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Southern Utah News Front Page: May 24, 2013
PBS program ''This American Land'' films in Kanab
By Dixie Brunner
The PBS program, “This American Land” filmed Kanab High School’s Natural Resource Management class this past week. The film crew focused on students learning different aspects of land management and restoration. The PBS crew recorded students in the classroom, at the school greenhouse, and on experimental plots on the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.
Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, the Monument’s Friends Group, started the Native Plant Restoration Project with an EPA environmental education grant in 2010. Since its inception, more than 100 high school students have participated in the program.
The project consists of classroom instruction and greenhouse work (conducting soil analysis, determining the best soil mix for growing winterfat, determining watering levels, using GIS/GPS technology for developing maps of the control and experimental plots, etc.); and field work on GSENM, which consisted of identifying/establishing a control plot (CP); using the CP as a seed source; establishing an experimental plot where the seedlings grown in the greenhouse are planted; monitoring the survival rate and seed reproduction, etc.
The Kanab High School’s involvement includes the Natural Resource Management Class, instructed by Barbara Warner; the media productions class that developed a DVD about the project; and a math class that did a statistical analysis of the plots’ perimeters. GSENM staff taught plant identification and monitoring techniques.
“We got together (concerning Natural Resource Science) to figure out how we could incorporate the science available through the Monument and Partners,” said Warner. “We came up with the Native Plant Restoration Project.”
Thirty one students are in Warner’s classes this year. She credits teacher Josh Baird for being a large part of the project, saying he’s been invaluable in sending some students (Valley and Kanab) out to make plantings. Warner also praises GSENM’s Carolyn Shelton for inspiration in stressing learning on the land projects.
The target? “Winter Fat” or white sage, which supposedly fattens sheep, deer and cows. The students collect the seeds out on the Monument, grow them in the greenhouse and later transplant them in March or April onto the test plot in a fenced enclosure on Telegraph Flat. (Thanks to permittee Worth Brown, who works with the school and Monument.) “We have seeds in the second year,” said Warner. “The cool thing about the winter fats is they are a hearty breed.”
“Because the project was with the high school and concerning natural resource management, it gave many folks here ownership,” added GSENM’s Mary DeWitz. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for students to have a hands-on project.”
DeWitz praised the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Partners for its educational focus. “Partners is what keeps the program alive. They can do a lot of the fundraising and volunteer efforts...they are really the glue.”
Wade Parsons, Education Coordinator for GSENM Partners, stressed that this project is just one of many for the support group. “The Partners are a conduit to facilitate projects like this,” said Parsons.
Marsha Walton, “This American Land” series producer, said that she works with the Environment News Trust and Gary Strieker. “He is one of the best conservation reporters on the earth.” The show features short conservation stories. The piece in Kane County will be part of its third season, airing in early fall.
The show is a part of Ted Turner’s Captain Planet (CNN), conservation shows which give advice and small grants to creative environmental education projects. The four focused on this segment were: Kane Schools/Monument/Friends project; Albany, Oregon school’s bio-swale run off filters; Tahoe City, California where students have raised a species of trout; and the San Juan Islands, where they have studied a certain type of native mushrooms that have ability to filter toxins.
“We hope to get people to just talk about and understand where they live,” said Walton, of the shows. “On our show, we do conservation, not politics!”