Members of the Eastern community and representatives from local tribes joined EWU President Mary Cullinan on Wednesday to launch a major sustainability initiative that will restore one-third of EWU-owned land to its native habitat.
The Cheney campus spans some 300 acres, more than 100 acres of which is farmland to the west of campus. The Prairie Restoration Project looks to restore that land to its original “Palouse” condition.
The goal, officials say, is to create a “living laboratory” for research, provide hands-on learning experiences for students and to engage the local community through recreational activities such as walking, hiking and biking.
“This project is the perfect example of the kind of work that we do at this university,” Cullinan told a crowd gathered at the Prairie Restoration Project site. “We do research that is applied. We work to solve problems. And we do things that will give our students a lot of hands-on experience and help our communities in a variety of ways.”
This project is also a partnership with area tribes, Cullinan said. “We respect the fact that it was tribal land that our beautiful university is on.”
Carol Evans, the chairwoman for the Spokane Tribe, joined Cullinan in stressing the importance of connecting with the land and learning from it. “We are going to do something wonderful here together,” Evans said.
The launch event connected the Prairie Restoration Project with another much-anticipated EWU initiative, the Lucy Covington Center. Lucy Covington, a tribal rights activist, fought to end the federal policy of tribal termination and to restore tribal self-governance and self-determination.
In her honor, the Lucy Covington Center will sit on one of the tallest spots on the prairie land.
“The building will be housed right here, overlooking the Palouse prairie,” said Nicole DeVon, Director of Native American Affairs. “In honor of such a great woman.”
The center will house historical documents related to Covington’s work, and will support academic and leadership programs for Native youth.
The next step for the Prairie Restoration Project will be a “pilot” plot of land in partnership with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. In the fall, a team will seed native plants in the plot to show the community what the completed area will eventually look like. For more information and updates on the project, please visit the Prairie Restoration Project website.