Uplift in the Time of the Virus

Posted in Blog

Has the past week left you hungry for a little good news?

If so, here’s some:

These first hints of leafing out on this willow shoot are part of a larger, encouraging story.

This uplifting window into spring (it has not been cancelled!) is thanks to work done in the winter of 2019 by students in Pacific University’s Restoration Ecology course.  The students came to the Timber Forest in the upper Nehalem not only to learn from an ongoing creek and riparian area restoration project led by a recently graduated Pacific student, Emy Gaub, but also to roll up their sleeves and help.  Because the “Beaver Heaven” project needs lots of plants to serve as food for resident beaver, the students cut hundreds of stakes from nearby willows and pushed them into the ground throughout the site.  This spring, with many of those helpful students graduated and moved on to their next chapters in life, their willows are coming to life and re vegetating the restoration site.

What’s the big deal?  It’s about much more than one, leafing out willow.  It is about the uplift – to land and people – when a student takes on the challenge of leadership and draws many other partners together to successfully heal the land.  Partners include: Maggie Peyton and the Upper Nehalem Watershed Council, Dr. Rich Van Buskirk and his students at Pacific University, the Trask Family and their contracting businesses, Doug Ray and others.

So is “Beaver Heaven” living up to its name?  The beaver are there – and beginning to nibble away on the new plantings – which is a mixed blessing, eh?

For a related blog post from NW Natural Resource Group click here

Here’s a recent summary of the overall restoration work in this half mile stretch of Lousignont Creek.

Hyla Woods, Timber Forest Restoration Summary:

Historical Background:  Prior to logging by European Americans this land supported remarkably diverse, high volume, carbon rich forests drained by a network of healthy streams with high ecological function.  Humans modified and were sustained by these forests and rivers for thousands of years.  In the 1920s the land was clear cut during the cross cut saw, steam donkey and railroad era.  The land was left to heal itself and, remarkably, regenerated as conifer forest.  Following a farming period from 1953 to 1970, the focus of the Abel and Hayes family was, and continues to be, on restoration and the creation of regenerative conditions.

1986 Baseline:  When the land was purchased by the Hayes family, upland forests were on the path toward recovery and the creeks were moderately healthy and on a slow path toward healing.  It was clear that there was potential for significant ecological uplift and habitat improvement through careful, active restoration.

Goals:

  1. To accelerate the rate of healing across the forest, including “priming the pump” of self-perpetuating restoration in the creeks
  2. Improve conditions for all native species, but particularly Coho salmon
  3. Encourage the work of resident beaver and improve the creek’s character with the development of more pools, riffles and off channel rearing habitat for juvenile fish
  4. Develop and share useful, new knowledge about restoration techniques and strategies
  5. Create positive education outcomes and community connections through the work

Creek Restoration:

Phase 1 – 1998:  Six large wood placements installed in partnership with ODFW, Upper Nehalem Watershed Council and upstream landowner, Stimson Lumber Co.

Phase 2 – 2008:  Six additional large wood placements installed using approaches that made them much more durable than previous project.  Done in partnership with ODFW, Upper Nehalem Watershed Council, and Oregon Trout

Phase 3 – 2018:  Restoration of perched meadow and incised creek –regrading to better reconnect creek and riparian zone, replacing invasives with native plant community, and addition of two large wood placements

Observed Results: 

  • Large increase of wood in the creek – placed, washed downstream, and fallen from the bank
  • Increased creek character – pools, riffles; off channel, protected habitat, and reconnection of creek with floodplain
  • Success with ongoing and accelerated, natural recruitment of wood into the creek
  • Ongoing maturation of riparian forest – multi-species, multi-age
  • Improving measures of creek health, including counts of juvenile fish
  • Many hours of student learning and useful work

Upland Restoration:

Restoration work focuses on all parts of the forest.  Experimental forestry has shaped the forest through thinning of young stands, selective logging in older stands, conversion of diseased areas into diverse, disease resistant stands, and variable retention logging.  Scotch broom dominated former fields have been restored to forest and meadow areas.

Accountability:  Monitoring and analysis of creek health has been done since 2004 in partnership with Catlin Gabel School, Forest Grove Community School, Pacific University, ODFW and others.  This helps us better understand conditions and change both within the Hyla Woods reach and for all of the upstream watershed.  Upland monitoring and analysis continues in partnership with our bird monitoring team, NW Ecological Research Group, OSU College of Forestry and others.  We’re grateful for all of our partners. Ongoing updates are available on the Hyla Woods blog.