Volunteers collected more than 10 pounds of sagebrush and bitterbrush seeds from the wildlife area in 2022 to be propagated by inmates at FCI, Herlong through the Sagebrush in Prisons program. Photo submitted

Volunteers sought for Hallelujah Junction post-fire rehabilitation project

Can a group of environmentalists, government and private agencies, the Washoe Tribe, inmates and volunteers make a difference in wildlife habitat? You bet.

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is leading the Hallelujah Junction Wildlife Area Post-Fire Rehabilitation and Connectivity Project in collaboration with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Washoe Tribe, the Sagebrush in Prisons Project and the Wildlands Network, thanks to funding from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and Sitka Gear. This large-scale rehabilitation project will restore critical winter range habitat for mule deer, pronghorn antelope and elk. They are also working closely with the Washoe Tribe to include culturally significant plants in the restoration. In addition, the project leverages the work of Wildlands Network along Highway 395 to study wildlife movement through existing culverts and at-grade crossings in order to help inform Caltrans of priority areas for wildlife crossing infrastructure and investments. These collective efforts augment a million-dollar project that Caltrans has planned for Highway 395 along our work area. 

Workers prepare a site for planting.

Volunteers sought
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and NGO Partners plan to host a huge public land planting event and community gathering to restore winter range for mule deer and pronghorn antelope the weekend of Oct.  28 when volunteers will gather to help plant 10,000 bitterbrush seedlings at the Hallelujah Junction Wildlife Area along Highway 395.

The bitterbrush plants will be grown through the Sagebrush in Prisons Project, a voluntary program at the nearby FCI Herlong prison and volunteers will also help to sow plants of cultural significance to the Washoe Tribe.

Following the planting efforts on Friday and Saturday nights, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers will host the Beer, Bands & Bitterbrush Stands event at a ranch located 30 minutes from the project site where participants will gather for food, live music and camping on site.

The event is free with a small fee for campers where there will be ample space for tents, trailers or RVs. The event includes a raffle and silent auction to fundraise for the project with thousands of dollars-worth of prizes thanks to generous donations from businesses like Seek Outside, Weston, Stone Glacier, Reno Water Filters and many more. This post-fire rehabilitation and connectivity project is primarily funded by grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Sitka Gear and matching contributions from Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, as well as a camera study commissioned by Wildlands Network.

What is the Hallelujah Junction Wildlife Area?
The HJWA is a state property in Northeastern California along the Nevada border that was purchased by the CDFW to maintain critical winter range for multiple deer herds as well as habitat for pronghorn antelope and rocky mountain elk. The wildlife area lies over the Washoe Tribe’s ancestral lands, where the tribe hunted deer and pronghorn on their seasonal migration routes and fished from Long Valley Creek, which bisects the HJWA.

This property burned in several wildfires over the past two decades, which destroyed much of the local flora critical to supporting the local wildlife. This collaborative effort seeks to restore biodiversity by removing invasive species like cheatgrass and restoring native species important for local wildlife as well as several plants of cultural significance to the Washoe Tribe like wild rose (Rosa woodsii), Washoe tea (Ephedra viridis), serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) and more.

To learn more, here is a link to a story map collection of the project that includes the work completed so far as well as the camera study which will help to inform wildlife movement along Highway 395. This study is helping to guide the planning of a future wildlife overpass along Highway 395 which was just funded by the Wildlife Conservation Board in August .

To RSVP for the planting event or to purchase a camping pass for Friday or Saturday night, visit the event page here. The first 100 volunteers will receive a work glove with custom artwork thanks to a donation by Lobo Products. For sponsorship inquiries, interview requests or for additional information about the project call or email Devin O’Dea at odea@backcountryhunters.org or (415) 246-5329.

Project timeline
April 2022
Site visit with Washoe Tribe to map plants of cultural significance and document invasive species.

July 2022
Volunteers collect eight pounds of bitterbrush seeds for cultivation at FCI, Herlong. Invasive species mapping continues.

October 2022
CDFW staff and volunteers plant 1,000 bitterbrush plugs in test plots utilizing five different treatments to help guide future planting efforts.

April 2023
Bitterbrush seeds are germinated through a cold stratification process to prepare for planting at FCI, Herlong.

May 2023
CDFW begins invasive species treatments and invasive species mapping ramps up.

October 2023
Volunteers will assemble to plant 10,000 bitterbrush and sagebrush seedlings and 1,000 plants of cultural significance to the Washoe Tribe.

Fall 2023
Volunteers collect seeds from Washoe cultural plants. CDFW continues herbicide treatments of invasive pepperweed and cheatgrass.

Spring 2024
Monitoring begins, invasive species mapping continues and more bitterbrush seeds will be planted at the prison. CDFW continues herbicide treatments.

Fall 2024
10k more bitterbrush seedlings will be planted along with several thousand plants of cultural significance to the Washoe Tribe. Broadcast seeding of native forbs, grasses and Washoe cultural plants begins.