Palouse Area Environmental Update

By David Hall

Recently two new pieces of Palouse Prairie land have been preserved – on Steptoe Butte and Paradise Ridge.

Steptoe Butte

“In October of 2016, the family trust that had owned 437 acres of land on Steptoe Butte put the property up for auction. The land surrounds Steptoe Butte State Park and contains some of the highest quality Palouse Prairie remnants in Whitman County. Concerned about its future, a small group of people got together to purchase the land at auction in order to buy time for a permanent conservation solution to be developed. The buyers are committed to gathering input from the community on the future use of the site, and want to make sure that it is managed in a way that serves both the community and the special plants and animals that call it home.

“The Steptoe Butte Prairie contains many varieties of wildflowers and native plants.

•native orchid (Platanthera elegans)

•large flowered collomia (Collomia longiflora)

•rare Palouse thistle (Cirsium brevifolium)

•large-fruited mariposa lily (Calochortus macrocarpus)

•Spalding's catchfly (Silene spaldingii) – federally threatened

•pleated gentian (Gentiana affinis)

•broad-fruited mariposa lily (Calochortus nitidus) – hasn't been seen in WA since the 1910s.”

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Paradise Ridge

The Palouse Land Trust recently bought some prairie land on Paradise Ridge.

“Home to many rare and special plants and animals like the broad-fruit mariposa lily, Palouse goldenweed, Spalding's catchfly, grasshopper sparrow, and more, this new 62-acre ecological preserve protects some of the most endangered habitat in the U.S. Normally, the Land Trust works with local families to protect special places like this with conservation easements. In this case, though, the family lived in Oregon and needed to sell the land. So, we worked over the past few years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain a modest grant to purchase the land. But that provided only a portion of the funds needed.” Donations from community members filled the gap.

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City of Moscow Sustainability Report

The City of Moscow Water Conservation Plan was updated a year ago and it added a toilet rebate program and a lawn reduction rebate program for property owners in the city.

They have replaced 85 toilets in 64 households, for at annual water savings of 555,714 gallons at an estimated cost of only 68 cents per thousand gallons conserved. If you have an older toilet, the city may pay you to replace it!  Currently two toilet rebates are allowed per single-family household. There also are options for multi-family and commercial.

The Wisescape program has replaced more than 18,000 square feet of lawn in 2016 and 5,000 square feet so far in 2017 via the City’s lawn replacement rebate program. The City estimates that a traditional lawn uses 0.623 gallons of water per square foot per week, whereas a low-water lawn may require only 0.263, for an annual household water savings of 9,300 gallons for a transitioned 1,200 square foot lawn. Thus far, 14 households have removed 22,220 square feet of turf for an estimated annual savings of 173,583 gallons of water, at a cost of only $0.85 per thousand gallons conserved.