Wildlife habitat in the Magic Valley is getting a helping hand, and you can be part of that effort.
Idaho Fish and Game and the Bureau of Land Management invite volunteers to join them in planting bitterbrush, sagebrush and willows at a recently burned sites this spring.
This year's efforts will focus on the Big Cottonwood Wildlife Management area, which burned in last summer's Cave Canyon fire, as well as a site near King Hill, which burned in the Blair Trail Fire of 2011. The project is part of the Volunteers for Habitat Restoration program, a cooperative effort to improve upland and riparian wildlife habitat in Southern Idaho.
According to regional wildlife habitat manager Mark Fleming, bitterbrush is a preferred food source where it occurs on mule deer winter range.
"These fires severely impacted habitat for wintering mule deer and other species in our region," Fleming 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 desert shrubs begin to thrive again."
Sagebrush seedlings are a key component of habitat for the greater sage-grouse, a species of concern in Idaho. Willows are important for a variety of game and non-game species alike.
"We 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 investment," said Ed Papenberg, Fish and Game volunteer coordinator. "We're planting seedlings, but we're also building a community which values its natural resources. Besides, it's just plain fun, 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 these sites on the first three Saturdays in April.
Anyone interested in signing up should call Papenberg at 208-324-4359.