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Celebration of Sac State’s years-long Bushy Lake restoration work set for April 29

A community celebration on Saturday, April 29, will celebrate and showcase the work of volunteers, led by Environmental Sciences Professor Michelle Stevens, to restore Bushy Lake, a wildlife area in an abandoned oxbow of the American River near Cal Expo. (Sacramento State file/Andrea Price)

Since 2015, Environmental Sciences Professor Michelle Stevens and her students have worked to protect an American River gem called Bushy Lake.

Now, they are ready to show off the result of their efforts.

On Saturday, April 29, they will welcome the public to a community celebration at Bushy Lake, which spans 20 acres within an abandoned oxbow of the American River near Cal Expo. The day will feature guided tours of the restoration project, music, children’s activities, information booths, and speakers who will discuss wildlife, conservation efforts, hydrology, and other relevant topics.

Visitors are invited to gather in the parking lot of the Cal Expo RV Park, 500 Ethan Way in Sacramento. The event is scheduled from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

The Bushy Lake project is one of 15 Sacramento State Anchor Grant recipients. Anchor Grants support projects and programs that promise to have a lasting impact on the community.

“I am so proud of the students who worked with me on this research and restoration ecology class project.” -- Michelle Stevens, Environmental Sciences professor

Sacramento County Parks and Recreation is Sac State’s partner on the project, which has received significant funding from the California Wildlife Conservation Board.

For most of eight years, Stevens and her students have focused on the area in an effort to help save northwestern pond turtles, which are a “species of special concern” in California. Project work includes monitoring turtle activities, tending plants that are culturally important to Native Californians, watering, pulling invasive weeds, cleaning up trash, and documenting wildlife in the area.

Bushy Lake is home to a variety of animals, including river otters, beavers, coyotes, bobcats, and several bird species.

In June 2021, a wildfire tore through the area, reducing to ashes years of work led by Stevens. Since then, she and her team have been clearing burned areas and re-planting native vegetation.

Speakers at Saturday’s event will include Sac State President Robert S. Nelsen; Dianne Hyson, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies; county and state representatives; and experts on the ecology of the Bushy Lake area.

“I am so proud of the students who worked with me on this research and restoration ecology class project,” Stevens said. “We call ourselves the Awanata Dream Team.” Awanata is the Miwok word for turtle.

Stevens and her students collaborated on their studies even during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. Participating students will discuss their work at Saturday’s event.

“I feel like the luckiest professor at Sac State,” Stevens said.

More information is available on the Bushy Lake Restoration Project website.

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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