Curlew National Grassland Restoration Project

After nine years of highway reengineering, conservation planning, archeological protection, nonprofit partnerships, and extensive research, the beautiful seed of wetland restoration was planted this week at the Curlew National Grassland in southern Idaho! What exactly does this mean? It means, 3,400 perfect graminoid starts were planted along one mile of Rock Creek to establish a strong streambank stocked with native plant species. With the proposed reconstruction of highway ID-38 back in 2010, the Caribou-Targhee National Forest hydrologist, forest botanist, Rose Lehman, and many other partnered to establish a strategy that ensured the structural integrity of this location in the Curlew (see photo below). This meant a variety of regulations and compromises such as: upsizing culverts, avoiding stream meanders and/or natural springs, and Native American lands.

The red pin indicates the graminoid planting at the
Curlew National Grassland, ID.

Two Idaho native graminoids were chosen for streambank stabilization: Nebraska sedge (Carex nebrascensis) and Baltic rush (Baltic balticus). The planting took a total of two days. Co-intern, Olivia Turner, five volunteers from the Sagebrush-Steppe Landtrust in Pocatello, ID, two hydrologists, and myself gathered together for the second day of the project. Buckets filled with plant starts and shovels in hand, we successfully spread out along the parameter of the stream. Each 2-person team would simply create holes in the mucky Idaho clay and ease every juvenile into the soil. The ground along the stream is incredibly moist and idealistic for these younger individuals. So ideal that the estimated regenerative success rate is 90% for this particular project area! That would promote roughly 3,060 individuals to take root and thrive!

Nebraska sedge (Carex nebrascensis) left and Baltic rush (Baltic balticus) right.
The perfect Nebraska sedge (Carex nebrascensis) finding a new home along Rock Creek.

The project was a complete success. The day was filled with affirmation for the future of this particular site. It was a wonderful experience to step aside from SOS and terrestrial botany for a moment and participate in wetland restoration. The future of this project paints the picture of a lush wetland habitat filled with native sedges and rushes, a running stream, moose in the willows, and the pink flowers of mallow blooming.

Olivia Turner crouches by Rock Creek while planting.

Sending nettle stings, coyote pawprints, and garter snakes where you all may be!

Claire Parsons

Caribou-Targhee National Forest S.O.

In a field of Wyethia

Exactly a month ago I submitted my first blog post and had been working here in Idaho Falls for a total of three days. Since then, things have picked up at a wonderful rate. The rain has left us (for now), the snow is melting, and plants are blooming! Often times we are traveling from the northern tip of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, far east into the Wyoming ranges, and down south to the beautiful Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest of Utah. Covering an amazing amount of country and finding seeds in between.

Look at this beautiful Oenothera sp. (Onagraceae) at the base of the Lemhi Mountain Range outside of Howe, ID. These flowers were growing with one of our target species, Erigeron pumilis.

The tremendously small Calypso bulbosa (Orchidaceae) nestled underneath a dense Douglas-Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) outside of Alpine, WY.

In lieu of beautiful flowers, it feels necessary to share with you all the stunning field of White Mule’s-Ear (Wyethia helianthoides) we came upon while looking for a moths outside of St. Anthony, ID. As were were getting closer to this 0.25 mile field made up exclusively of white flowers, I thought to myself, “This is horrible! Look at how prolific this invasive flower is. Think about all the willows that would be growing in this area if this aster had not taken over!” To my great surprise, this beautiful species is 100% native to the region. It is know to dominate rich, moist sites. White Mule’s Ear often hybridizes with Yellow Mules-Ear (Wyethia amplexicaulis) creating a slue of peach or pale-yellow composites! 

White Mule’s-Ear (Wyethia helianthoides) as far as the eye can see.

Olivia Turner was equally enthused about the field of white.

Soon after our hearts melted in front of thousands of Wyethia, we came back the following week with a full itinerary. We managed to have two successful seed collections of Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagitata) in a week. This means we collected over 30,000 seeds for the Seeds of Success (SOS) program. Each balsamroot head has roughly 50 seeds. 50% are viable. To gain the 10,000 viable seeds required for SOS and the 5,000 for Rocky Mountain Research Station, we ended up collecting over 1,200 heads to ensure a viable seed count. 

This is a herbarium voucher of Balsamorhiza sagitata pulled from one of our seed collection sites near Swan Valley, ID.

Arrowleaf balsamroot just gone to seed!

It is quite the opportunity to continue learning the greater impacts the SOS program has on restoration projects. Simply knowing each seed collected by my hands could one day be part of a site reclamation project is amazing in itself. 

Claire Parsons

Caribou-Targhee National Forest S.O.

So Far, So Great

Day 3: Morale is high! It is still raining.

After driving 2,400 miles last week from North Carolina to Idaho Falls, Idaho… we have finally started the field season here in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest! I began my  position as Botany/Seeds of Success Intern only three days ago with another CLM Intern, Olivia Turner. The first few days have been filled with orientation, bear safety training, indicator species, gypsy moth trap placement, and briefing about our work with the Seeds of Success (SOS) and Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS). Even though there are only 30 hours under my belt, I could not be more excited to see what unfolds next. Eastern Idaho could not be anymore beautiful. It is filled with colorful rolling mountains and is surrounded completely by the large snowy peaks of both the Lemhi and Teton range.

 LeftMahonia repens (Oregon grape); right: Lithospermum ruderale (Stoneseed).

Yesterday, we were able to explore just the outskirts of this massive 3+ million acre forest and began learning more about our specific SOS species which are: Balsamorhiza sagittata, Erigeron pumilis, Phacelia hastata, and Sphaeralcea spp. These are considered to be target native species. To better understand species density throughout the forest, we will be responsible for population mapping, seed collecting, herbarium vouchers, and phenology monitoring.

After an incredibly beautiful hike outside of Pocatello, we were able to meet with a pest survey coordinator from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture to be trained on the mapping and placement of gypsy moth traps. The state is looking for both European and Asian gypsy moths due to their ability to severely defoliate a given tree or shrub species to the extent that the species can die. Below, is an example of the specific traps used in this research. Olivia and I are now responsible to place over 200 traps in hopes to capture some of these gnarly invasive insects and contribute to the ongoing population mapping of the species. To learn more about this research, visit https://www.idl.idaho.gov/forestry/forest-health/gypsy-moth-faq.pdf.

Additionally, with an indicator species training in the future, we were able to spend time shifting through the herbarium at the Caribou-Targhee National Forest office (see images below). We organized 45 different native shrubs, forbs, and graminoids. This was such an incredible opportunity to further understand the botanical diversity here in the Intermountain Region. Not to mention, the herbarium here at the supervisors office is something to be amazed by. The oldest specimen we have found so far dated back to 1912!

This week has given wonderful insight of what this internships has to offer. I look forward to learning more everyday while I am out here!

Best,

Claire Parsons

SOS Intern, Caribou-Targhee National Forest