Native Plant Salvage Program promotes financial and environmental sustainability

NativePlantA small team of King County employees and many volunteers are making sure that native plants that would be impacted by development projects are finding new homes in revegetation and habitat restoration projects across the county.

This season alone, 11,260 native plants were salvaged for the Water and Land Resource Division’s Native Plant Salvage Program.

“The cool thing about this is that plants get used all over King County and not just on County-sponsored projects,” said Cindy Young, the ecologist who heads up the program. Volunteers also get to salvage plants for their own restoration projects or homes.

Every first Saturday of the month from November through March, Young and volunteers go to sites within King County set to be developed, and dig up native plants. They then put them in burlap sacks for transportation to the King County nursery at Duthie Hill Park on the Sammamish Plateau.

Young manages the program’s budget, works with developers to find plant salvage sites, organizes and participates in salvage events, provides plant care and maintenance at the plant holding facility, and disperses plants to users.

The 22- year-old program benefits the County both environmentally and financially.

“There are many benefits from salvaging native plants from development sites. Because salvaged plants are adapted to local soil and climatic conditions, their survival rate on restoration sites may be higher than imported plants,” Young said.

Young added that the gene pool of plants native to the area is preserved.

“Specimens help preserve the integrity of the gene pool found in the region, including the genetic variation within the local gene pool that is ecologically important for long-term adaptation and survival. These qualities do not exist in nursery-purchased plants,” Young said.

All the salvaged plants that are taken to the nursery are available for any King County departments to use at a reasonable cost. The Wastewater treatment division uses plants for their pump stations, wastewater treatment facilities and landfills.

Since the program relies on the help of volunteers, as of 2003 it has financially sustained itself solely from the sale of plants to users.

“Volunteers play an important role in the salvage, maintenance, and propagation of native plants for the Salvage Program. Concerned about development pressures in this region and expanding urbanization, volunteers gain satisfaction knowing these plants have been saved and used to restore other sites,” Young said.

Find out more about the program and how you can volunteer.