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Redwood Forest Foundation
Restoration Projects (2013)

Table of Contents



Background
The Redwood Forest Foundation (RFFI) purchased the Usal Redwood Forest, located in northern Mendocino county, in 2007. The 50,000-acre Usal Forest encompasses 69 miles of Class I, 151 miles of Class II and 229 miles of Class III streams. Of this amount, approximately 146 miles of Class I and II flow into the South Fork Eel River and eventually into the Pacific Ocean in Humboldt County. The South Fork of the Eel River is one of California's most important spawning streams for Coho salmon, Chinook salmon, and steelhead trout. More than 64 miles of Class I and II streams in the Usal Creek watershed flow directly into the Pacific Ocean about 30 miles north of Fort Bragg, CA.

View from the WRP Road to the Pacific Ocean in Usal Redwood Forest. Credit: John Birchard
View from the WRP Road to the Pacific Ocean in Usal Redwood Forest.
Photo credit: John Birchard.

RFFI is committed to restoring a landscape that has been severely degraded by aggressive timber harvesting that has depleted the forest ecosystem. We are committed to restoring the essential relationships, values and qualities that characterize healthy forestlands and watersheds. The Redwood Region in general, and the Usal Redwood Forest specifically, have had a tragic history of damage - some irreparable, and some that will take many decades or even centuries to repair. RFFI is addressing the difficult legacy problems and taking steps to correct the correctible. Our plans are always guided by the long-term big picture, but the aim of our implementation schedule is to get restoration measures underway as soon as possible.

As forests have come to be valued for more than just lumber, RFFI is developing comprehensive restoration plans. Restoring Usal is part of a much larger forest stewardship program that is addressing problems throughout the entire Usal Redwood Forest. It integrates sustainable silviculture with important recreational, cultural and wildlife elements. The general approach is to conduct watershed evaluation followed by restoration prescriptions. This is being incrementally applied to the whole of the Usal Redwood Forest.

We initially focused on adverse road impacts. Removing over nine miles of roads and restoring streams has allowed salmon and steelhead to return to spawn in our coastal streams. The evaluation is now being expanded to include riparian and other interconnected landscape and wildlife attributes. Working with our forest management firm, Campbell Timberland Management, LLC, extensive watershed restoration is underway in the Usal Redwood Forest. This is an intensive and very expensive effort. We have used our investment to leverage more than $4,000,000 in restoration funding. RFFI and Campbell have utilized guidance from experts at UC Berkeley, NOAA Fisheries, California Department of Fish and Game and CalFire in the process.



Usal Restoration Project Map
The Usal map below shows current restoration efforts and those that have been underway for the past seven years. Please refer to the map for locations as you move through this report.

The projects reported here are primarily presented in terms of the Usal Forest's two major watersheds: South Fork of the Eel River and the Usal Creek watersheds. Restoration activities, stewardship activities and fish surveys are depicted on the Restoration Map and described on this page.

Click to enlarge
Usal Redwood Forest 2013 restoration project map
Usal Redwood Forest 2013 restoration project map



South Fork of the Eel River Watershed
Restoration within the South Fork of the Eel River watershed started over seven years ago under the prior owner, the Hawthorne Timber Company, with work on the Clark Fork of Standley Creek. RFFI, The Campbell Group, Pacific Watershed Associates and Trout Unlimited have partnered with the Department of Fish & Wildlife and several local organizations to draft an ambitious, six-phase restoration program to decommission poorly located roads, crossings and landings throughout the Standley Creek watershed that are delivering sediment into important spawning streams for anadromous fish. These roads are no longer needed for the kind of forest management that the Redwood Forest Foundation practices today. Instead, future logging on Usal's steep slopes will be carefully conducted using cable yarding or other systems that fully protect and continue to help these watershed and fisheries resources recover.

Standley Creek Restoration Project, Usal Redwood Forest
Removal of 'Stringer Bridge' on the Clark Fork of Standley Creek

In 2009, over 7,000 cubic yards of dirt and debris were removed from the site where an old stringer bridge crossed Standley Creek. Historically, many bridges and crossings were constructed by placing logs within narrow, steep stream channels and then filling the channel with dirt from road construction. These structures were typically left behind. Many have partially collapsed, blocking fish access and/or burying streams with thousands of cubic yards of dirt and debris. In this project, the debris had completely obscured the creek which was passing underground at that time. The road is no longer needed and was completely removed. The project allowed water to return to the creek and restored over one-half mile of the channel of the Clark Fork of the Standley Creek to close to its natural state. By 2011, Coho salmon had returned to the creek and redwoods were sprouting on the banks. Standley Creek feeds into the South Fork of the Eel River, one of northern California's most important rivers for anadromous fish. It will be monitored for ten years.

Before crossing removal - Clark Fork tributary of Standley Creek
Before 'stringer bridge' removal;
Clark Fork tributary of Standley Creek in Usal Redwood Forest.
Photo credit: Thomas Leroy, Pacific Watershed Associates

Removal of these structures is a massive and expensive undertaking, but is critically important to restoration of fisheries and watersheds, as well as improving water quality. Dismantling this crossing required the removal of approximately 7,000 cubic yards of material. That is the equivalent of 700 average highway 10-wheel dump truck loads!
See video: Removal of an old 'stringer bridge,' 2009

After crossing removal - Clark Fork tributary of Standley Creek
After 'stringer bridge' removal;
Clark Fork tributary of Standley Creek in Usal Redwood Forest.
Photo credit: Thomas Leroy, Pacific Watershed Associates.
See video: Restoring a fish right-of-way, 2011.



Anderson Creek
A large woody debris project has been proposed for Anderson Creek; the objective of this kind of project is to recreate pool and complex habitat conditions such as those seen in the photo below. Funding for this project is under consideration by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DF&W) for 2014. Anderson Creek is located in the northwest corner of Usal Redwood Forest. It flows into Indian Creek which then flows into the South Fork of the Eel River.

Old-growth redwood remnant in Anderson Creek, a tributary to the South Fork Eel River
RFFI seeks to recreate the conditions similar to those in the photo above. This photo shows a very large pool formed by falls over part of an old-growth redwood tree. In the foreground are spawnable gravels in the "tailspill" of the pool. The pool and the undercut banks provide vital habitat for adult spawning and juvenile rearing by Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead.
Photo credit: Richard Gienger.

Watershed and instream habitat rehabilitation is a challenging task. The logging practices of the mid twentieth century wreaked havoc with, destroyed or adversely affected many salmonid spawning grounds. The photo below, taken in 1979, shows Anderson Creek choked with logs that made salmon passage impossible.

Anderson Creek, 1979
Anderson Creek, 1979

Daunting as it may be, it is possible to reverse this kind of damage. The logjam was removed and modified by hand in 1979 and 1980, reopening access to habitat that has become some of the most used and valuable habitat for all three listed salmonid species in the Usal Redwood Forest. The photo below of Anderson Creek was taken in 2010. This stretch of Anderson Creek is about one mile upstream from the 1979 logjam shown in the photo above. Now, thirty years after that stream was re-opened, you can see a large Chinook salmon redd (spawning nest).

Anderson Creek, 2010
Anderson Creek, 2010: The very large Chinook salmon redd from the center to the lower right hand corner of the photo probably contains more than 3,000 eggs. Hundreds of salmon and steelhead often spawn each year in this tributary to Indian Creek in the South Fork Eel River watershed. Surveyors of the spawning may be seen in the upper left hand corner of the photo.



Chinquapin Springs Acorn Grove
RFFI and local tribal representatives have worked together for more than four years, planning and engaging the community in the establishment of the Chinquapin Springs Acorn Grove in the northern section of Usal Redwood Forest.

Chinquapin Springs Acorn Grove planning group meeting in the grove
Chinquapin Springs Acorn Grove planning group meeting in the grove.

Usal had been used historically and prehistorically by local native peoples for gathering acorns and native plants. A tanoak grove has now been established for restoration and acorn gathering by local Native Americans. In July 2010, at the invitation of RFFI and the Wailaki Tribal Corporation, tribal peoples came from all over California to share in a tour of cultural restoration and native plant gathering. Tribal leaders, visitors and neighbors came to learn about this project and to offer advice. Environmental and archaeological studies have been conducted. The State archaeologist identified a location in which no existing Native American artifacts will be disturbed. The grove was dedicated in late summer 2012. The Cahto Tribe is providing coordination for tribal use of the grove. Native peoples from the Wailaki, Round Valley and Cahto tribes are involved at this time. Visit Chinquapin Springs Acorn Grove for more information.



Indian Creek
Restoration is moving forward in the Indian Creek watershed. A project to enhance and increase large woody cover, pool frequency, and channel complexity is underway within a 4-mile reach of lower Indian Creek, which is native habitat to Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout. A survey of 107 miles of roads in the Indian Creek watershed is in progress. Both field inventories and aerial photo analysis are being used. This project will also create a sediment source analysis report. A reforestation project is scheduled for 2014 and 2015, when 1,800 redwood trees will be planted in several riparian areas of Indian Creek.



Usal Creek Watershed
The Usal Creek watershed is another area where RFFI is conducting extensive stream restoration. Usal Creek is 10 miles long and drains approximately 25 square miles of Mendocino County before it flows into the Pacific Ocean north of Fort Bragg, CA. Coho salmon in Usal Creek are state and federally listed as endangered; steelhead are federally listed as threatened. According to the National Marine Fisheries Public Review Draft Recovery Plan for Southern Oregon / Northern California Coast, restoring many key habitat attributes that are in poor condition are crucial to preventing the extinction of coho salmon. This includes but is not limited to increasing large woody material, boulders and other instream features to increase habitat complexity and improving pool frequency and depth.

Restoration in the Usal Creek watershed has reaped the following benefits:

  • 2 fish barriers removed
  • 2 miles instream habitat restored
  • 21 large woody debris structures added for instream habitat
  • 2 miles of road upgraded or decommissioned, and
  • 180 feet of streambank stabilized.

North Fork Usal Creek in Usal Redwood Forest
Below are some examples of projects that are taking place on the North Fork of Usal Creek.

In 2012, the Redwood Forest Foundation worked with Blencowe Watershed Management in the Usal Redwood Forest to add large logs and rootwads to Usal Creek using the accelerated recruitment approach. This allows logs to adjust position under winter flows and create natural log jams. These instream structures increase channel and habitat complexity and provide both cover and high-flow refugia for juvenile salmonids.

Upstream view showing 'wood deficit' in the North Fork of Usal Creek
Upstream view showing 'wood deficit' in the North Fork of Usal Creek.
Photo credit: Richard Gienger

Upstream view of the North Fork of Usal Creek showing dropped trees
Upstream view of the North Fork of Usal Creek showing dropped trees.
Photo credit: Richard Gienger

Vertical pan of the dropped trees, stream, stumps, and bank in the North Fork of Usal Creek
Vertical pan of the dropped trees, stream, stumps
and bank in the North Fork of Usal Creek.
Photo credit: Richard Gienger

Large stump placed on the eastern edge of North Fork of Usal Creek in Usal Redwood Forest
Large stump placed on the eastern edge of North Fork
of Usal Creek in Usal Redwood Forest.
Photo credit: Richard Gienger

In the last photo, you can see that a very large stump was placed on the eastern edge of the North Fork of Usal Creek in an area largely devoid of such large wood features. This large piece is likely to lodge itself in a place that will create an excellent pool and snare other floating wood. Together they will create the desired "habitat complexity" that fish and other aquatic species need for their life stages. These areas had been completely devoid of pools which are essential for salmonid habitat. The restoration work is reaping benefits for anadromous fish.

Steelhead are seen in Usal Creek in the Usal Redwood Forest
Steelhead are seen in Usal Creek in the Usal Redwood Forest.
Photo credit: Richard Gienger



The Conservation Stewardship Program
Under the Conservation Stewardship Program, RFFI will implement conservation measures throughout the Usal Forest property as follows: 1) Pre-commercial thinning (PCT) on 250 acres and later through-out the forest. 2) Implement Best Management Practices to protect soil quality on 200 acres. 3) Forest stand improvements for habitat and soil quality on 15 acres. The above practices will be implemented within the next three years; two additional years of maintenance will be undertaken in years four and five. RFFI received a grant to the Usal Redwood Company of up to $40,000 a year for the five years from the NRCS to help pay for this work.
 

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