Throughout the fall the North Coast Land Conservancy’s Weed Warrior Wednesdays turned into Seed Warrior Wednesdays as volunteers gathered at the Circle Creek Conservation Center to roll clay, soil and seeds into “seed bombs” to be used for restoring coastal prairie habitat.
“Trying to get native plants reestablished is a worthwhile endeavor,” said land steward Eric Owen, who oversees many stewardship activities with volunteers.
The seed bombs will be planted at Reed Ranch, one of the conservancy’s Clatsop Plains properties located between Gearhart and Warrenton, west of U.S. Highway 101, that has been overrun with invasive plants, like pasture grass, scotch broom and creeping buttercups. The organization has tried sowing seeds by hand at Reed Ranch, but the sandy soil and strong coastal winds mean the seeds tend to get blown away before they can germinate.
“Putting them in these seed bombs will help them get a better foothold in that habitat,” Owen said.
Bringing back the butterfly
The conservancy regularly holds what have been dubbed Weed Warrior Wednesdays, which typically include pulling weeds and invasive plants as they appear. Tasks also vary by season, though, and can include planting and harvesting, as well. With planting season approaching, Owen said they planned to get the seed bombs into the ground as soon as possible.
At the beginning of the year, the conservancy puts together a work plan with goals they hope to accomplish during the coming months. Often goals are determined by grant funding the conservancy has received, but if other more immediate issues arise—such as damage done by illegal dumping or trespassing—the staff can respond as needed, Owen said.
For several years, the conservancy has received grant funding from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife to help restore the Oregon silverspot butterfly, a federally threatened species that has diminished because of habitat loss and degradation. The Oregon silverspot butterfly inhabits coastal grasslands and relies on the early blue violet, the only plant species they develop and feed on in the larval stage. Reed Ranch is potentially a reintroduction spot for the butterfly, Owen said, which is why they have planted early blue violets there in the past. The seed bombs also include violet seeds, along with dune tansy, yarrow, dune sedge, California oatgrass, sea blush, Canada goldenrod, and red fescue.
Beyond encouraging repopulation of the Oregon silverspot butterfly, restoring habitat has other positive impacts.
“We need healthy, working habitats for our ecosystem,” Owen said, adding that both indirectly and directly benefits humans and countless other species, as well.
Awareness and cooperation
The conservancy has a regular core of volunteers who frequently attend stewardship events, although they are joined at times by new folks, area visitors, interns, or groups representing different agencies, such as AmeriCorps. They value the opportunity to get involved and learn about the environment in a hands-on way, according to Penny Abegglen, a volunteer from Clatskanie.
Vaughn Martin, also of Clatskanie, said he enjoys the variety of tasks they accomplish.
“It’s something different to do,” he said.
Frank Erickson said the stewardship activities enhance community buy-in that perpetuates the cooperative approach embraced by the conservancy from its genesis, promoting conservation and environmental awareness in a way that is non-confrontational.
Owen said it helps that most of the conservancy’s work is not “very controversial to begin with,” but they do prioritize raising awareness and working to maintain collaboration and honest discourse, as well.
“We try to have open and friendly approach to things,” he added.