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Gerry Miller

Gerry Miller checks on a sagebrush island.

When he passed away last spring, Kent McAdoo was conducting research on helping establish sagebrush in burned areas. On October 18, 7 p.m., at the Northeastern Nevada Museum, Gerry Miller will give a presentation and discussion of Kent McAdoo’s original research and the continuation of the research by the Northeastern Nevada Stewardship Group.

Kent was a Natural Resources Specialist with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and was dedicated to the stewardship of natural resources in Nevada. He was a member of several local groups such as the Northeastern Nevada Stewardship Group, the Governor’s Sagebrush Ecosystem Council, Shoesole and SANE. He conducted various research, including recovery of lands following wildfire, and wrote numerous articles on natural resources.

He was working on speeding up the recovery of sagebrush after a wildfire, since this process takes decades. The problem is sagebrush seeds are tiny and not carried far by wind or water. Sagebrush returning to a burned area has to slowly creep in from seed sources along the sides. Seeds are often broadcast over an area, usually from an aircraft, but these seeds often have low survival rates.

His plan was a simple one. He cut down, or sacrificed, living sagebrush from nearby unburned areas. This was done in the fall when plants carried mature seeds. In the burned area, Kent built a shrub island, a pile of cut plants held in place with staked-down chicken wire.

Over winter, sagebrush seeds naturally fell to the ground beneath the piled brush along with dead leaves and twigs that provided litter to cover the seeds. The sagebrush carcasses protected the seeds from winter winds and collected snow that provided the seeds with extra moisture.

In the spring, counts on these sites have yielded between 50 and 200 sagebrush seedlings per pile. Later counts show competition reduces the number of growing plants but enough remain to create a good seed source for further expansion.

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It was an idea that worked. New seedlings sprouted and grew both under and downwind of the shrub island. As these plants continue to grow and produce seeds, they will become a seed source to help grow more sagebrush. Several of these shrub islands in a burned area will help sagebrush move back into the area.

Since Kent’s death, the Northeastern Nevada Stewardship Group has continued his research with a grant from the Nevada Dream Tag Funds. This year, volunteers counted seedlings at six sites set up by Kent on burns like the Oil Well and Coal Canyon fires. They will add more sites this fall on burned land such as near the Wild Horse Estates and Lamoille Canyon.

Low sagebrush seedlings have a dismal survival rate so this method will be tried on low sagebrush sites. There has been interest in this method from the BLM and USFS in Nevada and Oregon.

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