Students at Bushy LakeThe Bushy Lake area has been a valuable outdoor classroom to teach research field methods and restoration ecology to both graduate and undergraduate students. More photos

Sacramento State environmental studies students and faculty spent the past two years restoring the wetland and riparian habitat known as Bushy Lake, a 20-acre pond formed in an abandoned oxbow of the Lower American River, behind Cal Expo.

The area has been ravaged by wildfires in recent years. The most recent, on Sept. 15, burned 176 acres, but firefighters were able to protect the primary Bushy Lake restoration-project area.

That area was the site of the Friday, Sept. 23, unveiling of the Bushy Lake Restoration & Environmental Education Project. The morning event included student-led tours of the renewed site, which is home to Western pond turtles, river otters, and many bird species.

The goal of the event was to provide environmental educators and the general public with resources to understand, appreciate, and enjoy this special place. The environmental studies students and faculty developed an array of educational materials – a brochure, a website, and leaflets on eight topics (including restoration ecology, wetlands, and aquatic life) – with a grant from Sacramento County Parks. This information is available at

Sac State students conducted high-impact studies at the site, including the design and implementation of experimental restoration plans and wildlife habitat monitoring/adaptive management. The goal of their research is to investigate how to build a fire-resilient landscape on the American River Parkway using native vegetation.

Among those attending the project unveiling were Assembly Member Kevin McCarty, Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna, and Orn Bodvarsson, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies (SSIS) at Sacramento State. Also in attendance were representatives of community environmental organizations: the American River Parkway Foundation, the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, the American River Conservancy, the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, the Sacramento County Office of Education, the Sacramento Water Forum, the Audubon Society, Sustainability Sacramento, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, PG&E, Teichert Construction, SMUD, and Cal Expo.

Sage LaPena, a Native American ethnobotanist and western herbalist, opened the event with a prayer in honor of California Native American Day, which also was Sept. 23.

In the media:

"CSUS students unveil Bushy Lake restoration project," Fox 40