BONNERS FERRY — The Boundary-Smith Creek Wildlife Management Area has been under construction in an effort to restore 250 acres of lowland habitat.
The idea behind the change is that climate change has, and is, affecting the wildlife in the region.
A research study that included 1,200 sites across the Idaho panhandle was conducted and found the need for the project which is a joint effort with the Idaho Fish and Game and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative with funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Conservation Society Climate Adaptation Fund, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
The Idaho Panhandle Bees to Bears Climate Adaptation Project is helping to conserve and build vital wildlife habitats for bees, bears and a newly discovered slug, among other native species to the area.
The three-year grant began two years ago in November of 2017.
The area affected is, “from the foot of the Selkirks to the river; nine miles across by around three miles to the river,” stated Evan DeHamer, Boundary-Smith Creek WMA Manager.
Michael Lucid, Panhandle Regional Wildlife Diversity Biologist, explains, “this was a big priority, this ecosystem is what we call forested lowlands, and basically before the european settlement and agriculture, the river was very vibrant and dynamic; it would flood this entre valley, and this valley was forested wetlands with seasonal flood cycles that was important for native species, and native species that we are worried about today.”
A Statewide Action Plan was put into place in order to address this ecosystem’s issues with climate change. The plan is aimed at improving landscape climate resiliency for the wildlife in the area.
“A variety of taxonomic groups are targeted in this project because climate change is a very imminent problem for our wildlife, and it’s important to act very quickly,” said Lucid.
“We are planting 50 thousand trees and shrubs, and aiming at impacting 250 acres of overall impact with well over 100 acres of upland plantings for pollinators,” DeHamer said.
At this time, 20,000 plants have already been planted.
The trees have to be caged and some acreage has been fenced to help the plantings get established without interference from the wildlife who may find edible interest in the plants.
“Most of the work will be done this fall, more planting will be done next fall and maintenance will be ongoing to keep the weeds down,” said DeHamer.
Lucid explained, “the project is on a wildlife management area, which is great because we have resources over time to maintain it.”
“All the new habitat we are bringing in will benefit all the wildlife that use it,” DeHamer added. “Wildlife Management Areas are meant for public use and are focused on hunting, trapping and fishing, but if we can have benefits for non-game species, this will also bring benefits to the rest of the wildlife.”
Four new ponds were in construction two weeks ago with a scheduled completion due last week. The ponds have been made in an effort to offer more habitat for varying species of amphibians such as the leopard frog.
“Leopard frogs are a very common species of frog native to North America, they have all but disappeared from the northwestern part of the range landscape,” Lucid said. “There are two different natural colonies of leopard frogs left, in Moses Lake, Wash., and one in Creston, B.C.”
During the biodiversity survey of the panhandle region, researchers found that bullfrogs weren’t found within the Creston, B.C. Wildlife Management Area. They are, however, found here in the Boundary Wildlife Management Area, which is cause for concern.
“Bullfrogs are non-native species, the newly built ponds will allow native amphibians to reproduce and discourage bullfrogs to reproduce,” said Lucid.
Bullfrogs are an issue because of their capacity to bring disease to other native species. Leopard frogs are likely to succeed in the recovery with the addition of the new ponds.
“Fortunately there is a lot of hope. The Canada WMA has been busy with a substantial amount of wetlands restoration work, which is creating a stepping zone habitat for the leopard frogs,” explained Lucid.
Hemphillia Skadei, the newly discovered species of jumping slug found within the Selkirks, by Wildlife Regional Biologist Michael Lucid was named by Lucid in honor of his daughter Skade who is named after the Norse/ Germanic Goddess Skadi, will have a fighting chance at survival.
The improvement in soil moisture content, and reduction in air temperatures, as a result of the project’s conservation efforts, will help this newly found species to thrive.
The Bees to Bears Climate Adaptation Project, that is driven by the State Wildlife Action Plan, started in 2005 through a bill that passed at that time. The bill allows every state or U.S. territory to write an action plan for conservation to become eligible for federal funding.
“It is a big advantage to communities because If we get to these animals and help them out before they get to the listed endangered status, it allows a lot more freedom within communities to work with,” DeHamer said.
More information can be found by visiting the Idaho Department of Fish and Game webpage at https://idfg.idaho.gov/bees2bears or the Bees to Bears Climate Adaptation Project on Facebook.