Replanting project focuses on wildlife habitat

Concerns about problems with erosion caused by last summer's Sutro hills fire,are weighed against the costs of creating wildlife habitat as officials replant the area.

Helicopters drop the seeds of a variety of wild grasses in hopes that those grasses will germinate and take hold in the soil within the next couple of years.

But wildlife officials have plans to do more in coming months and years to try to rebuild a habitat of dense foliage that was all but lost when fire flattened 1,500 acres and displaced thousands of birds.

Washoe Lake State Park Supervisor Hank Eilers said he has to rebuild about 300 acres on a shoestring budget.

"As it is, our agency is not budgeted to do anything but routine maintenance," he said. "If a pipe breaks it's a major catastrophe for us. If I request money for rebuilding the park now, it will be a year and a half before the request is processed."

The situation has driven Eilers and his staff of two to rely heavily on volunteers who have an interest in the park. Recently some schoolchildren came to the park to clean debris exposed after the fire and a troop of Boy Scouts helped rebuild a bridge.

"This is how things get done around here nowadays," he said. In addition to the bridge and cleanup duties, volunteers have also come together to plant twelve new aspen trees.

The fire was also a blessing in disguise, Eilers said. He contends that fires serve to cleanse an area, giving it an opportunity to rejuvenate. Park officials will use the opportunity to open up trails and roadways to walkers and bird watchers.

Retired geologist Jim Eidel has an interest in seeing the area successfully replanted. As an active bird enthusiast, he has brought hundreds of people to the area to observe the wildlife.

"I was sort of sorry that they didn't ask for volunteers to find native seed for the area," he said, referring to Wednesday's Bureau of Land Management replanting project. "Frankly, I would like to see some shrubs planted up there."

Eidel is concerned about the destruction of riparian (stream and river shoreline) habitat and what that will do to bird populations in coming months.

McGill vrays, blue-gray gnat catchers, spotted towhees and Lazuli bunting are some of the dislocated birds.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment