Honor Farm inmates help restore sagebrush populations in Wyoming.

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CENTRAL, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) Without sagebrush, there would be no sage-grouse in Wyoming. The sagebrush is extremely important to the ecosystem. Inmates from the Wyoming Honor Farm planted thousands of sagebrush on abandoned mine lands Wednesday.

The DEQ, BLM and the Office of Surface Mining came together three years ago to begin the Abandoned Mine Lands Native Plants Project.

"We really started by asking ourselves, how we could be a part of the solution in helping the sage-grouse populations recover. We came up with trying to reestablish sagebrush communities on these previously reclaimed mine sites," Gina Clingerman, Abandoned Mine Lands archaeologist and project manager, said.

A partnership with the Institute for Applied Ecology began last year because of their Sagebrush in Prisons Project.

"I think that often there are not a lot of opportunities. They get ignored and people don't really think about them and how we can help," Dionne Mejia, Institute for Applied Ecology ecological education coordinator, said.

All of the sagebrush planted on Wednesday were grown at the Wyoming Honor Farm's greenhouse. There are three full time employees in the greenhouse and they appreciate the opportunity.

"Even though we are in prison, we get the chance to do the Wyoming Honor Farm and do a lot of good stuff to give back. It feels good to be out here to give back," Drew Moore, Wyoming Honor Farm sagebrush technician, said.

Over 20 inmates from the Honor Farm came out to help plant. Michael Catt enjoyed the opportunity to show his colleagues what they do in the greenhouse.

"I feel like I'm leading by example, like I'm giving back to them," Catt said.

The project not only aims to help the habitat, but the inmates involved as well.

"I speak about this project in two ways: this is a reclamation project for the habitat, but it's also a human reclamation project. We're reclaiming the hearts and minds of these inmates," Clingerman said.

This year, the Sagebrush in Prisons Project was in five states and grew almost half a million sagebrush.