Many Hands At Work

The following story was contributed by Gina Clingerman, Abandoned Mine Lands Archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management. This story and the associated video are shared with permission from the Bureau of Land Management and The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming.

Over two crisp and breezy days last November, 45 middle school students, along with teachers and staff from various agencies and organizations, planted 900 sagebrush seedlings in a uranium mining district in central Wyoming. Helping to re-establish sagebrush at the previously reclaimed mine site provided a unique educational opportunity for the local science students. 

The planting days were part of the Abandoned Mine Lands Native Plants Project (AML NP²). This innovative effort is the brainchild of the BLM Wyoming AML Program, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)–AML Division, and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE). The mission of the AML NP² is to help improve wildlife habitat by re-establishing sagebrush and native plant communities at previously reclaimed mine sites. Two sites were chosen for the project—the Gas Hills Uranium Mining District in central Wyoming and the Shirley Basin Uranium Mining District in east-central Wyoming. The 2017 sagebrush seedling planting occurred at the Andria Hunter Mine in the Gas Hills Uranium Mining District.

The BLM Lander Field Office and its partners worked with local science teachers at the Lander Middle School and together created a working field trip opportunity for interested science students from 6th–8th grades. Before the field days, students were introduced to the project and its importance. They learned about sagebrush obligate species that would benefit from the project and practiced the techniques needed to plant sagebrush seedlings. 

In addition to the BLM, DEQ and OSMRE, several partners support the ongoing project including The Nature Conservancy, Fremont County Weed and Pest, Popo Agie Conservation District, Wyoming Wildlife Federation, and the Muley Fanatic Foundation. Each partner has a unique viewpoint and expertise it brings to this project. More than 40 volunteers from among the various partners supported the sagebrush planting days. 

Check out this video The Nature Conservancy made about the planting day and hear some of the students thoughts on this hands-on education.