Outdoors Blog

Schoolkids play big role in Table Rock rehab; new plants could last for a century

Why bitterbrush, sagebrush are plants of choice for Table Rock rehab

Volunteers are helping Boise Parks and Recreation plant bitterbrush and sagebrush in the area burned by the Table Rock fire.
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Volunteers are helping Boise Parks and Recreation plant bitterbrush and sagebrush in the area burned by the Table Rock fire.

When we woke up to news in June that the Table Rock Fire had charred much of the Boise Foothills near our home, my 8-year-old son’s first thoughts were of the deer and coyotes that wander past our back yard on a daily basis.

Where will they go? What will they eat?

I assured him that the city of Boise and Idaho Fish and Game would rehabilitate the area to take care of the animals — and that when the opportunity was there, we’d help out.

So on Thursday morning, a day off in the Boise School District, we spent four hours planting sagebrush along the Tram Trail below Table Rock.

“This is going to be fun, exciting and good for the environment,” Oliver said as we hiked up a hill carrying a shovel, trowel, bucket of water and bucket of plants.

Much to my surprise, schoolkids were the majority on the city’s project — with large groups from South Junior High and Capital High contributing, as well as several parent/kid teams like us.

School groups, in fact, already have played a large role in what will be a multi-year rehab effort to restore the landmark section of the Foothills. Other schools that have pitched in include Riverstone, Borah High and Adams Elementary.

Of the 2,500 acres burned, 135 were on city property. More than 200 volunteers have participated in rehab efforts so far.

“We’ve had a huge conglomerate of schools reach out wanting to get their kids out here,” said Martha Brabec, Foothills restoration specialist for Boise Parks and Recreation. “And that’s really a critical component of the program we’re trying to have right now. We want to engage the community. This landscape is really iconic to Boise. It burned outside their back door. Having students out here provides a really nice learning experience for kids about fire ecology as well as post-fire rehabilitation.”

Thursday was the second of three volunteer opportunities for the community in a week span. Each opportunity filled up in advance.

Another nine events have been scheduled for groups that wanted to help.

Among the goals is to add a total of 3,000 sagebrush and bitterbrush plants to the landscape to regain some of the winter food for deer, elk and other wildlife that was lost in the fire. The hope is that at least half of the plants survive — the first winter and first dry summer are major challenges — and re-seed the area.

“We’re hoping that these plants will be here for the next 50 to 150 years,” Brabec said. “We’re hoping that the volunteers that came out today will be able to walk these trails and see the plants that they planted and perhaps their children can come out in future years and see the plants they planted as well.”

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