Mistakes put them in jail; butterflies get them out
Inmate work crew clears invasive plants at Hagg Lake to allow species to repopulate
Why did the Washington County Sheriffs deputy give an inmate a chainsaw?
So he could protect butterflies, of course.
Last summer, a population of endangered Fenders blue butterflies was inadvertently mowed down at Hagg Lake in western Washington County. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) wildlife biologist Mikki Collins didnt want to see that happen again so she enlisted the help of Deputy Jerry Shamoon, an inmate work coordinator for the Washington County Sheriffs Office. Last week, on April 11 and 12, Shamoon and an inmate work crew joined staff from Washington County Parks & Recreation, Clean Water Services, the Bureau of Reclamation and Collins to remove cytisus scoparious, more commonly known as Scotch broom, an invasive nonnative plant, from 4.5 acres around the reservoir.
The Scotch broom, some of which had grown 8 feet tall, was overtaking the butterflys habitat. By removing it, the butterflys native prairie vegetation can be re-established, said USFWS spokeswoman Elizabeth Materna.
Fenders blue butterfly is a federally endangered species found only in the Willamette Valley, Materna said, and the Hagg Lake population was just discovered five years ago.
But why work crew inmates? Why not goats or landscapers?
Goats are great for clearing brush, but the butterflies dont do well in grazed areas, Collins said. And landscapers cost money.
Also, its good for the inmates to build good relationships in local communities, Shamoon said.
Some are a little rough around the edges, but you can see a change as they put others before themselves, he said. Its definitely a good thing for them.
According to Shamoon, the inmates selected for the work crews are carefully screened. No violent or sexual offenders are allowed. Only low-escape-risk, model inmates can apply.
I wont take out anyone with a bad attitude or who doesnt want to be there, Shamoon said. A lot of them are excited to be out there doing something productive ... a few said its awesome to be out on a lake instead of sitting in a jail cell.
The inmate crew was phenomenal, Collins said. They got the project kickstarted in a way we couldnt have done without them, and it was awesome to see all the other partners come together to help out and lend their strengths.