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EAC’s Discovery Park Campus to benefit from new Gila Watershed grant

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EAC’s Discovery Park Campus to benefit from new Gila Watershed grant

By Lori Dugan

Thatcher, AZ—A Walton Family Foundation (WWF) Grant recently awarded to The Gila Watershed Partnership (GWP) of Arizona for the Upper Gila Watershed Riparian Restoration Project along with monies generated from Grants co-written by The Bureau of Land Management and the Eastern Arizona College will benefit EAC’s biology department by providing funding for a new greenhouse to be built on the College’s Discovery Park Campus (DPC).

“The Discovery Park Campus Greenhouse Project is an unprecedented cooperative agreement between EAC, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Gila Watershed Project, the Blake Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation,” said DPC director, Paul Anger.

The grant calls, in part, for the construction of an approximately 3,000 square foot greenhouse on the EAC Discovery Park Campus that will be used to propagate native plants that will later be used for riparian restoration along the Gila River reach near Safford and habitat revitalization efforts in the San Simon River Valley.

“For the past two years we have been fortunate to have Dr. Jony Cockman, BLM Safford Field Office, working with us to provide curriculum related riparian and habitat restoration projects here in SE Arizona, thus allowing for hands-on real world educational opportunities for our Bio 295 students”, says Dave Henson, EAC Biology instructor. “We are very excited to partner with BLM and the GWP on the Greenhouse Project.”

The greenhouse will also be utilized jointly by the cooperating agencies for a variety of uses including:

• Introduction of alternative course work for BIO 295 Undergraduate Biological Research, and BIO 226 Ecology.

• Reinstatement of previously offered Agriculture courses.

• Support for other EAC Biology Department projects including the Chiricahua Leopard Frog Ranarium, and the Howards Well Site Rehabilitation.

• Environmental (Native Vegetation) and propagation lessons for youth/school fields trips.

• Community education in plant propagation and possible “community garden” endeavors.

• Activities for youth science camp events.

• Native plant propagation for federal and private land reclamation/restoration projects throughout Eastern Arizona.

The 1.2 million dollar grant, funded primarily by the Walton Family Foundation, will be used to address the invasive plant population, particularly tamarisk, in the riparian areas of the Upper Gila River and its tributaries. Tamarisk increases fire risk, has a negative effect on river hydrology, and can contribute to the salinity of soil and water in the river and watershed.

Eradication of this invasive plant is critically important because of the high potential of the tamarisk leaf beetle entering into the watershed and causing complete defoliation as has occurred in other watersheds.

In addition to housing the new greenhouse, EAC has committed to provide for its oversight, maintenance, repair, insurance coverage, and utilities. The Greenhouse project will offer employment and work/study opportunities for local youth and EAC students to run the day-to-day operations of the greenhouse and adjacent shade houses (where larger plants are placed outside of the greenhouse environment to safely acclimate to local weather), and plantation fields (where the young plants are placed while awaiting a final planting site).

The greenhouse will also provide students and work/study employees the opportunity to network and experience real-world lessons on natural resource management and develop skills in the business and management aspects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics related endeavors.

Greenhouse construction will be performed through local youth employment opportunities and EAC’s student work/study program, alongside a full time “Plant Propagation Manager” and community volunteers.

Construction of the greenhouse is expected to be completed in May of this year.

For more information about the grant, or to volunteer for the project, contact Anger at or by phone at 928-428-6260.