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Volunteers Needed for Planting Project

Wildlife habitat in the Magic Valley is getting a helping hand, and you can be part of that effort.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Bureau of Land Management invite area residents to join them in planting bitterbrush and sagebrush at a recently burned area near King Hill this spring. The project is part of the Volunteers for Habitat Restoration program, a cooperative effort to improve upland and riparian wildlife habitat in Southern Idaho.

Bitterbrush is a preferred food source where it occurs on mule deer winter range, regional wildlife habitat manager Mark Fleming said.

"The Blair Trail Fire near King Hill severely impacted habitat for wintering mule deer in our region," he said. "By planting seedlings, we'll help to jump-start the recovery of this area. Even with intervention, it could take a generation before we see bitterbrush begin to thrive again."

Sagebrush seedlings are a key component of habitat for the greater sage-grouse, a species of concern in Idaho. Shrub seedlings are important for a variety of game and non-game species alike.

The agencies feel that volunteers are a key component in their efforts to preserve fish and wildlife for future generations.

"When a person works on the landscape, they've made an investment in that landscape, and people tend to protect their investments," Fish and Game volunteer coordinator Ed Papenberg said. "We're planting seedlings, but we're also building a community which values its natural resources."

"Besides, it's just plain fun," he said. "You get to spend time in open country and meet people."

Each planting effort is an all-day affair, including driving time, and participants need to prepare for any weather. Planting will take place at various sites near King Hill on the first three Saturdays in April.

Anyone interested in signing up should call Idaho Fish and Game at 324-4359 and speak to Ed Papenberg.