In 2003, Jeff Klausmann and Katie Salsbury started Native Sod Solutions (NSS) in Driggs, ID. The company grew out of a passion to mitigate for wetland functional losses across a rapidly developing western landscape. Losses were no more apparent than along the Snake River near Jackson, Wyoming where development pressures on aquatic systems were intense.
When Jeff arrived in Jackson in the early 1990s residential pond development and gravel mining were quickly altering natural wetland and riparian landscapes. Working as an environmental consultant Jeff noticed a familiar pattern in constructed wetlands. Despite suitable hydrologic and soil conditions wetland plants were largely absent even after decades following construction. Without wetland vegetation for food and cover these habitats supported little wildlife. Under the best-case scenario some sites supported pockets of weedy invasives like cattail but not the characteristic wet-meadow sedge vegetation associated with natural wetlands. This condition was most apparent in floodplain gravel pits where mining activities inadvertently resulted in wetland creation by intercepting high groundwater tables. "My thought was that if we could get the plants back we could get the wildlife back."
Jeff left Jackson in 1996 and took the problem to Montana State University where he earned a M.S. degree in Land Rehabilitation, his thesis work focused on wetland revegetation. Jeff's graduate research identified wetland plant establishment as the crux of the problem. Many wetland plants, particularly sedges require strict conditions for reliable seed germination. These conditions are so specific that they are unlikely to occur naturally on wetland restoration sites.
Seeding these species resulted time and again in complete failure. Wild or nursery propagated transplants performed better but erosive forces, frost, wildlife and weed pressure often limited revegetation success on many sites.
"I had seen at a conference how the Germans were successfully using pre-vegetated coir to revegetate challenging wetland sites in Europe - and the seed was planted", Jeff remembers. After returning from that conference he and Dr. Paul Hook immediately applied for and won a Wetland Protection Grant from the EPA and Teton County to test revegetation techniques for native wetland plants. The team contract-grew pre-vegetated coir and tested it against six other revegetation treatments in a replicated field trial near the Snake River in Jackson, Wyoming. The results were so compelling that Jeff and Katie decided to begin large-scale pre-vegetated coir production and Wetland Sod was born. Since that time NSS has grown thousands of units at their Rexburg, ID facility. Wetland Sod has now been used in six states, across a variety of wetland and riparian sites with amazing results. The company continues to innovate new erosion control and native plant revegetation solutions; they hope to release an upland revegetation product in the near future.