January 18, 2017

PUTTING DOWN ROOTS AT HYATT RESERVE

Energetic groups of adults and kids spread out across the City of Boise’s Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve in early December in search of the fuzzy dry flower heads of rabbitbrush plants. The once-bright yellow flowers had turned a faded beige and harbored thousands of tiny seeds the volunteers carefully collected in paper sacks. Back at the trailhead, experts with the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, Golden Eagle Audubon Society and Boise River Enhancement Network helped the volunteers plant the seeds in germination trays. The volunteer native plant gardeners then took the trays home to tend until the seeds germinate and the rabbitbrush seedlings are big enough to transplant.

Volunteers collect seeds together. Photo by Art Robertson. 

Volunteers collect seeds together. Photo by Art Robertson. 

All the fun is part of the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve Habitat Enhancement Project, a partnership between the City of Boise and local organizations supported, in part, by funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The goals of the project are to improve the hillside habitat by restoring native plants and provide opportunities for community members of all backgrounds to develop a connection to this unique outdoor space. The seed gathering and plant growing is part of the project’s community plant nursery, a program to have volunteers grow plants well adapted to local conditions and use them for site restoration. The rabbitbrush grown from seeds collected by these volunteers will be ready to plant at the reserve in about one year.    

Sean Finn of the Golden Eagle Audubon Society helps coordinate the community plant nursery. Sean explains, “The plants grown from local seed will be well-adapted to the soil and climate and should thrive at the reserve. Just like the plants, the volunteer gardeners are putting down roots and gaining a long-lasting connection with the wild places in their neighborhood.”

Connecting with Nature is “pretty cool”

The anticipation of returning to plant rabbitbrush they grew themselves was evident as volunteers carried their germination trays carefully to their cars with instructions for care over the winter.  Gathering seeds and growing the plants that will be used to improve bird habitat at the reserve is full of rewards. It’s an activity people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds can enjoy. Teams from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho participated, and one young volunteer described the event as “pretty cool.”

New Americans help with seed planting.

New Americans help with seed planting.

The project is also engaging new residents that have come to Boise from many nations in the community nursery. Involving refugees in conservation helps them build a connection to their new home. Using seeds gathered at the reserve, project leaders helped fifteen new Boise residents from Bhutan prepare two germination trays, one with rabbitbrush and one with sagebrush. The men visited the reserve with project volunteers in October where they saw rabbitbrush and sagebrush and used binoculars to get close-up looks at the birds. Counselor Sally Guaspari said, “Visiting the reserve was a really rewarding experience. Most of the men were farmers by trade in their native Bhutan, so they have a strong appreciation of nature and plants.  Tending to the germination trays connects them to the community and they will be eager to take another trip to the reserve.”

The volunteer native plant gardeners will be back in the spring to transplant the seedlings into growing pots for the summer, and next fall, the new rabbitbrush will be planted at the reserve.

Learn more about the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve project by listening to this piece by Beth Markley for Radio Boise.

 


The project is led by the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, Boise River Enhancement Network, and the City of Boise. Project partners include U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Idaho Office of Refugees by Jannus, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho, Golden Eagle Audubon Society, Intermountain Bird Observatory, Boise State University, The Wetlands Group, Idaho Fish and Game, Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign, and Partners for Clean Water.

Photos by Art Robertson and Lisa Harloe


November 21, 2017

Improved Habitat Ahead for Hyatt Reserve

Local organizations and volunteers are working with the City of Boise to reduce weeds and improve habitat for birds at the City of Boise’s Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve. With support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, Boise River Enhancement Network, City of Boise and other partners have started implementing recommendations of the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve Master Plan that was adopted in 2000. 

Feral cereal rye dominates the hillsides at the reserve.

Feral cereal rye dominates the hillsides at the reserve.

The Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve Habitat Enhancement Project will improve the upland habitat on the hillsides, presently overrun with a number of undesirable species including feral cereal rye, kochia, and tumble mustard. The invasive plants provide poor habitat and pose a fire risk to the reserve and surrounding neighborhoods.

Eric Willadsen, Stewardship Coordinator for the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley said, “Native plants will attract more birds and wildlife, reduce the risk of fire and beautify the reserve. There’s tremendous potential for improvement.”

Firewise Native Plants

Habitat experts look at the disturbed hillsides at the reserve. Photo Land Trust of the Treasure Valley

Habitat experts look at the disturbed hillsides at the reserve. Photo Land Trust of the Treasure Valley

Project partners assembled a team of habitat experts who visited the reserve in September and made site-specific recommendations that Martha Brabec, Boise City Department of Parks and Recreation Open Space Specialist, has incorporated into the draft Hyatt Hidden Lakes Revegetation Proposal.

Over the next eighteen months, some areas in the reserve will be treated with herbicide to kill invasive grasses and planted with drought-tolerant species including sagebrush, sandberg's bluegrass, Canada bluegrass and sheep fescue. The uplands on the western edge of the reserve will be planted in a firewise manner with low flammability shrubs such as oakleaf sumac and mockorange and low growing grasses. The transition zone between the wetlands and uplands will be planted with clusters of chokecherry, golden current, rabbitbrush, and sagebrush. 

Open House Features Special Presentation on Birds

124 species of birds have been observed at the reserve. These include finches, wrens, sparrows, woodpeckers, swallows, warblers, hummingbirds, doves, quail, hawks and other species that use the uplands. With the proposed enhancements, nesting, foraging, and cover habitat for the upland birds will be greatly improved. Native plants support populations of insects and critical pollinators too.

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Native plants support healthy populations of insects and pollinators. Photos by Ken Miracle.

Native plants support healthy populations of insects and pollinators. Photos by Ken Miracle.

Heidi Ware of the Intermountain Bird Observatory will make a special presentation on the “Hillside Birds of the Hyatt Reserve and the Plants They Love” on Thursday, November 30 as part of the Hyatt Reserve Open House. Information about the project and the draft Hyatt Hidden Lakes Revegetation Proposal will be provided and public comments will be accepted. The Open House is from 5:30 – 7:30 pm at the Boise WaterShed, 11818 W Joplin Rd, Boise, and presentations start at 6:00. 

Native basin big sagebrush flourishes on the south hillside. Photo by Ken Miracle.

Native basin big sagebrush flourishes on the south hillside. Photo by Ken Miracle.


 

New Partnership Improves Wildlife Habitat and Enriches Lives

October 26, 2017

Nestled in a residential and commercial area in West Boise is a hidden gem of nature, Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve. The series of ponds, wetlands and hillsides blend together to create a unique pocket of wildlife habitat in the center of urban Treasure Valley. The reserve, managed by the City of Boise City Parks and Recreation and Public Works Departments, is guided by a 17-year-old community-generated Master Plan. Visitors can enjoy nature trails with benches and interpretive signs. There are restrooms and two parking areas. Community members and people from near and far use the reserve year-round, attracted by the rich birdlife, the wide paths and the outstanding scenery.

A new partnership has come together with the intention of building on the past success of the reserve to improve the habitat and introduce new visitors to the site.  With support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, and more than a dozen community partners, the 18-month ‘Multi-Cultural Habitat Enhancement Project’ (project) is an innovative initiative that’s already generating enthusiasm.

Bird-friendly, fire-resistant vegetation will replace the weeds on hillsides at this popular walking and birding destination and the partnership will provide new residents from many nations the opportunity to visit the urban reserve and participate in habitat stewardship activities. The goal is for community members of all backgrounds to develop a connection to this unique outdoor space.

“One of the great things about living in the Treasure Valley is enjoying nature close to home,” said Tim Breuer, Project manager and Executive Director of the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley. “This new initiative is meant to improve habitat and introduce new residents to these special places.”

On October 17, 2017 the group hosted a field trip to the reserve for 40 students from the English Learning Center (ELC), a skill development center for recently-arrived adult refugees.

ELC instructor Steve Rainey said, “Connecting with nature is healing, and a group trip is a great way to discover this public park. Now the students can go to the reserve with their families and, if they want, there’ll be opportunities for them to work side-by-side with other volunteers to take care of this welcoming place.”

Volunteers from many organizations have already started removing debris and removing weeds to prepare the reserve for plantings next year. City of Boise Open Space Restoration Specialist Martha Brabec is drafting the Hyatt Habitat Enhancement Plan with help from volunteer habitat experts. The plan will describe the short-term strategy to improve habitat and reduce fire risk. Meanwhile, the long-term strategy will focus on continued improvements and stewardship once the initial 18-month project is finished. The City of Boise actively encourages community stewardship of its reserves and seeks to expand and diversify its capacity. Boise is a welcoming city that encourages community engagement and this project is no exception.

“Public volunteers play a key role in wildlife habitat conservation in urban areas and being a conservation volunteer enriches their lives,” said Project partner Ally Turner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, “This exciting project will introduce newly arrived residents to the Reserve and to the rewarding experience of working with others to protect the places we love.”