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Greening the Bear River Habitat Trail

by Stephanie Robinson

July 3, 2018

Even if you never visited the Bear River Habitat Trail in years past, you might still be familiar with its former landscape. Like many areas of this state, vast plains of non-native weeds and grasses stretched into the horizon with no trees to shelter wildlife or shade visitors. In partnership with Yuba County, our restoration team recruited hundreds of volunteers to transform this space into a burgeoning wildlife habitat and recreational trail.

Today, you’ll find over 5,000 plants dotting the trail with a broad selection of 63 species of native plants and trees. Although these plants will provide a beautiful recreational trail for visitors, their presence is critical to turn this land into a major habitat corridor for wildlife. And these efforts are already paying off! As a bumblebee drifted past a crowd of volunteers, it prompted a tiny celebration from Restoration Ecologist Zarah Wyly. While this one insect might seem like no big deal to some, it is a good indicator of the return of species diversity to this patch of land. Soon after the bee, a butterfly floated by to say hello.


Zarah took a large role in planning this project, carefully considering the many factors that will help this habitat thrive. She inventoried the existing plants, taking note of which ones can stay for their habitat value and which ones should go. Grindelia, a native plant with sticky yellow flowers, is an important food source for pollinators despite its weedy appearance. That one definitely stays!

Even the rice straw we use to mulch these plants was a deliberate choice over other types of mulch. With so many rice paddies surrounding Yuba County, there is an abundance of hay that would otherwise be burned. By making use of a valuable local resource, we greatly reduce the fuel required to transport it to the site.


Even though most of the plants are in the ground, the work is still far from over. In order to survive, these plants need care for the first few years of their lives. Irrigation, weed management, and mulching are some of the ongoing tasks for our restoration team. And since we always look to involve the community in these projects, we have ongoing workdays every third Saturday this summer where you can help us ensure the health of this space.

Want to be part of the team that made this project possible? Join us for one of these workdays!

Zarah, Kevin, Elke, Loren, and Mariah would love to see you there.