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Boise River Update

This year marked some really exciting advances for our Boise River Project, with big strides forward for the site development, outreach, and research aspects of the project, including plans for a capital campaign!

View of Boise River Property. photo by Ken Miracle

photo by Ken Miracle

Development

IBO has worked over the past 5 years to secure more than 20 acres of property along the Boise River along Warm Springs Avenue in southeast Boise.  First, in 2012, Boise State worked closely with Idaho Transportation Department to secure management of a parcel of river bottom at the Highway 21 bridge site.  A few years later, the university purchased an adjoining parcel of riverfront using annual interest accrued on IBO’s Diane and Winston Moore Family Endowment.  The power of this lasting gift continues to benefit IBO in the most significant ways!

A Master Plan

We have used the property over the past few years to develop an outreach and education program headed by our Education Director, Heidi Ware.  Recently we have created a conceptual master plan for this area to enhance its natural features and to develop infrastructure that will aid in our outreach activities in the future.  

Boise River Site Master PlanThe plan includes restoring a natural side channel of the river to improve fish and wildlife habitat, developing an interpretive trail system, spanning wetlands with raised boardwalks to protect critical habitat, constructing wildlife viewing blinds, restoring upland habitats, and creating pollinator gardens on the properties.

We have identified multiple funding opportunities and have submitted applications to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers for restoration of the side channel and other habitat improvements.  We have also submitted an application to Boise City under their Open Space and Clean Water Partnership Program for development of interpretive trails and boardwalks.  

Planning for the Future

We plan to initiate a fundraising campaign working closely with the Boise State development team to create a programing endowment of $1.5 M that would support our educational efforts at the site in perpetuity.  

We will need your help to do all of this!

draft plan for sue howell park

A City Park

A new and exciting twist which has surfaced recently are plans to develop a Boise City park on the adjoining property located along Warm Springs Avenue.  Aaron Howell, a private individual, has purchased this property and plans to develop the park and donate it to the city, naming it after his wife Sue.   The park will have facilities to accommodate exercise as well as provide Greenbelt access, but will also have a science-based theme.  We are very excited to work with Mr. Howell and the city to create a park theme and park amenities that will promote access to and use of IBO’s properties.  

We believe that linking management of a city park and an adjoining natural area will create a valuable and long-lasting legacy for residents of the City of Boise.  We plan to cooperate with Mr. Howell and the city to ensure that the park has features that can be shared with Boise State such as bus accessible parking facilities, covered meeting space that can be used for outreach, and trails joining the two properties.  This new twist has breathed new life into this age-old dream of IBO’s of having a local, accessible, natural property for year-round education and outreach!

Building Partnerships

We are happy about new (and old) partners that have surfaced to lend support for this project, such as the U.S. Army corps of Engineers, Boise City, The Boise River Enhancement Network, Idaho Rivers United, College of Western Idaho, and of course, our long-time partner Golden Eagle Audubon Society.  The Land Group, headed by Dave Koga, generously created the concept plan, and a new friendship with the Boise State Construction Management group will ensure quality and economical construction of new amenities on the property.

education shelter

Thanks to generous sponsors, we were able to purchase a shipping container to serve as an education shelter on the site. Thank you to Golden Eagle Audubon Society, Wild Birds Unlimited of Boise, Madeline George Garden Design and Nursery, Barbara Howard, Anthony Hill, and Matthew, Jennifer, & Derek Miller. We have plans to add a community mural to the walls of our shelter in 2018.

Outreach

child holds a Bewick's Wren

A Bewick’s Wren delights a young future scientist. Photo courtesy of the Martin family

In 2017 we reached more visitors than ever! We hosted seven springtime field trips to watch birds, test Boise River water quality, and study mammals on our array of trail cameras.

Over the summer, we saw more than 300 of you at our MAPS banding sessions.

And this fall we reached more than 600 visitors at our daily autumn migration banding! We held field trips for more than 15 different Treasure Valley schools, hosted limited-mobility visitors (thanks to the easy access the site provides), and Heather organized our first Veterans field trip.

To top off a great fall season, we held our first “benefit for the birds” at the river! Be sure to check out Heather’s update to hear how our Waffles and Warblers event went!

Veteran releases bird. Photo by Mark Owen

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet needs some encouragement to fly off during a Boise Veterans Home field trip. Photo by Mark Owen

Research

Summer

Nik bands a Chat

Technician Nik Kronick bands a Yellow-breasted Chat

2017 marked our 3rd year of breeding season banding on the Boise River. The “Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship” protocol is an important continent-wide monitoring effort that the Institute for Bird Populations coordinates. With both Lucky Peak and the Boise River serving as sites for this project, we acquired some great data about what is happening in our region with breeding birds.

If you’re a birder and want to see a Yellow Warbler in July or August, we can safely promise you that you’ll see them if you visit our Boise River site. We banded hundreds of Yellow Warblers on the river this summer, including some of the fattest Yellow Warblers we’ve ever seen. Normally a Yellow Warbler weighs about 9 grams, but the birds in August were so fat that they weighed in at 13 grams!

Although probably one of the most widespread species in North America, Yellow Warbler populations have been slowly declining across the continent. Monitoring projects like ours are collecting valuable information about their population trends and what habitats they rely on most. The habitat at our Boise River site seems to be ideal to support a very healthy Yellow Warbler population during post-breeding dispersal and migration.

Fall

white-throated sparrows

Two rare White-throated Sparrows banded this fall

2017 was our FIRST EVER fall migration season along the river. Although we didn’t have much money in the bank, we took the chance and hired technicians for a fall migration project. We banded daily (except in bad weather) from September 1st to October 20th. In the end, we collected data on more than 1,000 birds of nearly 30 species that migrated through the Boise River site. This gave us the best picture yet of what happens at the Boise River during migration and what kind of stopover habitat it provides for birds.

It cost us $4,000 to run our station for 2 months in 2017. We have about $1,000 in our budget for 2018 so far, thanks to our Waffles and Warblers event.

Follow this link and support our efforts in 2018 by selecting our Outreach Program in the designation.

Thanks to a grant from the Idaho STEM Action Center we were also able to deploy trail cameras on site. These cameras provided great fodder for student inquiry about mammals, humans, and how they co-exist in the wildland-urban interface on the Boise River. Here are a few of our favorite photos from the site:

raccoon trail camera

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