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Native Plants
Restoration

In partnership with the Salmon-Challis National Forest, Salmon Valley Stewardship’s Native Plant Program focuses on landscape level restoration. Our aim is to reintroduce native vegetation to our degraded ecosystems with the goal of improving species biodiversity, bolstering wildlife habitat, supporting pollinators throughout the season, and increasing ecosystem resiliency to biological invasions and wildfires.

The Challenge

The Salmon-Challis National Forest is an ecologically unique landscape. Despite our high latitude and elevation, we receive less annual rainfall than the Sonoran Desert and the countryside is incredibly steep and rocky. A history of poor land management practices like wildfire suppression and overgrazing have damaged our soils and plant communities, leaving our landscape vulnerable.

 

Due to these difficulties, sourcing native seed from commercial distributors is a challenge. Seed for plant species native to our neck of the woods won't grow here if its source is unsuitable to the Salmon area. Furthermore, commercially bought seed almost always includes contaminants of noxious or harmful weeds, which we avoid at all costs.

 

Previous seeding efforts on this forest have dramatically low success rates due to the problems listed above. Our hope is that sourcing seed locally and adapting seedball technology will allow us to overcome these hurdles and start to make a positive difference for our native plant communities. 

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Phacelia hastata - Silver Leaf Phacelia

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Restoration Coordinator, Ari, teaching plant ID to SVS Intern, Kainoa

Seed Collection & Population Monitoring

With the aim of locally adapted genetics in mind, we have begun mapping and monitoring populations of native species of vegetation across Lemhi County. With the goal of increasing biodiversity across the landscape, our target species list is extensive, incorporating early seral grasses, forbs, and shrubs in order to cover a broad range of ecological niches. 

Once target populations have been mapped, they must be continually monitored in order to time seed collection efforts. Different species flower and produce seed at different times throughout the season, the exact timing of which can fluctuate greatly from year to year.

Seed Mixes

We carefully and intentionally design our seed mixes uniquely for each location we choose to place seedballs. Seed mixes are designed so that the species included are well suited and adapted to the individual conditions of the site. We also consider the interactions between the species in the mix to ensure competition between niches is minimal and include species that flower and fruit at varying times in the year.

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Plantago patagonica -

Wooly Plantain

Erigeron pumilus -

Shaggy Fleabane

Lewisia rediviva -

Bitterroot

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Seedball placed in the ground. Kriley Gulch 11/14/2023

Seedballs

Seedballs are an ancient technology first developed in Japan that have been recently adapted for ecological restoration. Seedballs are a conglomeration of clay, compost, and seed that are designed to time the dispersion of seed with a germination event like rain or snowmelt. They protect the seed from predation and the elements while providing valuable nutrition to germinating seedlings. 

 

We believe the use of seedballs will catapult our restoration efforts to new heights, ensuring increased success rates for our treatments. We also take full advantage of available science and research by employing additives in our mixes and utilizing restoration strategies designed to help our little seedlings thrive and survive:

  • Activated Carbon: the porous nature of activated carbon allows it to absorb more water and hold onto it for longer. Research also shows that it absorbs and deactivates any residual herbicide it comes in contact with that may be present in the soil.​​

  • Field Soil: we take soil directly from the sites we later plan to seed and incorporate it into our seed ball mix. Field soil contains valuable mycorrhizal fungi and other microorganisms vital for plant establishment and nutrient uptake. 

  • Cayenne Pepper: avoiding seed predation is one of the greatest challenges in any seeding effort and this spicy additive keeps insects and larger animals from eating our little seeds.

  • Microalgae Soil Amendment: this amazing addition stimulates the microorganisms within the soil, priming them for the nutrient exchange with plant roots that is vital for the survival of all native plants.

  • Water Retention Crystals : little porous crystals are added to our mix in small quantities to help our seed balls hold onto just a little more water for the little seeds inside.

  • Micro-topography: we place our seed balls in small soil divots and lightly cover them with ponderosa pine needles. Studies have shown this can provide small advantages in the form of lower temperatures, decreased wind abrasion, and increased nutrient and water collection.

  • Restoration Islands: concentrated plantings in strategic locations or "islands," is a proven method for restoration success, producing high rates of vegetation establishment and increased genetic diversity.

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Seedball teeming with life. Kriley Gulch 3/6/2024

Want to get involved and learn more about what we do?

Fill out the form below and stay up to date on volunteer opportunities and more!

Is this link not working for you? Not a fan of filling out forms online? No Problem! Email Aripepper@salmonvalley.org and we'll make sure to get you on the list!

Do you still want to learn more about what we do and what we've done so far?? Take a look at last year's annual report!

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