University of Idaho Sustainability Center’s ‘Get Rooted’ Program to Work with Private Landowners on Moscow Mountain

Wednesday, October 21 2009

Written by Alecia Hoene

MOSCOW, Idaho – The native Palouse landscape has rapidly dwindled over the last 100 years in the face of agriculture and urban development. On Saturday, Oct. 24, a campus collaboration sponsored by the University of Idaho Sustainability Center will take one step toward restoring this unique ecosystem.

As part of national Make a Difference Day, members of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity and other volunteers organized by the university’s Center for Volunteerism and Social Action will plant 150 native trees and shrubs on a piece of privately owned land on Moscow Mountain. Volunteers will meet from 9 a.m. to noon for planting activities, and UISC staff will provide a brief education about native landscapes and the importance of restoration.

Last spring, land owners David and Karen Purtee asked UISC Director Darin Saul for advice on how they could use their land in Latah County to affect small changes in addressing issues such as global warming. The UISC was in the process of developing its “Get Rooted” program, a native habitats restoration initiative, and the Purtee property seemed like a good candidate for a planting project.

“He walked our 20 acres and suggested developing a plan to restore it to native trees and shrubs,” said Karen Purtee. “The return of marginal farm ground, such as ours, to native plantings has a tremendous impact on birds and other wildlife.”

The UISC just needed enough volunteers to get the project underway.

The university’s Center for Volunteerism and Social Action was looking for projects for Make a Difference Day, a national day of service, which eventually led them to the UISC’s “Get Rooted” program.

“They had more volunteers than events, so they called us,” said Joe Nickels, UISC sustainability planner. “We had been hoping to do a project on the Purtee property and this was a perfect opportunity for collaboration.”

The Purtees are funding the project, which they hope will begin to reverse the effects of human cultivation on Moscow Mountain and restore its natural beauty and healthy soils.

“We already had our land in the CRP (Conservation Resource Program) with the U.S.D.A. Soil Conservation Service,” said Karen Purtee. “The addition of native plants will do a terrific job of conserving top soil without landscaping assistance. The plants are drought tolerant so no additional landscaping water will be required.”

UISC will work with the Purtees this fall, next spring and beyond with the potential to plant hundreds of acres on the mountain. Other land owners on Moscow Mountain and the Palouse Land Trust also have expressed interest in working with the “Get Rooted” program to coordinate planting activities on their land.

For more information or to get involved, contact Joe Nickels at (208) 885-0125 or

As increasing environmental awareness drives interest in sustainable practices, the University of Idaho continues to seek carbon reduction initiatives to meet the current and future needs of society and to contribute to the quality of life and the natural resources in Idaho, the nation and the world. The University of Idaho emitted some 38,981 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in 2007, which is equal to 3.59 tons per student. The university has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2030 and has begun the work to reduce carbon emissions across operations. For more information about the university’s sustainability efforts, contact the University of Idaho Sustainability Center at or visit  
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit  

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit