Oregon spotted frogWho ought to be better at raising endangered Oregon spotted frogs in captivity? Zookeepers or felons?

I love nothing more than a newspaper story that contains a fact so surprising that it delights me all day. And here’s a great one from today’s Seattle Times, about a pair of inmates serving time for robbery and drunken driving who now hold prison jobs rearing endangered amphibians:

Since the project started, only eight of their frogs have died—a figure significantly lower than at Woodland Park Zoo, the Oregon Zoo and Northwest Trek, which are also part of the project to rear the Oregon spotted frog in captivity.

Marc P. Hayes, the Department of Fish and Wildlife senior research scientist leading the effort, said that he had doubted the success of the project behind bars. But his concerns vanished after he saw how much time Greer and Delp could devote to the project.

“They have the time to address care on a level that is not possible with those other institutions,” Hayes said. “They baby those things literally night and day.

It turns out that people with little else to do all day than lavish attention on their tadpoles—changing water every two hours and slipping their charges an extra cricket or two—raise very happy frogs. And it beats handing out basketballs at the prison gym.

As one might expect from a prison near the Evergreen State College, the Cedar Creek Corrections Center also keeps inmates busy with organic gardening and beekeeping. And as a recent KUOW story points out, other institutions in WA’s Sustainable Prisons Project are teaching meth manufacturers to grow native plants and drug dealers to raise composting worms.

It’s that much more proof that no stone should go unturned to find easy, low-cost sustainability measures—and that the benefits far outstretch our conventional understanding of “going green.” It means jobs, rehabilitation, stronger communities, economic development. And, if they’re as successful as the frog project, maybe we should all worry about keeping our day jobs.

Check out the rest of the Northwest’s top 10 sustainability headlines at Sightline Daily, or get the news delivered via email each morning by clicking here. All of today’s news can be found here.

Frog photo courtesy of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.