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Friday, Sept 20:

US (AZ): Ribbon cutting ceremony for new EAC greenhouse

A ribbon-cutting ceremony this Friday, September 20, is the culmination of several years’ work and the result of an unprecedented cooperative agreement between Eastern Arizona College, BLM Safford Field Office, Gila Watershed Project of Arizona and the Walton Family Foundation. It’s something every citizen can be proud of.”

The partnership received a $1.2 million grant, which called for the construction of an approximately 3,000-square-foot greenhouse at EAC’s Discovery Park Campus. The new greenhouse will be used jointly by the cooperating agencies for a variety of uses including:

• Introduction of alternative course work for BIO 295 Undergraduate Biological Research and BIO 226 Ecology.

• Reinstatement of previously offered agriculture courses.

• Support for other EAC Biology Department projects including the Chiricahua Leopard Frog Ranarium.

• Howards Well Site Rehabilitation (which will continue current joint environmental and educational efforts with BLM, Gila Watershed Partnership, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

• Environmental (native vegetation) and propagation lessons for youth/school field trips.

• Community education in plant propagation and possible “community garden” endeavors.

• Activities for youth science camp events.

• Native plant propagation for federal and private land reclamation/restoration projects throughout Eastern Arizona.

EAC’s Discovery Park Campus staff plan on using native vegetation projects to share environmental lessons for youth/school field trips and anticipate establishing “Greenhouse Gardening Techniques” classes with the U of A Graham County Extension Office, which will be instructed by local Master Gardening experts.

The greenhouse project will also offer employment and work-study opportunities through the Southwest Conservation Corps for local youths and EAC students who will run the day-to-day operations of the greenhouse and adjacent shade houses — where larger plants are placed outside of the greenhouse environment to safely acclimate to the area. This will provide student employees the opportunity to experience valuable, real-world lessons on natural resource management and develop skills in the business and management aspects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related endeavors.

The Gila Watershed Partnership is involved in a restoration project on the Gila River that was funded by the Walton Family Foundation, US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners in Conservation, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to control tamarisk on the river and restore native plant populations. The plants grown in the new greenhouse will be used for this restoration effort as well as other projects, and provide a sustainable source of plant resources far into the future.

Jan Holder, executive director of the Gila Watershed Partnership, explained that the greenhouse “will be used to grow native plants and provide educational experiences and employment opportunities for the youth in our community for many years to come.”

As part of its “Native Plant Material Program,” the BLM contributed $50,000 toward the greenhouse construction and supplies, while also securing a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant of $30,000. The BLM will use the greenhouse to grow native plants for use in restoration and reclamation projects. Currently, there are limited amounts of native plant materials and species available within southeastern Arizona, and what is available commercially can be cost prohibitive for large projects such as fire rehabilitation, mine reclamation and habitat improvement projects. Jeff Conn, BLM Safford Field Office natural resource specialist, explained that, “studies have shown that the closer the plants’ origin is to the site that you want to restore, the better its chance of success. By collecting seeds of native plants from (the surrounding area) . . . we can ‘grow our own’ in a commercial setting where larger quantities and increased availability will mean lower costs, better results and healthier watersheds.”

Another benefit of growing our own, he said, is that, “as other regions of the country are facing possible long-term droughts and rising temperatures, many of them are looking to the Southwest deserts for plants adapted to these hotter and drier conditions.

“The Discovery Park Campus greenhouse is a great example of what can be done when people work together to complete a project that would not be completed by any individual organization. The BLM contributed funds to purchase the greenhouse, Gila Watershed Partnership was able to fund the majority of the construction, and EAC was able to oversee the construction and provide an ideal location for the greenhouse.”

For more information about the new greenhouse, the ribbon-cutting ceremony or to volunteer for the project, contact Anger at [email protected] or by phone at 928-428-6260.

Source: Eastern Arizona Courier

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