Program manager and biologist at Dugway Proving Ground for the Natural Resource Office (NRO), Knight has no love for Cheatgrass. The plains and rolling hills of the West and Midwest that once fed bison, elk, deer, birds, rodents and insects an incredible variety of wild grasses, grains and succulents were overtaken by Cheatgrass, Tumbleweeds and other overseas intruders early in the 20th century.

The West still struggles to recover from the brown blanket that offers little food or cover, ignites easily and spreads destructive wildfires quickly.

On April 18, Dugway's NRO made a stand against the brown blanket by planting nearly 400 seedlings of native plants that were once commonplace: Galleta, Western Wheat Grass and Great Basin Wild Rye, among others.

Some 35 students from Youth Services, firefighters and other adults helped plant native seedlings along a firebreak west of Dugway's housing. The seedlings are expected to reach maturity in two to five years.

Kalon Throop, restoration specialist for Dugway's NRO, organized the replanting of native species. For the past few years, his office has worked on a firebreak network that incorporates native plants.

For Earth Day, Throop wanted to involve children, to emphasize that young individuals can make a difference.

"It's important that the kids see how they can help their community, especially with all the wildfires we've had in this area," Throop said. "I'm just grateful for their coming out, and I hope we can get more of the community next time."

Earlier that day, junior high and high school students learned of rangeland sustainability and native wildlife, toured a greenhouse, and saw displays of human culture that predate Dugway's 1942 creation by centuries or millennia. By noon, volunteers had planted trees near the Dugway Elementary School playground and Dugway Hope Chapel.

The final event was an opportunity to see a two-week-old Great Horned Owl, carefully removed from its nest to apply a leg band that will, with appropriate federal coordination and permits, help track its expected 13-year lifespan. Wide-eyed, the owlet clicked its beak together, expressing its dislike at being handled. After banding, it was returned to the nest to await its mother's prompt return.

For many children and adults, it had been a busy day of learning and pitching in.
Shane Ezzeoo, 12, said he enjoyed Dugway's Earth Day, summing up the event as, "The day is about growth, making the Earth healthier."

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