Restoring habitat and hope: The Sagebrush in Prisons Project

Thomas Kaye

Publication Date:

The Sagebrush in Prisons Project, a collaborative effort between the US Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management, Institute for Applied Ecology, and state Departments of Correction engages multiple prisons across seven western states (CA, ID, MT, NV, OR, WA, UT) in the United States. Working with prison systems to engage inmates in habitat conservation and ecological science is an innovative approach to increase our ability to reestablish habitat and at-risk species, while simultaneously providing people in custody with opportunities for reciprocal restoration, vocational education, therapeutic activities, safer conditions, and lower costs of imprisonment. Adults in custody contribute to the conservation of Greater Sage-Grouse and its habitat, the Sagebrush Sea, by growing sagebrush plants in prison-run native plant nurseries. This distributed network of nurseries produces locally sourced sagebrush seedlings for habitat restoration on public lands, primarily in response to wildfires in priority habitat for the grouse. The quality of these sagebrush seedlings is exceptional, and first year survival is very high (>80%). Since 2014, the program has engaged over 3,500 adult and youth inmates who grew and planted over 1.1 million sagebrush seedlings. Adults in custody also receive training in horticulture and nursery production, lectures in science and conservation, and certificates for their accomplishments. Including incarcerated people in conservation and science taps into the positive potential of over 2 million inmates at over 4,000 prisons and jails in the United States and creates new partnerships for educating an underserved community and supporting large scale ecological restoration and research. 

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program

Society for Ecological Restoration