings that are ready to be planted in zones like the Soda Fire burn scar.

"By going in and planting these sagebrush seedlings," says Nancy DeWitt with the Institute of Applied Ecology, "it gives a boost to sagebrush to help come back and bring that habitat back for sage-grouse and other wildlife."
The intent is to keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list which would effectively lock up huge tracts of land in the West.
But, funding under a new administration is anything but secure.

"We're waiting to hear if we get continued project funding," says DeWitt, "that depends on the department of the interior and what Congress does with the budget."
The seedlings will soon be planted in key habitat around Idaho and Wyoming.
And these women have learned a thing or two about the plants and themselves in the process.

"The root systems on sagebrush are incredible," says Miller, "There's really not anything that can stop them, kinda like these women here."
And considering all this, it's a hard point to argue against.