By: James Dennison, Native Plant Technician
From September 27-29 I attended the “Reforestation Pipeline in the Western United States” conference in Missoula, Montana. It was a joint meeting hosted by the Western Forestry and Conservation Association, Intermountain Containers Seedling Grower’s Association and Intertribal Nursery Council. It was the first conference I have ever attended and I was particularly interested in attending the Intertribal Nursery Council portion of the meeting.
Reforestation is restoring habitats in areas that have been damaged by various deforestation causes, such as wildfire, land resource extraction (from mining to timber industries), and pests. Essentially, replanting trees and vegetation to help the land heal.
There were amazing science and research presentations covering plans and strategies to increase reforestation in the Western United States through seed production, and a collaboration of federal and private (especially tribal nurseries) entities. There were a total of 120 attendees and 17 presentations from research physiologists. It got technical with science, statistics, and a lot of industry lingo; which was a bit overwhelming for someone with less technical training, like me, but I feel I was able to understand the big picture.
I also attended two field trips to two awesome local nurseries, one of which was Great Bear Restoration Nursery, located in Hamilton, Montana near the base of the Bitterroot Mountains. They work on Rocky Intermountain West native plants. I was told they had close to 300 native shrub, grass, forb, and tree species. All are used for habitat restoration or home gardens. Also, it is a women-owned nursery! The second field trip was to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Forestry Greenhouse in Polson, MT. This facility was established in 1999 and used to be exclusively a native plants nursery, but changed production to mainly coniferous pine trees in recent years to help supply reforestation efforts.
The highlight was the Intertribal Nursery Council meeting. A council of indigenous-led nurseries hosted by co-organizer of the conference, Plant Research Physiologist and Tribal Nursery Specialist, Jeremy Pinto of the USDA Forest Service. The council’s goal is to provide a network and support other tribal organizations fighting climate change, deforestation, or drought. It was exciting and warming to meet Jeremy, who is also a member of the Díne like myself, and from my hometown of Gallup, NM. Jeremy hosted a dinner where all tribal affiliates who attended the conference gave presentations on various works they do with nurseries, food sovereignty, health in native communities, and the power of indigenous plants. I am grateful for the experience and met great people who do work in their tribal communities for future generations and for the land itself. One of the great people I met was Ken Parker, a certified nursery and landscape professional and native plant consultant residing in New York. Ken is a key resource of indigenous knowledge of plants.
Overall it was a great experience and I loved Missoula, MT. It was a beautiful small town and I am grateful for the opportunity BRN provided for me to attend the conference.
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