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It took different people to plant native grasses April 18, 2018 in observance of Earth Day at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. The native plants were placed along a firebreak north of Gate 2; it is hoped the native grasses will begin t... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)
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Youngsters from Child Youth Services helped to plant a variety of native grasses on Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, during the April 18, 2018 observance of Earth Day. Each yellow tube contains a native seedling that is gently pushed o... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)
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Two girls plant native bunchgrasses along a firebreak during the April 18, 2018 observance of Earth Day at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. Children and adults joined scientists from Dugway's Natural Resource Office, and firefighters. ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)
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A two-week-old Great Horned Owl receives a leg band for tracking, during the April 18, 2018 observance of Earth Day at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. Great Horned Owls have a life expectancy of 13 years. As this bird is captured by s... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)
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Skylan McCarthy, 7, briefly holds a two-week-old Great Horned Owl during Earth Day observance at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. The bird was temporarily removed from its nest to receive a tracking band on its leg. Great Horned Owls h... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)
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After retrieving a two-week-old Great Horned Owl from its nest, using an extendable fire engine platform, Wildlife Biologist Robbie Knight hands the owlet to Dugway Proving Ground Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Bonds. The occasion was the ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)
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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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