The Monitor Weekly of Oct. 21 had an interesting article on creating pocket prairies In Houston, Texas, to capture rainwater, slow the runoff and partially mitigate flooding. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the whole idea. They have found that creating pockets of native prairie vegetation throughout the city has been very beneficial in handling excess rain water. Using tall native grasses with long heavy root systems creates a spongy top few inches of soil that soaks up water and carries it deep into the soil slowing runoff and mitigating flooding. They couple this with a selection of native wildflowers adding to the beauty of the area and food and habitat for native critters.
In recent years I’ve also read about efforts to reclaim dead, overused pasture land in the upper Midwest by planting native plants that were present in the original vegetation mix. This not only served to reclaim useless land over a period of time, but cut down loss of topsoil to dust storms such as those that plagued the Midwest during the Depression years.
I find that too few nonfarming people list soil as a natural resource that needs to be protected and preserved. If we are going to have sustainable agriculture to feed future generations, we need to think ahead and take necessary precautions against loss of arable farm land. Most farmers are heeding these warnings and are adopting sustainable practices to protect the valuable properties of their soil.
Morally, we have no right to deplete any natural resource or spoil any natural vital habitat. Whether it’s the plethora of sea urchins off the California coast that is destroying the kelp forest that protects the beaches or if it’s a rare mineral that should be recycled rather than mined. To correct kelp forest issue, we need to restore the key ingredient of that ecosystem by restoring the population of sea otters who once kept the urchin population in check. Depleting that one ingredient destroyed that entire ecosystem.
Locally, I’d like to see an expansion of efforts to replant otherwise unusable segments of land with native grasses and wildflowers. To do this requires advance planning — someone has to grow the seeds needed in the quantities required and that takes time. For instance, the city of Pullman has many orphaned chunks of land, many of which are landscaped. There are other areas unsuitable for building such as the road sides of North Grand that could be so planted, after grubbing out the invasive imported species such as cheatgrass, dandelions, Canadian thistle to name a few.
How I would love to see wild buttercups, wild iris and camas again that were once plentiful here that I haven’t seen since returning to Pullman in 1976. In my early years, the Pullman Herald used to have an annual spring contest giving a prize to the person who brought in the first blooming buttercup. They grew out of every road cut that had water running from the cracks and along all the creek beds. Nor have I recently picked garter snakes and toads from my flower beds. The thing I miss most is waking to the sound of meadowlarks in the morning.
Many plots of land in the county, such as hilltops, are unsuitable for agriculture. When I was a small child, farmers were cultivating the hills by going up and down hill leaving them vulnerable for erosion. Gradually they changed to contour plowing which helped a lot. Lately they are going further and adopting low-till and no-till practices. This has required expensive new equipment and tractors to pull the extra load.
Still, the hilltops are less productive having lost their topsoil to erosion. Why not put them back to native planting? That would give better habitat for critters too.
Happily, since writing this, I learned a group is now dedicated to this effort.
Lenna Harding lived her first 20 and past 43 years in Pullman. A longtime League of Women Voters member, she served on the Gladish Community and Cultural Center board. email@example.com.