Western's MEM program helps start ecological restoration in Gunnison Valley

Jessica Young examines plants with another woman

Western's MEM program helps start ecological restoration in Gunnison Valley

Sep 21, 2017

Western's Master in Enviromental Management (MEM) program is collaborating with the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado State Forest Service, members of the Gunnison community and MEM graduate students to regrow parts of the Signal Peak area.

Starting this year, there has been more involvement from the Gunnison community and Western students to help restore the growth of small plants and to slow the growth of cheat grass, an invasive species in the Gunnison Valley. The cheat grass is especially dangerous to the sage brush.

"Cheat grass has the chance of converting through fire, the existing sage brush community into a more rapid, fire regime, where it can reestablish as a grassland. That can be incredibly destructive to the plants, the animals and the economic viability in our own area," said Jessica Young, who works in the MEM Department as well as the Environment & Sustainability Department.

Students and members of the community have gotten together to collect seeds of small native plants. The plan is to take these seeds, grow them and replant them back in the environment.

“Colorado State University will be growing plants, and putting those plants back into the habitat in restoration areas,” said Young.

The focused area is mainly the Signal Peak area. Since it is such a popular area, due to recreation, the plan is to regrow areas off the trail.

“We got to learn what type of plants were out there, find out what it was like to collect seeds,” said Young.

They are planning to organize another collection day for the sage brush seeds by the end of this month. Since different plants seed at different times of the year, they are hoping to get as many plants as they can.

This is another opportunity for people from the community to get together and learn more about the ecosystem.

Dates for the next collection day are still being discussed. Dates will be released as they are determined. Organizers are hoping as many people as possible come out to help.

Story by Taya Olson. Photos by Stephanie Lein.