Healthy watersheds contain expansive streamside forests and rivers and streams that flow freely. Healthy watersheds produce cool, clean water. And healthy watersheds accommodate the high flow events during storms and during snow melt by occupying side channels, streamside ponds, and low lying floodplain areas.
Decades of land and water management and development have constrained many of these characteristics through the Rogue River Watershed Council’s area.
Rogue River Watershed Council identifies conditions in and along streams that limit habitat quality for fish and wildlife and water quality. We reach out to landowners and land managers to discuss these limiting factors, develop approaches to reduce or eliminate the impact, and implement restoration projects to address them.
Gadberry Riparian Project
On the banks of Little Butte Creek, the Gadberry Ranch was host to a 3,360 foot improvement area that included the removal of 3.5 acres of non-native blackberries, the installation of 1,500 new native plants, and the construction of a four strand electric fence. New drip irrigation lines were installed to water the new plants for the first two years. All of these features were completed in 12 months with support from four different funding groups.
Vannoy Creek falls within the floodplain of the Rogue River and it is currently utilized by Coho salmon, Chinook salmon, summer steelhead, and pacific lamprey. The site is zoned for agriculture and development has led to a decrease in stream meander, an increase in invasive plants, and the removal of riparian vegetation.
We worked with a landowner to restore 1200 feet of stream bank by shaping the bank, removing reed canary grass, installing erosion/shade cloth, and planting 422 native trees and shrubs. We also installed 33 live willow revetments to stabilize banks and increase stream meander. Volunteers from the Middle Rogue Steelheaders, Rogue Fly Fishers, Southern Oregon Fly Fishers, and Clean Forest Project installed all of the native trees and shrubs.
Habitat Improvements at Coyote Trails Nature Center
Within the City of Medford’s US Cellular Community Park lies a 12 acre natural area managed by the Coyote Trails Nature Center (CTNC). CTNC seeks to provide educational and recreational opportunities at the site that are compatible with protecting and enhancing ecological function and values. In reaching this goal, CTNC has been working with the watershed council and other partners to improve ecologic systems by actively managing vegetation and working on developing plans to improve fish habitat.
Since the City of Medford committed this land to be a natural area, site managers have been working with partners to reduce the presence of invasive non-native plants through a combination of grazing, hand pulling and grubbing, spraying, mulching, and grading activities. They have also planted native trees and shrubs, developed a trail system, and removed and disposed of yards of asphalt and concrete chunks. Future plans include creation of instream and off channel habitat enhancements and establishment of a monarch butterfly way station.
Over ten years ago, the Middle Rogue Watershed Council (one of our precursor organizations) cleared out blackberries and planted dozens of incense cedar and ponderosa pine trees along the west bank of a stretch of Gilbert Creek lying between Gilbert Creek Park and two schools in northwest Grants Pass. However, with very little maintenance done over the years, the blackberries came back in full force with many of the trees stunted due to the resulting competition for moisture and light.
In order to get streamside restoration back on track on this stretch of creek, RRWC entered into a partnership with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program (STEP) and Grants Pass School District #7 to combat the blackberries and plant (and maintain) an additional 400-plus trees and shrubs on both sides of the creek. Not only will these plantings provide more shade for the creek and decrease erosion, the work will create a more welcoming, safe, and accessible location for outdoor learning.
Thanks to funding from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board Small Grant Program; assistance and/or donations from the City of Grants Pass, School District #7, Mycorrhizal Applications, and Starbucks Coffee; and hours of dedicated volunteer labor from individuals representing RRWC, ODF STEP, Middle Rogue Steelheaders, Southern Oregon FlyFishers, Grants Pass High School, Humble Heron Fly Fishing, and Strauss Ecological Services, the “renewed” restoration effort is off to a good start.