Turning a Dump into Bird Habitat

Photograph by Kurt Fesenmyer

Turning a Dump into Bird Habitat

A team of Idaho landowners, law enforcement officials, and conservationists transforms a derelict IBA.

By Matthew Ismael Ruiz
Published: January-February 2013

There's a running joke in boise, says Sean Finn, conservation committee chair of the Golden Eagle Audubon Society: Someone would ask, "You know about Blacks Creek?" and another would reply, "Yeah, you looking for a refrigerator?"

Just minutes from Idaho's urban capital, Blacks Creek Reservoir has long been popular with young partygoers, target shooters, off-roaders, and polluters shedding broken appliances. But the 620-acre site is also a rare desert oasis of water and mudflats surrounded by sagebrush, and a valuable migration stopover. Designated an Important Bird Area in 1995, Blacks Creek provides habitat for more than 150 species, including spotted sandpipers and American avocets.

In recent years, however, the reservoir has looked more like a dump than an IBA. "Twice a year we would do a big cleanup with Audubon," says Tim Breuer, executive director of the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley. After doing this a few times, he says, "you see the crap that's out there--you kind of lose heart."

But rather than give up, the community bound together. Using two Toyota
TogetherGreen grants, a 12-member partnership led by the Golden Eagle Audubon Society and the Land Trust created a master plan to restore and protect the reservoir. Workers gated off important borders to deter unwanted traffic, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Idaho Fish and Game Department, and the county sheriff have committed to patrolling the site. This past September the area was reborn as the Blacks Creek Bird Reserve, and it will soon boast new parking areas for hikers and nature trails designed to invite the right kind of thrill seekers.

This story originally ran in the January-February 2013 issue as "Flyway Makeover."

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