Sagebrush is a keystone species in the American West, supporting wildlife like the greater sage grouse. But wildfire and land use have taken their toll, and sagebrush ecosystems and the species that rely on them are in decline. Additionally, there are few prison educational opportunities for prisoners involving ecology and habitat restoration. The Institute for Applied Ecology's innovative Sagebrush in Prisons Project works with prison inmates to grow sagebrush for habitat rehabilitation, restoring hope as well as habitat. Since we started this project 5 years ago, 3150 inmates across 14 prisons have gained vocational and educational certificates, touched the soil for the first time since incarceration, cared for and helped restore nearly a million sagebrush plants, and given back to the land and community. But we need your help.
Unfortunately, funding for this project has recently been withheld by the U.S. Department of Interior. It will end if we do not take action. You can contribute to continue this project in at least one Oregon prison for one year while we rebuild a new sustainable funding model. This is your chance to help on two fronts: change inmate's lives as well as improve post-fire habitat. Please support this win-win opportunity to restore habitat and hope.
Sagebrush in Prisons is a win-win: large-scale habitat restoration for sage grouse, and a powerful way for inmates to gain ecological education and job skills by caring for native plants, working with soil, and giving back to the land and the community.
“The sagebrush program has been very good for my soul. This project has done more than rescue the sage grouse, it’s allowed us men to do and be something positive. Through this project, men’s lives begin to have worth; we see that we can be positive and benefit the world instead of bringing it down.” - inmate graduate of Sagebrush in Prisons
U.S. Prison Facts:
· The US has more jails and prisons than colleges and universities (over 5000). In some areas of the Southern US, there are more people living in prisons than on college campuses.
· 2.3 million US adults are incarcerated, with 92 million more having been released with a criminal record. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the US spends $22,650 to house each inmate per year (SUNY spends $8000 per year on each of their students).
· The U.S. has the world's worst recidivism (repeat offender) rates. A 2011 study found that 7 in 10 prisoners will commit another crime after release.
· Educational programs have been found to reduce prison violence and increase post-release job opportunities. However, prisoners have very few opportunities such as the Sagebrush in Prisons project.
Sagebrush in Prisons FAQs:
· What is that Institute for Applied Ecology’s role in this? We have coordinated the education and contracted out the planting of sagebrush starts at 13 prisons in 6 western states. Institute for Applied ecology scientists make visits to the prisoners and bring other ecologist guest lecturers.
· What are the benefits of Sagebrush in Prisons? Prisoners have said the project helps them to feel human to receive visitors and hands-on ecological education. This project accomplishes habitat restoration on a large scale; educates, inspires and builds job skills for people that have not had environmental education; and gives inmates the opportunity to give back to the land and communities around them.
· What is our fundraising goal? To raise enough money through grants and donations to continue the Sagebrush in Prisons Project in one Oregon correctional facility.
You can learn more about the project from local and national press: This OPB segment explains why this program and sagebrush transplants are so important. See also Outdoor Life magazine, the Argus Observer, BLM’s Northwest Magazine, and East Idaho News. Read about the overarching Sustainability in Prisons project in “Rethinking Education on a Changing Planet” from the EarthEd Journal. Read more here about the plight of the greater sage grouse. Read a letter from another involved inmate here. See a Nevada news segment on SPP going “extinct.”