Collection of moss and other “secondary forest products” from the forests of Washington and Oregon is a growing industry for the horticultural trade. Recent studies have shown collecting mosses from branches and trunks of trees in the wild – particularly in old-growth forests – is NOT sustainable – yet collecting continues on an illegal basis. There is a need to develop ways to grow mosses under non-forest conditions, i.e., to “farm” them in order to reduce pressure on natural habitats.
Working with plants can be beneficial for incarcerated persons. Exposure to growing plants can be therapeutic, and the skills learned in growing plants can be applied to earn money once prisoners are released. To date, no prison has a program to grow moss. However, mosses lend themselves well to the prison environment because their small stature requires the use of no sharp implements and they are extremely hardy.
We have initiated an innovative moss-growing project at Cedar Creek Correctional Institution, Little Rock, WA. Our three objectives are: Investigate optimal ways to grow mosses for the horticultural trade by developing techniques of growing mosses and measuring their growth rates. Develop value-added products (e.g., small “moss gardens”) that prisoners can create that could build vocational skills once they return to the outside world. Communicate our results to the ecological community so that our experimental farming efforts might lead to reduced pressure on natural habitats.
Lecture Series for the CCCF Prisoners – “Sustainable Living, Sustainable Lives” – 8/04
Olympian Article – “Study mixes moss, inmates” – 10/31/04
New York Times Article – “Moss Hunters Roll Away Nature’s Carpet, and Some Ecologists Worry” – 11/30/04
Poster presented at The 4th Annual Sustainable Living Synergy Conference – “Sustainable Living at Cedar Creek Corrections Center”, Olympia, WA – 2/05
Vegetarian Times article – “Who Walks the Walk, Who’s Nothing but Talk”, 3/05
Conservation In Practice article – “Moss Conservation Behind Bars”, 8/05
The Seattle Times – “Inmates cultivate moss – and new interests in life”, 10/24/05
Cultivating Moss No Snap – NPR Audio Clip – 1/18/06 (.mp3 file)
Cultivating Moss No Snap complete script from Oregon Public Broadcasting
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Ecological Society of America – The Moss-in-Prisons project: disseminating science beyond academia., 10/06
Eureka Alert – News Release – “Huge market for forest moss raises concern” – 8/3/04
“An Assessment of Commercial “Moss” Harvesting from Forested Lands in the Pacific Northwestern and Appalachian Regions of the United States: How Much Moss is Harvested and Sold Domestically and Internationally and Which Species are Involved” by Pat Muir – 2004
Nalini M. Nadkarni
The Evergreen State College Olympia, WA 98505