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Making Idaho Refugees Stewards of the Land

Members of a refugee stewardship program will help restore Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve, a wetland that flows into the Boise River. (Liz Paul/Boise River Enhancement Network)
Members of a refugee stewardship program will help restore Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve, a wetland that flows into the Boise River. (Liz Paul/Boise River Enhancement Network)
August 14, 2017

BOISE, Idaho – A program in Idaho plans to train a new group of conservationists: refugees.

The Boise River Enhancement Network, through its multicultural stewardship program, is partnering with the Idaho Office for Refugees to reach out to recent immigrants and introduce them to outdoor activities that improve the land while fostering friendships.

Liz Paul, a member of the network, says refugees can have a hard time finding places to commune as they adjust to their new home. Children usually have an easier time since they're in school.

"But the adults and even the seniors are often isolated and so, this project aims to develop culturally relevant ways to increase the engagement of the refugees, and the ongoing stewardship of the refugees, in this urban area," Paul states.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation awarded the network and the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley a grant to restore a wetland habitat known as the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve. The habitat buffers storm water before it flows into the Boise River.

Paul says over the last century, the area was gravel-mined and farmed before it was bought by the City of Boise. The goal of the project is to remove invasive plants to restore the habitat.

"You have invasive weeds,” she points out. “The weeds will out-compete the native vegetation. They don't provide the same sort of nesting, roosting, foraging resources that the native vegetation does. They can pose more of a fire hazard – and they can be thorny and prickly."

Paul says the wetlands are in a metro area, making it more accessible for recent refugees who often lack transportation. She says local students will also be involved in the project and the plan is to engage about 200 Idahoans overall.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID