Federal authorities announced a plan today to produce massive quantities of seeds from native plants that can be quickly planted to help land recover from natural disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes. The program will make landscapes more resilient and healthier, especially Western rangelands where massive wildfires have been an increasing problem, says the US Department of the Interior. "We've learned a lot based on where we have had successes and where we've had failures," explains Steve Ellis, deputy director for the US Bureau of Land Management, as he announced the plan at the agency's regional seed warehouse in Boise. "It isn't as simple as we grab some seed off the shelf and go out there."
Officials hope to create a national network of seed collectors, growers, and storage facilities so enough native seeds are available immediately after disasters to avoid erosion and prevent invasive species from moving in. The window to plant desirable species after a disaster can be less than a week and involve hundreds of square miles. The strategy targets Western rangelands, where drought-stricken terrain fuels huge wildfires that have destroyed homes and key animal habitat. A blaze on the Idaho-Oregon border had consumed by today nearly 450 square miles of rangeland; that fire has been fueled by cheatgrass, a fire-prone invasive species that moves in quickly and pushes out native plants, then dries out and burns easily. The new seed strategy is intended to prevent that from happening. Click for more on the seed plan. (Read more seeds stories.)