Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Plantings Benefit Sage Grouse and Waterfowl

In 2001, The Nature Conservancy acquired 2600 private acres that became the Crooked Creek Preserve, located near Dubois. This acquisition was made possible through an individual donation to the Conservancy and included more than 67,000 acres of federal and state grazing allotments.

The ranch has a high sage grouse population and one of the goals of the project is to demonstrate effective habitat management for sage grouse and other wildlife.

The Conservancy and the North American Grouse Partnership (NAGP) jointly applied for cost-share grants to improve stream side and wetland habitat along Crooked Creek. These grants came from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Governor’s Office of Species Conservation, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s Habitat Improvement Program. With the help of these grants, we expanded a small irrigation pond into a multi-purpose reservoir that provides both irrigation water and wetlands for wildlife.

This summer the Conservancy’s Alan Sands contacted Intermountain Aquatics, a habitat restoration company, about improving riparian and wetland vegetation on Crooked Creek. In July, work began to plant a diverse mix of woody vegetation along 1000 feet of Crooked Creek. Several species of willow, Wood’s rose, chokecherry, black hawthorn, and golden currant were planted along the creek. Bull rush, willows, and other wetland plants were planted on the waterfowl nesting island in the reservoir.

The plants were in 1, 2.5, and 5 gallon containers depending on the species that came from two different greenhouses. The species were selected based on research into species located along the same creek further upstream from the planting site. The plants were planted in clumps or spaced out according to the natural growth of the species in order to make the restoration site look as natural as possible in the future.

This is just the first step and we hope to be able to expand this work in the future. --Dava McCann, East Idaho land steward and Alan Sands, ecologist

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