Palouse prairie endangered


An example of the endangered Palouse prairie near the WSU Bear Facility on Grimes Road.

From staff reports

The Palouse Prairie is endangered, but there are multiple ways the public can help protect this environment.

“The Palouse Prairie is considered one of the most endangered ecosystems in the United States,” said Amy Trujillo, executive director of the Palouse Land Trust.

A study conducted in 1995 by Noss and Peters states that only 0.1 percent of the Palouse grasslands remain in a natural state and classified the Palouse prairie ecosystem as critically endangered.

Trujillo said there are a couple of different geographic definitions of the Palouse. The most common area described is the region of southeastern Washington and adjacent Idaho that has rolling hills with deep soil.

Trujillo said this landscape faces three direct threats that have led to its endangered status: development, agriculture and weed invasion.

Along with local conservation districts and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners Program, the Palouse Prairie Foundation (PPF), a local nonprofit, provides support for restoration.

“Protection of Palouse prairie remnants helps preserve the incredible biodiversity of this habitat, and protect the plants that native pollinators and wildlife rely on for survival” Trujillo said. “The remnants are also beautiful. The diversity of flowers and grasses is just gorgeous in the spring.”

The Palouse prairie is home to a long list of plants, mammals, birds, amphibians and invertebrates. The Palouse Prairie Foundation website lists more than 30 mammals and approximately 220 plants that call the region home.

Trujillo said that anyone interested in helping protect the prairie should call the local conservation district or the PPF to volunteer. The PPF often organizes volunteers to collect seeds, raise plants and control weeds.

Another way for residents to protect the prairie is to determine if their uncultivated ground could be prairie remnants.

“There are also sometimes grant funds available through the conservation districts that can help landowners restore Palouse prairie remnants,” Trujillo said.

Because of the nutrient-rich productivity of soils in the Palouse, most of the Prairie has been converted to agriculture.

Remnants of the native Prairie are now most often found in areas where the ground was either too steep or contained too many rocks to plow, Trujillo said.

“The Palouse Land Trust can also help landowners with high quality remnants who might be interested in permanently protecting their land with a conservation easement” Trujillo said, “Folks who are interested in either kind of help can call us at the Palouse Land Trust and we can get them in touch with the right partner, depending on what they’re looking for.”

Reporting by Hannah Welzbacker