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Winter in the World of Restoration

Would it surprise you to learn that winter is still a busy season in the restoration world? You may think that as the weather gets cold, we stay inside and catch up after a busy field season. However, some of our most important fieldwork occurs in the winter: spawning surveys. Our restoration specialists and partners go out from December through February during key Coho Salmon and steelhead spawning months to look for adult spawning salmon and redds, which are nests in gravel beds where many species of fish lay their eggs. Tracking redd distribution and location helps us assess salmonid use on our projects where we have enhanced their habitat (learn more about our monitoring efforts here.)

In addition to spawning surveys, we also keep an eye on high-flow events. As snow melts or significant precipitation events occur, we see higher water levels and want to know how large wood structures perform that we’ve placed at project sites. According to Lance Wyss, RRWC Restoration Biologist, “This is when the wood is working.” That means the large wood is restoring stream processes by sorting spawning gravels, digging deeper pools, among other benefits. All of which combine to create aquatic habitat. We also want to know if and when the side channels we enhanced and reconnected have water flowing. These areas are also crucial for restoring stream processes, and provide additional spawning and rearing habitat for fish.

Winter can also be a great time to do some planting. This year, volunteers from the Middle Rogue Steelheaders joined us to plant a variety of shrubs and trees along the Elk Creek RM 11.8 project. With additional help from landowners, 400 plugs were put in the ground, with species including red flowering currant, bigleaf maple, Oregon grape, wild mock orange, and chokecherry. We also contracted R Franco Restoration to plant a variety of native trees and shrubs that totaled 7,600 at South Fork Little Butte Creek RM 6.2 and 4,000 trees and shrubs at Salt Creek RM 3.0 projects.

Of course, we also spend substantial time planning projects, securing contractors, and making sure upcoming construction plans are ready to go! This year, staff has been busy preparing for projects on Bear Creek and Elk Creek set to be underway this summer. To learn more about our projects, head over here.


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