Bushy LakeSac State environmental studies students have been busy restoring the wetland and riparian habitat around Bushy Lake for four years. (Sacramento State/Robert Dugan)

Earth Day observations don’t get much earthier than Sacramento State’s Bushy Lake work day, from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 22.

Environmental studies students and members of the general public will celebrate the world’s largest civic-focused day of action by putting on gardening gloves and pulling a bounty of springtime star thistle and other invasive vegetation around Bushy Lake. Gloves, snacks, and background music will be provided.

Bushy Lake is a 20-acre pond that formed in an abandoned oxbow of the lower American River behind Cal Expo. Sac State students, led by Michelle Stevens, professor of environmental studies, have spent much of the past four years restoring a portion of the wetland and riparian habitat around the lake. That area is now home to a thriving population of western pond turtles, whose numbers are declining in other western regions, along with river otters, deer, and many bird species.

“It’s a little gem for our campus,” says Stevens, “and it provides high-impact learning for our students. We’re increasing the habitat for birds. We’re monitoring the turtles and will be actively trying to protect them. We’re seeing recolonization of the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. The deer come in and make their little beds. It’s a beautiful place.”

Bushy Lake is owned and operated by Cal Expo. Sac State students are restoring the wetland and riparian acreage in partnership with Sacramento County Parks.

The students are planting native vegetation, such as white root for butterflies, which will create a fire-resilient landscape along the American River Parkway. The area has been damaged by fires many times in the past. Students continue to conduct high-impact studies at the site, including the design and implementation of experimental restoration strategies and adaptive habitat management.

To reach the Bushy Lake restoration site, drive north on Howe Avenue. Turn left onto Hurley Way and left on Ethan Way (around the southeast side of Cal Expo.) Park in the large field near Cal Expo’s Gate 12. Directional signs will be posted.

Earth Day dates to April 22, 1970, when millions of people in the United States and throughout the world protested the careless industrial development that led to pervasive smog, and the decline of biodiversity caused by the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants.

Today, more than 1 billion people in 192 countries take part in Earth Day observances, according to the Earth Day Network. – Dixie Reid