It seems like a kind of oxymoron to describe uneventful days as the time of one's life. Nevertheless, this is the case at Greenfire, where the commonplace is extraordinary. I don't take anything here for granted. I'm fortunate to spend every day in a place with qualities that many people wrap whole vacations around. A herd of 100 elk, 40 deer and five wild horses wintered in the fields of the preserve. That alone is enough to excite any wildlife lover. It makes each day at work an adventure for me, and prying me away from the spotting scope is sometimes difficult.
Aside from the ho-hum days of spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife, it never fails that each season at Greenfire presents at least one special treat ... a cherry center hidden inside that "ain't nature grand" creamy chocolate coating. This winter was no exception. I wish I could say that I saw the cats. But alas, that has not happened -- yet. Nevertheless, this winter's cherry center was two cougars that walked down the road to the old homestead, continued right into my yard and came within four feet of my bedroom window. This all took place at night while I was asleep. But in the morning, two inches of fresh snow held the unquestionable evidence.
One mountain lion on the preserve would be thrilling enough, but the thought of a mated pair and the potential for a litter of kittens in the canyon across the river is spine-tingling -- a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife viewing event.
As I write, two bald eagles are cavorting over the river in full view from my office window. The eagles aren't as elusive as the lions; perhaps this is a mated pair that will produce young for visitors to watch this spring.
On the restoration front, three projects are moving forward as spring nears. Grant money was secured this winter for an island stabilization project. The goal is to save an island in the East Fork that is rapidly washing away due to many years of heavy livestock grazing. There is a definite downside to the sediment the island is contributing to East Fork spawning beds, but this is not nearly as critical as the small side-channel that the island creates. The side-channel provides rare and important rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead in the East Fork. We will complete the island project before the spring runoff occurs.
Western Watersheds Project was also able to secure funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish 14 test plots. Using different soil and vegetation preparation techniques, these plots will be seeded and monitored within the spring planting time frame. The test will show us which methods work best in this location. We will have the plots established and planted by early summer, and we hope to secure funds to repeat the tests in a fall planting.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will be funding another habitat improvement project this spring. The agency will provide plants and a power auger for a project that will establish trees and shrubs on the preserve. The work is an extension of last year's Wilderness Volunteer Project. WWP board president Debra Ellers and WWP member Dale Grooms have once again assembled a group of Wilderness Volunteers to provide the labor for planting, and we fully expect this year's mission to be every bit as successful as last year's project was. The Wilderness Volunteers are scheduled to be at Greenfire May 9 through May 15.
The busy season is quickly approaching. Days
will be longer, and there will be much work to get done. But the rewards will be
abundant and increasingly apparent - more tangible
than even a cougar's paw prints in the freshly fallen snow.