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.