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City of Boise signing onto global campaign for open space preservation

Boise is setting more ambitious goals for protecting the environment.

The city is joining the worldwide 30×30 movement, which aims to preserve 30% of the globe’s land and water before 2030 to stop mass extinction events and mitigate the impact of climate change. The initiative, led by the environmental group Campaign for Nature and supported by President Joe Biden, calls on organizations of all types to protect wild habitats it owns from being disturbed by humans.

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Boise’s Open Space and Foothills Superintendent Sara Arkle told the city council on Tuesday staff is still evaluating specifics, but it has identified several goals for how the city can participate. Currently Boise owns 22% of open space in the foothills and along the Boise River that qualifies for this program, meaning it has remained untouched by development. It does not include farmland.

More wildlife management on its way

Arkle said getting to a goal of owning 30% of the land wouldn’t be feasible for the city because it would require purchasing an additional 9,000 acres. Instead, she said the city can set different goals unique to the city to get similar results.

One of these goals includes managing 30% of the open space it owns by 2030, as opposed to owning it. Managing entails removing invasive species, restoring damaged habitat and doing scientific research about the ecosystem to improve conservation.

Between the foothills and the Boise River, the city owns about 6,200 acres. Officials are actively managing 15% of that land, which Arkle said could be doubled with city resources staffed with volunteers.

Another goal is to up this kind of management of wildlife areas within traditional park sites operated by Boise Parks and Recreation to 30%. These are areas of untouched wildlife areas within community and neighborhood parks scattered throughout the city.

“We’re currently managing about 13% of those native habitat areas,” she said. “You can think of that as a pollinator garden, or a native habitat area or an open space area that is not green lawn within a park site.”

Another open space levy? More trees?

The city also hopes to raise an additional $10 million specifically for the conservation of open space and habitats along the Boise River. Since 2000, the City of Boise has raised $20 million from voters with a levy in 2000 and 2015 to fund conservation projects and purchase acres of open space for preservation. 

Arkle said a fourth goal would be to improve the city’s volunteer opportunities for habitat restoration by 30% in this time frame. This 30×30 initiative also fits in with the ongoing City of Trees Challenge spearheaded by City Council President Elaine Clegg to plant 100,000 trees over the next decade.

An analysis by Boise Parks and Recreation found 16% of the city is currently covered in tree canopy and if an additional 100,000 trees are planted, it will bring the canopy cover to 32%.

City Council Members and Mayor Lauren McLean were supportive of this effort. Clegg recommended the city to the desert on the southern edge of city limits for preservation going forward.

“South of the city in our area of impact there is an awful lot of land that has the potential, especially along the old creeks that has the potential to be managed for this purpose,” she said. “I’m hoping that will also be part of this effort.”

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City Council Member Holli Woodings said even though agricultural land is not considered a qualifying area for the worldwide 30×30 campaign, she said the city should discuss including it in these preservation efforts as well.

“I think farmland preservation has become a hot topic and a really big focus for many in our community,” she said. “Because, one, we need to feed ourselves somehow and, two, it really does cool our city in a lot of ways to have some of those open spaces, even when they’re productive. I would be interested in having that as part of the conversation.”

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev senior reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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