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Our DC-Area Restoration

The Earth Sangha operates a volunteer-based restoration program for the greater Washington, DC, region. The program is designed to restore the native plant communities that are essential to the region's ecological health. We help stabilize streams, control invasive alien plants, and restore forests, meadows, and wetlands.  At the heart of the program is our Wild Plant Nursery, the region’s most comprehensive source of native plants propagated from wild seed. Every year, over 600 volunteers help out at the nursery and the restoration sites that the nursery supports.


All of our field work is designed for public participation, as a venue for environmental education. Check out our Field Schedule for upcoming volunteer events.

We also work with a wide range of institutional and corporate partners, including government agencies, companies that provide volunteer opportunities for their employees, landscaping firms, other nonprofits, and schools. Please contact us if you are interested in setting up a volunteer event for your organization.


Since 2004, we have been working in forested parks to remove invasive alien plants and restore the native flora. Our work usually begins by suppressing tree-climbing invasive vines, to help preserve the native canopy. After that, we work on the understory and groundlayer. As far as possible, we try to keep the focus on invasives control, rather than on planting more material into the forest. This allows the forest to regenerate naturally — on its own terms. (Of course there are contexts in which plantings are important; for example, sometimes plantings can help “lock out” invasives.)


Most of the forests that we work with are in riparian areas, that is, along streams. Riparian forests are important habitat for terrestrial plants and animals. They are also important for aquatic life because they help stabilize stream channels and shade the water, keeping it cool.

Our most important non-riparian forest project is our Native Arboretum at the 20-acre Marie Butler Leven Preserve, in the McLean section of Fairfax County. The Native Arboretum is transforming the Preserve into an extensive collection of plants native to the greater Washington, DC, region. For more information, click on Native Arboretum in the menu above.


Meadows are among the most diverse plant communities in our region, but they are also among the most threatened. Meadows are losing out to development, invasive alien plants, and meadow-unfriendly management policies. As more and more meadows are lost, the plant and animal species that depend on these communities are becoming less and less common.


In 2010, we began working on meadow restoration projects in three Fairfax County parks and at the BLM’s Meadowood Recreation Area, on Fairfax County's Mason Neck Peninsula. Since then, we have worked on meadow sites in the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, in Prince William County; at Fort DuPont Park in Washington DC; and at the Marie Butler Leven Preserve in Fairfax County. Our meadow program has thus far reached 10 meadow sites, amounting to about 43.5 acres.


Because meadow restoration is intensive and complicated, we are continually reassessing our effort, to make it as effective as possible. Our current plans call for: an increase in meadow species propagation at our Wild Plant Nursery, a reduction in the number of meadow sites where Sangha staff is working directly, and an increase in attention to high-priority sites. 


Stream Buffers

Since 2002, we have been working to restore stream buffers, the riparian (stream-bank) areas that help reduce erosion of stream channels, absorb and filter stormwater runoff, and cool the water in our streams. Healthy riparian areas are important habitat in their own right; they also reduce nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.


Our riparian restoration work has focused on the control of invasive alien vegetation and the replanting of native trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants. We have worked on about 30 such sites so far, nearly all of them on public lands in northern Virginia. Our initial focus was on riparian forest (see the forest note above); in 2013, we expanded our effort to include riparian meadow as well.


In northern Virginia, riparian areas tend to be heavily infested with invasive alien vegetation. (Many invasives wash into these sites by stream.) Consequently, riparian sites tend to require a great deal of maintenance. One of our priorities is to develop more effective maintenance routines for these sites, by working with government agencies and other nonprofits.


Banner: Japanese stiltgrass infests the groundlayer along Thompson Creek at Meadowood Recreation Area. Photo by Chris Bright. 

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