Workers ready a hanging bucket for a helicopter used to drop native grass and shrub seed on the Hanford Site after a fire destroyed 5,500 acres of critical habitat in June 2020.
Workers ready a hanging bucket for a helicopter used to drop native grass and shrub seed on the Hanford Site after a fire destroyed 5,500 acres of critical habitat in June 2020.

RICHLAND, Wash. – With help from Hanford Site employees, a large area of the site with cultural significance to tribal nations in the Northwest is making a comeback after a wildfire caused by lightning in June 2020.

EM Richland Operations Office (RL) contractor Hanford Mission Integration Solutions (HMIS) has documented evidence of new plant growth in the Gable Mountain area following an extensive remediation process that included aerial reseeding.

New plants bloom in the Gable Mountain area following remediation work that included aerial reseeding after a fire in June 2020.
New plants bloom in the Gable Mountain area following remediation work that included aerial reseeding after a fire in June 2020.

An HMIS subcontractor dropped 70,000 pounds of seed by helicopter, providing a $2.3 million cost savings versus reseeding using tractors. HMIS used locally sourced seeds matched to each distinct ecological area scorched by the fire.

“We are encouraged to see early confirmation that demonstrates successful remediation following the 5,500-acre fire,” said So Yon Bedlington, RL program manager. “Conserving critical habitat on the Hanford Site benefits the entire region and provides an example of the responsible environmental stewardship we strive for.”

Native shrubs are returning to the Gable Mountain area following an extensive remediation process that included aerial reseeding.
Native shrubs are returning to the Gable Mountain area following an extensive remediation process that included aerial reseeding.

HMIS presented an award to its biologists Emily Norris and April Johnson to recognize their work on the project and their leadership in environmental conservation. The HMIS Environmental Leadership Award signifies a program or project influential in environmental performance.

The team had limited time to complete post-fire surveys, design, and procure the seed mix and spread it across the landscape in time for the next planting window. The seed chosen supports sustainable acquisition practices and avoided additional greenhouse gas emissions.

Following a restoration effort that dropped 70,000 pounds of locally sourced seeds on the Hanford Site’s Gable Mountain, native grass is growing again.
Following a restoration effort that dropped 70,000 pounds of locally sourced seeds on the Hanford Site’s Gable Mountain, native grass is growing again.

“Following the devastating loss of mature sagebrush found around Gable Mountain, we are proud to have accomplished this extensive restoration within the time needed to make the greatest impact on lost habitat,” Norris said.

 

Hanford Mission Integration Solutions biologists Emily Norris, left, and April Johnson received recognition for environmental leadership for the reseeding project on the Hanford Site.
Hanford Mission Integration Solutions biologists Emily Norris, left, and April Johnson received recognition for environmental leadership for the reseeding project on the Hanford Site.

The regrowth of native grass and shrub seed also helps prevent invasive species of plants from overtaking the area. Native grass and shrubs provide important erosion control to the area that is home to black-tailed jackrabbits and sagebrush sparrows. Environmental scientists will continue to monitor the seeded areas over the next five years.