Mountain Studies Institute presentation at Native Plant Society meeting


By David Wright
Special to The SUN

“Forests, Fens and Medicinal Plants,” is the topic at the next San Juan/Four Corners Native Plant Society meeting, 6:30 p.m. Nov. 20,  in the Lyceum Room, Center of Southwest Studies, Fort Lewis College.

Presenters are Tom Grant and Anthony Culpepper of the Mountain Studies Institute. They will discuss three distinct projects: 1) community-based forest management to mitigate wildfire, 2) restoration of fen vegetation and hydrologic flow, and 3) sustainability of Osha (Ligusticum porteri) root harvesting for medicinal plant use.

Recent large wildfires around Pagosa Springs, Durango and Mancos have rallied land managers, the public and community members to coordinate fire mitigation on public and private lands surrounding developed areas. MSI is coordinating monitoring of forest thinning to determine the impacts and sustainability of forest management. The unique project brings together diverse constituents to work toward eliminating destructive fires, while managing water quality and supply, and managing forests on public and private lands.

The rare iron fens of the San Juan mountains contain unique plant communities and provide valuable ecosystem services. MSI has collaborated with the BLM and several universities to restore the natural hydrologic flow that was disrupted by ditching and draining of the wetlands in the early 1900s.

Osha (Ligusticum porteri) is a medicinal plant that has deep roots in traditional cultures of the southwestern United States. Recent commercial demand for Osha root has raised concerns about the sustainability of harvesting the long-lived plant’s roots. Several harvesting experiments are currently being analyzed to determine if Osha resprouts following harvest. The U.S. Forest Service is using the information to determine harvest permitting and to make recommendations for sustainable harvesting.

Also see Juan Four Corners Native Plant Society.htm for more information on this meeting and other Native Plant Society trips and meetings.