The Magpie Forest Ecological Reserve is a 14 acre remnant of endangered Palouse Prairie vegetation that has not been plowed, burned, or grazed by cattle for many decades. Mapgie Forest was purchased in celebration of Earth Day, 2005, by Washington State University to assure that the land would not be destroyed by encroaching urban development.
Mapgie Forest has long been valued by local conservation groups and researchers for the rich biological diversity of its native plants, but the explosive growth of housing in Pullman caused many to worry that the land would soon be divided up for housing developments.
Washington State University purchased Magpie Forest, located on the edge of the city of Pullman, as a nearby outdoor environmental science laboratory for use by faculty and students, and to be part of a larger university package of native prairie habitat protection.
Native Palouse Prairie is one of the most endangered grassland ecosystems in the U.S. and this small patch of forest, shrubs, and grassland is a valuable resource for ecologists and scientists working in plant and restoration ecology. Over 160 species of plants, birds, and other animals live in or use Magpie Forest, so the land is important to WSU and University of Idaho researchers as a long-term ecological study site.
[John Clark (right), Ph.D. graduate student in the School of Biological Sciences, takes a class in plant systematics on a field tour of Magpie Forest.]
This remnant patch of Palouse Prairie, along with others, including the Kramer Prairie Ecological Reserve, is managed by the Steffen Center of the Department of Natural Resource Sciences, and is available for scientific research and educational uses.
Community Conservation Efforts
Washington State University is collaborating with the local community to develop a long-term plan for the conservation and public use of Magpie Forest. WSU is working closely with the Pullman Civic Trust, Pullman Chamber of Commerce, Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute (PCEI), Palouse Prairie Foundation, the City of Pullman, and Whitman County to develop future management plans.
WSU is partnering with the PCEI on initial management activities, which include placement of trail and interpretive signs to guide public use and the design of a long-term restoration plan that includes additional farmed acreage surrounding the forest.
Paint Ballers and Rare Plants
Magpie Forest has a long history of use by the local community, which in recent years, has included paintballers using the forest for mock combat and leaving battle sites and debris behind them. Unknowingly, paintballers and other users are trampling native plants, several of them rare in Washington, opening the soil to invasive plants, or even setting bonfires that endanger this natural area through catastrophic fire.
One of the biggest challenges facing the immediate future of the Magpie Forest Ecological Reserve is to make a broader public aware that paintballing, camp fires, wood cutting, and similar uses are no longer allowed now that the area has been purchased to become a nature preserve for educational and public use and a university research site.
[Glacier Lily blooming in early spring in Magpie Forest.]
However, with the greater involvement of the entire community in protecting Magpie Forest as an urban nature preserve, the area’s unique biological features can be better conserved for enjoyment by everyone.
Adopt a Forest — Help Conserve Magpie Forest
If you or your group would like to help WSU conserve Magpie Forest by becoming a community conservation partner and assisting us with cleanup and other field activities, please contact us. We are in need of volunteers, or volunteer groups, who would be willing to undertake periodic patrols of Magpie Forest and help pick up litter to restore a clean trail system.
We are also looking for someone who is experienced with woodworking who could help us make up trail and information signs and markers for Magpie Forest.
Contributions and Needed Funds
A few people have kindly offered us contributions to help save Magpie Forest. Contributions for Magpie Forest conservation and management will be used to provide the materials for wooden boundary signs, trails, benches, educational markers, public brochures, and similar materials. All labor is being donated or contributed by volunteers, students, and faculty, so 100% of all donations to conserve Magpie Forest go directly to support the material expenses of protecting the forest itself.
For More Information, Please Contact:
E. H. Steffen Ecology Center
Dr. Rod Sayler; r d s a y l e r @ w s u . e d u.