EcoSource Native Seed & Restoration works with and for its members to provide business opportunities aimed at collecting, cleaning, producing, and storing genetically-appropriate native plant seeds. We also develop and implement the most scientifically-based restoration management plans and programs. Our goals are to foster large-scale restoration of degraded Sagebrush Steppe ecosystems, help conserve underground water resources in agricultural production, and enhance the rural economy of the High Desert region. Would you like to participate?
Economic Issues. Frontier areas of the western United States were once vibrant and healthy. They thrived on the honest dedication of farmers and ranchers to work hard and carefully use the natural resources provided by nature. Small farms and ranches provided the economic basis for rural communities to grow into active towns and the center of social events needed by rural citizens. Over the past 100 years, rural communities have become seriously diminished and are now teetering on the edge of extinction. With time, family's abilities to make a living on small farms and ranches became far too difficult for young adults to earn enough money to raise a family. Ownership has shifted to a few larger farms and ranches in order to capitalize from the economies of scale, and survive. Land values are based on external factors that make it impossible for young adults to purchase small farms and service their debt. Rural areas of the western US have become far too difficult for anyone to make enough money to raise a family and small farm bankruptcy is far more common than success. Opportunities for young adults have emerged primarily in the urban areas of the country and the lure of the cities and its amenities have caused major changes in demographics from rural areas.
Ecological Issues. In addition to the economic issues, ecological issues have been growing in rural areas at an alarming rate. Long-term drought combined with the over allocation of groundwater has created a very serious ecological problem in arid- and semi- arid regions of the West. Water for irrigated agricultural has become severely limited and many farmers do not have the water they require to grow a commercially-viable crop. State agencies have been forced to regulate water use in areas seeing significant decline in ground water levels. Lowering water tables and lessening water flows also impacts rivers, streams and lakes, which are central to diverse wildlife that inhabit these regions.
Ecological Restoration. Invasive species have invaded millions of acres throughout prime rangelands and forest ecosystems, primarily annual grasses, but also knapweeds. These non-native weeds invade healthy functioning systems and reduce their ability to provide the necessary good and services they provide to rural communities, including wildlife habitat, recreation, and the storage and release of water and carbon. As a result of this invasion, fire cycles have become devastating to rural areas. Recurring fires pose a chronic and mounting threat to the integrity of these ecosystems. Initial estimates from a decade ago suggested more than 25% of sagebrush steppe rangeland has been lost as a result of altered fire cycles and invasive annual grasses (West 1999). Even under current best management practices, models suggest if left unchecked, altered fire cycles and invasive annual grasses will destroy over 100,000 hectares of sagebrush steppe each year. Every major stakeholder group in the region including land managers, conservation groups, tribes and commodity groups has recognized that ecological restoration is critical to stem the loss of sagebrush steppe rangeland and avoid collapse of a keystone in U.S. agricultural production and the associated ecosystem services these rangelands provide.
For the past several years, High Desert Partnership (HDP) has been convening and supporting diversity of agricultural producers, natural resource managers, conservationists, and community partners to identify and help solve through a collaborative process the most critical economic and natural resource issues in the northern Great Basin to find solutions that help provide a future for frontier rural areas. By working together, these collaborative groups determined that creating a local sourced identified seed production and landscape-scale restoration industry throughout the northern Great Basin would directly address these primary issues. They have recognized that the current bottleneck to restoring degraded areas is the inability to obtain seed. HDP collaborative groups have identified three critical issues plaguing these frontier areas within a multi-state region characterized by ecosystems called the Sagebrush Steppe.
The primary issues are:
1) Rural agriculturally based communities within this region are experiencing unprecedented economic hardships that threaten their existence.
2) Invasive plants and frequent undesired wildfires continue to destroy the natural resource base on which these rural communities rely.
3) Groundwater is rapidly diminishing from overuse, and in many cases, adequate water for common types of crop growth no longer exists or will be exhausted within this decade.
High Desert Partnership working groups determined that creating a local source-identified native seed production and landscape-scale restoration industry throughout the northern Great Basin would directly address these primary issues. This industry would provide a structure and platform for many new business start-ups creating new jobs with living wages in the native plant seed collection, cleaning, production, storage, and on-the-ground restoration. Local native seed sources are essential to restoring degraded and invaded plant systems, which is the only way to recover the healthy, functioning ecosystems. At the same time, restoration of native plants can reduce the number of out-of-control wildfire, while recovering essential habitat for wildlife and livestock. And, finally, native plant seed production provides a new high-valued crop for irrigated agriculturalist that requires substantially less irrigation than the primary crop, alfalfa, and will help conserve our precious underground water resources. Fostering this industry is centered around EcoSource Native Seed & Restoration, where the members provide the guidance and governance of the industry as its begins and grows to support rural communities in the region. EcoSource Native Seed & Restoration was conceived in 2018 by HDP Harney County Wildfire Collaborative and established in 2020 by a grant from the Agricultural Research Service.
Please consider becoming a member of EcoSource Native Seed & Restoration and join our team working to create strong rural communities and healthy, functioning sagebrush steppe ecosystems with sustainable natural resources in the High Desert region of the West. Good people and nature need your help. Donate here.
EcoSource Native Seed & Restoration is committed to working with and for its members to provide business opportunities that foster land stewardship and improve natural resources in the High Desert region of the western US. We invite anyone with an interest in rural communities and healthy native landscapes to join our team of dedicated members to help achieve our mission.