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Doesn't green mean good? Not always in the Boise Foothills

Posted at 6:02 PM, May 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-03 20:02:07-04

BOISE, Idaho — The Boise Foothills are a hot spot for recreation during the Spring but the green hills that Idahoans walk and bike can be a sign of a bigger problem. Lack of biodiversity caused by invasive species can cause problems for the area like wildfire. The City of Boise's Weed Warrior program is helping combat it by restoring the foothills by removing goat heads, planting native seedlings, and removing invasive plants.

  • Invasive species can speed up fire return, causing wildfires every 3-5 years.
  • Healthy and bio-diverse areas see fire returns that are 50 to 300 years in gaps.

(Below is the transcript from the broadcast story)

Take a hike or a bike ride through the Boise foothills and you will see thousands of acres of different plant life and each of the different species is important.

"Biodiversity is the cornerstone of how our ecological systems work so the more biodiversity you have the more functioning an ecosystem might be," said Martha Brabec, foothills restoration specialist with Boise Parks and Recreation.

Martha Brabec is an ecologist and met with me at the Foothills Learning Center to help me learn more about biodiversity which is unfortunately under attack with invasive species taking over.

Behind me here is a good example of invasive species. As you can see, there's not a lot of diversity here. As beautiful and green as it is, there needs to be more plants of different kinds to make sure an area stays healthy.

"Just one species, it's called a monoculture. Any invasive species that causes a monoculture results in a loss of biodiversity," said Brabec.

Brabec is passionate about keeping our foothills healthy and knows that biodiversity is important for things like pollinators and soil beds. Without it, other problems like wildfires can become an issue for areas like the foothills.

"These invaders create these continuous mats of these fine-textured fuels, and so not only do they ignite really easily, but they also pass fire from one place to the next readily," said Matthew Germino, a supervisory research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Boise.

Without plant diversity, experts say future wildfires could be more common.

"Fire return has been completely changed we're now instead of having fires once every 50, 200 sometimes 300-year intervals, now we're seeing that these landscapes oftentimes burn every few years," said Germino.

The city of Boise has volunteer groups that help combat invasive species, but it will take more hands to help reverse the problem.

"People see green, and they think good you know, and a lot of these invasive plants are really challenging, and I think this is a thing that we can work on together as a community," said Brabec.