Written by Edwin Sparks, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Habitat Ecologist/Photo by Edwin Sparks

During the last week of June, most of the Malheur Refuge biology staff traveled to southeast Idaho for a submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) protocol training. We were hosted by the beautiful Gray’s Lake National Wildlife Refuge and were accompanied by biologist, interns, and technicians from Camas, Minidoka, and Bear Lake Refuges. This is the third time I have attended the training. This year I brought our Vegetation Inventory & Monitoring Intern, Ryan Robles, along to learn the sampling protocol and get a primer in wetland plant identification. Alexa Martinez, Malheur NWR Wildlife Biologist, also joined us.

Malheur NWR has been a part of the SAV project since it started around 2012. The project has been put together by Refuges that volunteer to add data for a state and transition model that can be used in great basin wetlands. The Region 1 inventory and monitoring program teamed up with Region 6 (mostly Montana based National Wildlife Refuges) to create this database. The model takes into account years between management activities and what activities were employed. This, along with consecutive years of data collection, feed information into the model that can help Refuges make management decisions regarding semi-permanent impoundments or water holdings.

Overall, I feel that the training was a success, Ryan and Alexa both nailed their plant ID and are comfortable with the protocol. The drive to Gray’s Lake NWR is a long and tedious one, but I feel that it is always worth it. This little gem is tucked away in the mountains right along the Idaho/Wyoming border and is largely ignored by passersby. While it seems a shame that this place doesn’t garner much attention, I think that it adds to how truly great this Refuge is. I quiet little oasis, or refuge, left in peace to the wildlife that depend on it for sanctuary and an excellent place to bond and grow as a team. I am already looking forward to next year’s training.