Terri Rust wild for native plants
Anyone who knows Terri Rust knows she is WILD for native plants.

But when Terri started spending time on the Heart K Ranch and getting to know Maidu community member and Heart K native, Trina Cunningham, she got really excited about conserving Heart K's native plants not only for land health, wildlife habitat and pollinator forage, but also as important cultural resources for traditional foods, medicines, and basketry materials.

Since that time, Terri has become an invaluable community partner in helping the Feather River Land Trust manage and restore the 900-acre Heart K Ranch. From leading native plantings with teachers at Learning Landscapes workshops, to co-leading our Heart K Forest Health Project with the Feather River Resource Conservation District, to leading volunteer workdays, to being a valuable partner in FRLT's Maidu Stewardship Partnership, Terri has come to know  and become a champion for many native plants at the Heart K.

Volunteers dig Indian Hemp for transplanting
This fall, Terri led an innovative experiment with a plant that is native to the Heart K - Indian hemp. Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum L.) or dogbane, is a native plant that has many benefits, but unchecked it can nevertheless become invasive in orchards and fields.

Terri learned from Trina that Indian Hemp is an important traditional plant source for cordage (rope) for many native peoples, including the Mountain Maidu. In addition, the plant is a very important early summer source of nectar and pollen for native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Heart K has a large patch of Indian Hemp that Trina's family and ancestors have gathered from for generations, but it was starting to encroach into the orchard. So Terri looked for a solution to not only maintain a healthy patch for the Maidu family to manage, but to also remove some encroaching plants and to potentially share a valuable resource in other parts of the Feather River Watershed. 

Volunteer with Indian Hemp for transplanting
In her role with the Feather River RCD, Terri oversees a wetland conservation mitigation site in nearby Crescent Mills for CalTrans. Terri recently walked the site with a group of youth and leaders from the Greenville Roundhouse Council, exploring native plants and the potential for involving Maidu youth on the land.

Because Indian Hemp is important culturally to the Maidu, the group got excited about the possibility of transplanting some of the Heart K's Indian Hemp to this site to not only restore the land, but also to help restore Maidu youth's relationship to land and cultural resources.

So Terri, who also teaches at Feather River College, invited her Native Plants Workshop students and FRLT volunteers out to the Heart K. They learned about making cordage and other traditional uses of Indian Hemp. They dug up Indian Hemp plants for propogation. The idea is that these will then be propogated at the FRC native plants greenhouse, and transplanted with the youth on the Crescent Mills site.

What do we like about this project? It helps manage a valuable cultural and biological resource at the Heart K Ranch. It creates the opportunity to share an important cultural resource with Maidu youth while it restores impacted land. And it is an innovative way to nurture the relationship between land and diverse people -- from Maidu youth to college students to community volunteers -- creating ties that can last a lifetime.

Thursday, November 20, 2014