Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Washington State University

Native Plant Salvage Project

Program Contact: Erica Guttman, Senior Extension Coordinator & Educator
(360) 867-2164 •

header copy

The Native Plant Salvage Project began in 1994 with the mission to promote the use, preservation, knowledge, and appreciation of native plants in the landscape through action and education.

Our projects work to preserve existing vegetation, restore vegetation and re-create habitat. One of our main goals is to conserve and protect water resources. We teach citizens how to create more layered and diverse landscapes using native and other drought-tolerant plants. Landscaping in this way eliminates the need for chemical pesticides and fertilizers; avoids supplemental irrigation once plants are established; reduces some of the problems of storm-water runoff; and increases the amount of rainwater that soaks into the soil to recharge groundwater aquifers.

In 2000, Native Plant Salvage Foundation was founded as a 501(c)(3) organization to help raise funds for the work of the Native Plant Salvage Project, which is entirely supported by local contributions, grants and contract work.

There are numerous opportunities to get involved! Find information on out organization, workshops, volunteer opportunities, and learning resources at our website:


Native Plant Salvage people banner



Action Projects

Working with over 200 volunteers each year, the Project salvages native plants from land that is scheduled for clearing due to development.  Plants are cared for and later provided to community groups who use them to restore habitat and improve water quality.

The Project also coordinates the installation of demonstration projects and learning landscapes on public and private sites and school grounds.  These sites directly display the beauty and effectiveness of diverse native plantings in intercepting storm-water and recharging groundwater.  The sites also serve as learning centers for conducting educational workshops.


Throughout the year, the Project offers workshops, lectures, and field courses to teach residents how to identify, responsibly obtain, and successfully use native plants in their own landscapes to protect water resources, improve wildlife habitat, and reduce landscape maintenance costs and effort.

We also offer workshops, both lecture and field based, to help shoreline residents better understand the natural processes that affect their marine shores, and steps they can take to better protect both their property and Puget Sound. The workshops are led by experts in coastal geology, shoreline vegetation, and Puget Sound ecology.

An important component of our education addresses Low Impact Development . LID techniques look to nature for managing storm-water, conserving water, and keeping pollution out of our waterways. Some LID strategies include:

  • Save native soils, forests, and prairies by grading and clearing as little as possible.
  • Build rain gardens that manage storm-water on site.
  • Capture rainwater to re-use around your yard.
  • Build pervious driveways, walkways, and patios that allow storm-water to absorb into the ground instead of running off.
  • Minimize the use of yard chemicals to protect groundwater and surface waterways. Install a green roof that absorbs storm-water and slows down the run off

The Project also produces educational materials, including regular news articles and the popular guides Grow Your Own Native Landscape and Winter in the Woods

Native Plant Salvages

Our volunteers salvage small native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants from local areas that are scheduled for clearing due to development.  Salvages usually happen in the cold winter months when the plants are dormant and less likely to perish from the stress of being moved around.

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 Learning Landscapes, Demonstration Gardens and habitat restoration projects in and around Thurston County.

Salvages begin at 9:30 a.m. at the site. We usually finish salvaging around noon and a hot vegetarian lunch is provided. Afterwards, we move to our holding beds to pot the recovered plants around 1 p.m. Some volunteers choose to work all day, while other join us for the afternoon re-potting session (see Potting of Recovered Plants below for more information).

Potting of Recovered Plants

Once plants have been salvaged, we transport them to our holding-beds facility, which is our plant nursery; we are grateful to the Washington State Department of Transportation for sharing this space with us.  At the holding beds, volunteers put the plants into pots and organize them into the holding beds for later distribution.  With proper care, the salvaged plants can survive healthily in a holding facility for over a year.

Work at the holding beds usually begins around 1 p.m. and continues until around 3:30 p.m. During this time, volunteers continue to help themselves to hot soup and other snacks as necessary to keep themselves fueled for the work at hand!

Holding Beds Maintenance

To keep things running smoothly, our holding beds must be kept in tip-top order.  Holding Beds Volunteers are needed for on-going routine maintenance throughout the year. We work to clean excess dirt and muck from the holding beds, weed and organize already potted plants, and clear the walkways of grass and dirt. As this is a large and time consuming task, the more help we can get, the better! This is especially important in the summer, so we can prevent weeds from invading the pots.

If you’d like to be part of a special group that maintains the holding beds during the year at the times that suit your schedule, please let us know.