A Salvage Story from 2017

Experience of Erika Whitney: NPSF board member and 2016/17 NPSF Americorps member. Edited by S. Elie

“In 2017 we were blessed to work with a very accommodating developer, who gave us permission to salvage within a particularly diverse site near South Puget Sound Community College.

A relatively wide, flat wooded acre was easily accessible from a highly visible and convenient loading location. Below that acre, the land rose and fell downwards for almost a full half mile.  Ferns, salal, and Oregon grape carpeted the understory, peppered with old hazelnuts, ocean spray, and stands of salmonberry. Massive alder and maple trees arched overhead, filtering the light and providing us some cover from the rainy days.

Volunteers came from far and wide to help out with the salvage, and to take plants home for their private naturescaping and restoration activities:

Olympia High School’s Earth Corps came out and salvaged enormous ferns to restore the shores of a notable pond at their campus.

Graduate students came from the University of Washington to salvage plants that they would use in their capstone restoration projects.

Volunteers from as far as Tacoma and Port Townsend came all the way down just to learn the method to the madness, and the finer points of successful bare-root transplanting.

Everybody pitched in, pulling out valuable plants for our own use in future restoration and educational adventures.

The transformation of both the site, and our holding beds, was astonishing!

Over the course of 4 salvages, about ¼ of the plants salvaged went directly to participants homes and projects, and the other ¾ came back to our nursery.

While volunteers practiced their potting techniques, others were mulching like mad, and still more were hoisting the plants off into the growing wilderness of the nursery plot.  

Plants after plants were sorted, stacked, and squeezed into the small space of our NPSF nursery land, becoming a potted forest standing together, waiting for it’s time to return roots into earth once more.”

Our volunteers salvage small native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants from local areas that are scheduled for clearing due to development. Salvages are a great way to practice plant identification, and to meet some fellow plant nerds.

The plants are cared for and later provided to community groups who use them to restore habitat and improve water quality. Plants are also used to support NPSP sponsored projects such as rain gardens and habitat restoration projects in and around Thurston County.

Volunteers are also welcome to salvage plants for their home landscaping projects!


We aim to grow our community this salvage season: events are all ages and no special skills are required.

Grab a buddy and learn to be a restoration superhero by rescuing native plants from their development fate!

Sign up on our NPSalvages page.