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Boise Partnership Addresses Stream Degradation as Part of Trail Maintenance Plan

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- College of Idaho biology students study redband trout in the Upper Dry Creek as part of a 3,400-acre conservation easement in the Boise Foothills. -  - CHRIS WALSER
  • Chris Walser
  • College of Idaho biology students study redband trout in the Upper Dry Creek as part of a 3,400-acre conservation easement in the Boise Foothills.
Wading across a stream may not seem like a big deal to mountain bikers and hikers meandering along the Upper Dry Creek trail off Bogus Basin Road, but each time someone crosses the water, soil dumps into the home of almost 1,000 native redband trout. Currently, the trail crosses the river without bridges nearly 30 times, and each crossing wreaks havoc on the fishes' ability to spawn.

College of Idaho Professor Chris Walser and his biology students first studied the redband trout population in 2012. When the 3,400-acre conservation easements between Grossman Company Properties, the city of Boise and the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley solidified in early 2015, it gave the College of Idaho a chance to explore the effects of those stream crossings on fish.

"Usually when you do research like this, the goal is to publish it," Walser said when the conservation easement first passed. "But now we can take what we learn and see how to better the trails and restore the habitat, rather than the information just getting lost in a scientific article."

A partnership formed between the city, the Land Trust, College of Idaho and Boise State University. Together, they released a recreation stream crossing and trail assessment for Upper Dry Creek. The assessment evaluated the potential impacts of those 30 stream crossings on trout populations.

That assessment will now be used by the Land Trust to prioritize land management efforts that enhance recreation opportunities, and protect the fish habitat and water quality. The goal is to strike a balance between the two.

"We want future generations to enjoy catching a glimpse of the small native fish that call this stream home," wrote Land Trust Executive Director Tim Breuer in a news release. "This assessment of the trail crossings will help guide our work in the watershed."

The assessment revealed five stream crossings deemed particularly critical for improving water quality and reducing erosion along Dry Creek. The Land Trust is working with Ridge to Rivers staff this fall to install a foot bridge over Shingle Creek, with more trail work to continue over the next few years.

"Dry Creek is a great addition to the Ridge to Rivers system," Ridge to Rivers Program Manager David Gordon wrote in the release. "We want to preserve the unique character of this trail, while also managing it in a manner that will improve fish habitat. This means the addition of some small foot bridges in key locations, and rock armoring the approaches of many of the remaining fords."

Ridge to Rivers is currently working on its 10-year master plan and urging trail users to take a survey about the foothills that will be available online until Thursday, Oct. 15.