Prairie Restoration Project restores EWU land

The+biology+department+has+been+very+involved+with+the+Prairie+Restoration+Project.+Budsberg+said+the+undergraduate+students+have+been+working+on+it%2C+and+graduate+students+have+been+using+the+project+for+their+thesis+statement.+

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The biology department has been very involved with the Prairie Restoration Project. Budsberg said the undergraduate students have been working on it, and graduate students have been using the project for their thesis statement.

By Emily Driskel, News Editor

 

While brainstorming the idea for the Prairie Restoration Project, Erik Budsberg originally started looking at the EWU campus’ resources and trying to figure out how to utilize them in the best way possible. Compared to other campuses around the state such as WSU and Western Washington University, EWU does not have a large outdoor space for students to connect on campus. 

“Looking at the land we own and how we are using it, I wanted to try and help bring some more of that natural connection,” said Budsberg. 

Budsberg said the goal originally began with looking at EWU’s carbon footprint and trying to figure out how to lower the greenhouse gas emissions. Looking at campus as a whole, the area covers about 300 acres. 

Some of the neighboring land was purchased in the mid 1960s and back then, people thought the goal was to expand campus out into this area. As time went on, EWU realized this was not the efficient way to do this.

“If you were to walk out there, it’s really hilly,” said Budsberg. “It’s got a lot of rolling hills and there is no infrastructure so preparing this land for building anything would require a lot of up front money that would increase the cost.”

“Looking at the land we own and how we are using it, I wanted to try and help bring some more of that natural connection,” -Erik Budsberg

EWU decided to leave this area as farmland production. EWU leased this land in the mid 1960s to a local farmer to help manage the weeds and soil. The current farmer was no longer interested in farming and wanted to step away. 

The goal of this project is to incorporate learning opportunities for students, said Budseberg. 

“The campus gets better improvements and we get better research,” said Budsberg. “We get a lot of information and knowledge about our land without having to hire a consultant or hire a company to come do it for us.”

EWU wants to have a collaboration project for students and faculty to work together to better the environment. Budsberg said the plan was to include trails for recreation purposes as well. Increasing biodiversity is another initial goal for the project. 

The biology department has been very involved with the Prairie Restoration Project. Budsberg said the undergraduate students have been working on it, and graduate students have been using the project for their thesis statement. 

Some of the other programs having an impact on the project include: environmental science, anthropology, geography, education, and a few others. EWU got a grant to help these students with their research. 

“The projects we do are incorporated into the class for learning purposes and some of them are incorporated into the class to give me viable products. –Erik Budsberg

“Essentially it was an interdisciplinary grant between biology and the education department to teach not only K-12 but also to focus on all ages so they did a lot of work with the Cheney Senior Center,” said Budsberg. 

Public health students have also done a survey of the surrounding area, determining the number of individuals who would use the site for recreation. 

“We’ve got students in visual communication designs or the VCD program that have done some work on this,” said Budsberg. “The projects we do are incorporated into the class for learning purposes and some of them are incorporated into the class to give me viable products… to promote this or collect baseline data and research.”

Budsberg said one of the goals is to provide real life work situations for students. 

“Realistically at a job, you are gonna go and you are gonna work with a whole bunch of other people,” said Budsberg. “They might hire you as the engineer but as the engineer, you are going to be working with the marketing department, and the accounting department, and your project design group.”

There were some challenges for the Prairie Restoration Project this year. EWU was awarded a grant to provide some test sites to study which seed mix would work best for the project. Budsberg said lots of research will need to be done to restore the site back to its natural state. 

They were unable to get this project started this year due to COVID-19 and the weather. There was more moisture in the air this past fall, and the equipment was unable to make it to the site. 

“Realistically at a job, you are gonna go and you are gonna work with a whole bunch of other people,” –Erik Budsberg

“We will be doing that drill seeding project this coming fall,” said Budsberg. “Everything has been purchased, everything is in place so we will be looking to do that probably mid to late September this year so that we don’t run into the weather issues.”

Budsberg said this will be a multistep project; it takes five or six years for the land to be restored. They are trying to figure out how to get from restoration to the finish point. 

He said this project is not from state funding or student dollars.

“This is a project that we were funding entirely externally through looking for grants, or through private donations,” said Budsberg. 

Budsberg said one of the best ways to maintain sustainability is to create a sense of place for people. 

“I really hope that this project can serve as a form of connection to the region for students coming to EWU,” said Budsberg. 

He encourages students to walk up to the water tower and take a look at the land. 

“I hope we can help create those connections not only to the environment but also to the history of the land from that natural perspective,” said Budserg. 

Kristy Snyder started working on the Prairie Restoration Project in September 2020. In January, some of the members met up to set up plots for a seed broadcasting experiment. She will be using these plots for her thesis project to determine the role of annual seeds and biochar in prairie restoration. 

“I really enjoy the collaborative environment within the Palouse Restoration Group,” said Snyder. “It is wonderful to share ideas with others who are working in an adjacent field.”

Snyder said this project will give a better understanding of the Palouse Prairie soil seed banks. If anyone is interested in getting involved in the project, feel free to contact her via email.