Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Bitterbrush planting benefits deer

Fish and Game conducting plantings throughout Magic Valley region

Express Staff Writer

Gene Lee, center-left, plants bitterbrush seedlings Saturday with his three children, Brittany, lower left, Tyler, center, and Zachary, right. The Lees were a part of a volunteer effort to rehabilitate an area that burned in recent years. Photo by David N. Seelig

Wildlife, particularly mule deer, will have an increasingly attractive place to live in the Timmerman Hills in the years to come as thousands of young bitterbrush plants begin to mature.

Why? Because a small army of volunteers organized by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game spent a good portion of their day Saturday planting the bitterbrush seedlings along a stretch of rolling desert hills that burned sometime in the past several years.

The site of the bitterbrush planting project March 31 is just south of the U.S. 20 intersection on state Highway 75, and east on Spud Patch Road, in southern Blaine County.

Ed Papenberg, an AmeriCorp member serving as a volunteer coordinator with Fish and Game, was in charge of the early morning operation. Altogether, some 6,800 bitterbrush seedlings were planted by 50 volunteers and additional Fish and Game personnel, Papenberg said.

"It went well. We had a good day for it," he said.

Additional bitterbrush planting sessions are taking place on two separate Saturdays in the weeks to come, Papenberg said. The Fish and Game already has about 120 volunteers for those days, but would welcome additional volunteers.

"I wouldn't turn away individuals," Papenberg said.

The Fish and Game is also conducting a number of bitterbrush planting sessions during the coming weeks with high school students as volunteers, he said. The sites for those sessions include Preacher Bridge area northeast of Richfield on U.S. 93 and a site somewhere in Cassia County.

The seedlings for all of the planting sessions were purchased by the Fish and Game from various seed sources, Papenberg said.

Bitterbrush plants are a particularly important food source for mule deer during late winter and early spring. The Fish and Game is conducting the bitterbrush plantings as part of its ongoing statewide Mule Deer Initiative, Papenberg said.

Remaining dates and locations for additional Fish and Game bitterbrush plantings where volunteers are welcome include:

· Saturday, April 7, at Indian Springs, south of Kimberly.

· Saturday, April 14, also at Indian Springs.

For additional information or to volunteer, call Ed Papenberg at the Fish and Game's Magic Valley regional office at (208) 324-4359.

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