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The Phytoplankton Collective Students, Scientists, and Resource Professionals Working Together for the Earth’s Greater Good By C. Moss, Mattole Ecological Education Program and Rachel Sowards Thompson, BLM Drifting on the ocean’s tides, furiously producing half the world’s oxygen while sequestering carbon dioxide, phytoplankton colonies can also have a dark side: removing oxygen, clogging or irritating fish gills, and pumping out nerve-destroying toxins. Phytoplankton are the base of the marine food chain, and without them the oceans’ ecosystems would collapse; but lately, some phytoplankton populations have been going through geographical shifts in response to climate change. For example, scientists are discovering that certain phytoplankton species associated with warm seas are starting to move into cooler ocean zones, with negative impacts on local food chains. There are thousands of species of these microscopic photosynthesizers in existence, and as part of NOAA’s Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN) and California Department of Public Health’s Marine Biotoxin Monitoring Program, two Mattole watershed schools have focused on identifying and inventorying two categories of phytoplankton— diatoms and dinoflagellates—each of which has Mattole School students use the ‘bucket technique’ to collect phytoplankton from member species that can, under certain conditions, the Mattole River’s estuary. Photo by C. Moss turn sinister and toxic. Starting last fall, the Mattole Ecological Education Program Hundreds of birds died. Since all the rocks and islands off California’s (MEEP) and the Bureau of Land Management’s King Range coast are critical shorebird and marine mammal habitat, and are National Conservation Area Project Office (BLM) joined NOAA’s part of the BLM-managed California Coastal National Monument, Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN) to watch for harmful BLM’s mandate is to protect this fragile ecosystem. This is why it’s algal blooms along the Lost Coast, which hasn’t been monitored gotten involved in monitoring and containing any HABs before their in a decade. PMN’s mission is to educate the public about harmful impacts cause massive problems. MEEP and BLM kicked off the PMN curriculum by taking algal blooms and expand the knowledge base on phytoplankton. Harmful algal blooms (HABs), like red tides, can remove oxygen as students from both schools to the ocean to learn proper colonies die, and clog or cut gills—any of which can cause serious phytoplankton collecting protocols. Mattole School focused on problems for salmon and other fish. HABs also produce toxins that samples collected in the estuary; Whitethorn School analyzed can kill both marine life and humans. In humans, symptoms of HAB samples from Shelter Cove. Back in the classroom, students learned include: nausea, vomiting, memory loss, seizures, neurological about phytoplanktons’ life cycle, anatomy, importance to the damage, and diarrhea. Sea birds are often most affected by HABs. A planet’s ecosystem, microscope use, and how to identify key diatom 1991 die-off of Monterey Bay pelicans was caused by a neurotoxin and dinoflagellate species. Each class was responsible for tallying its produced by a phytoplankton. Pelicans ate the anchovies that phytoplankton species and completing forms that were submitted fed on this phytoplankton and through biomagnification, the to national and state databases. To acknowledge different styles of neurotoxin accumulated at higher and higher levels in the pelicans. learning, students drew and sculpted clay models of phytoplankton

See “Phytoplankton” - continued on page 10

Mattole Restoration Council P.O. Box 160 Petrolia, California 95558


In this issue... Page 3: Letters to the Editor Page 4: Calling all Volunteers! Page 5: County General Plan Update Pages 6 & 7: Invasive Plants Removal on Local Conserved Lands s kle Pages 8 & 9: Turbidity Monitoring Field Season #1 Concludes c a Page 11: Forest Health Enhancement n T and a l P Page 12: Kids’ Page! al ge 5 g r e r Page 13: ‘Priceless’ a en e p te.o G Page 14: Staff Updates e a ty , s d Page 15: Pigs, Acorns, and Oak Groves un sues nup o C Is la Page 16: Mattole Salmon Group News ldt and w.p o w mb ral L it w u H Ru vis

Mattole Restoration Newsletter

From the Executive Director…

Published twice yearly by:

Frozen Funding Finally Freed

The Mattole Restoration Council Headquarters Office P.O. Box 160 Petrolia, CA 95558 Phone: (707) 629-3514 Fax: (707) 629-3577 Email: Upriver Office P.O. Box 223 • whitethorn, CA 95589 Phone: (707) 986-1078 Email: MATTOLE RESTORATION COUNCIL VISION we look forward to a time in the Mattole watershed when “restoration” will no longer be needed to address the effects of our land-use practices, and the watershed and its human communities are healthy and self-sustaining. we seek to educate ourselves regarding the natural processes at work involving the flora, fauna, geology, and streams of the Mattole; to learn about best land management practices; and to share with our neighbors what we learn. we hope that over time, a common understanding of these factors will help to shape broadly held community standards that will sustain the natural endowment of this place for future generations. Processes of recovery are already at work in the Mattole. we will apply what we learn by undertaking cooperative projects in watershed restoration to enhance those processes, healing the landscape as we heal our relations with one another.


STAFF F. Jeremy wheeler • Executive Director Claire Trower • Bookkeeper Steve Lovett • Contracts Director Pamela Conn • Contracts Manager Nancy Smith • Office Manager Jessica wygal • Office Assistant wild and working Lands Seth Zuckerman • Ali Freedlund Mike Gordon • Hugh McGee • Andrew Nash Monica Scholey Good Roads, Clear Creeks Joel Monschke • Laura Cochrane Ecological Education: C. Moss • Theresa Vallotton GIS/IT Department: Kimi Feuer • Stephanie Cepellos watershed Planner: Stephen Umbertis Resource Center & Development: Lauren Lubowicki Outreach Associate: Flora Brain Monitoring Coordinator: Nathan Queener Americorps Mentor: Hugh McGee Americorps watershed Stewards Project Members: David Bloch • Lindsey Baris

NEWSLETTER PRODUCTION Editors Flora Brain • Seth Zuckerman Layout and Design Flora Brain Co nt r i b u to r s : Lindsey Baris • Flora Brain • Ali Freedlund • Mike Gordon • Dave Kahan • Peter Marshall • Lindsay Merryman • C. Moss • Nathan Queener • Monica Scholey • Rachel Sowards Thompson • Jeremy wheeler

And a special Thank You to our supporters...

Bella Vista Foundation • Bureau of Land Management California Department of Fish and Game • California Fire Safe Council • Cereus Fund • County of Humboldt Dean witter Foundation • Humboldt Area Foundation McLean Foundation • Mountaineers Foundation • National Fish and wildlife Foundation • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration • Patagonia, Inc. • Ray and Marie Raphael • Resources Legacy Fund Foundation Rose Foundation • Save the Redwoods League • State Coastal Conservancy • State water Resources Control Board Tides Foundation • Trees Foundation • US Environmental Protection Agency • US Fish and wildlife Service • US Forest Service • USDA Rural Development and MRC Members and Friends of the Mattole. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of our funders, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use. Funding for this project has been provided in full or in part through an agreement with the State water Resources Control Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Federal Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program (Clean water Act Section 319). The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the State water Resources Control Board, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

when I last wrote one of these letters six months ago, we had just learned that the state’s financial crisis would keep it from paying its bills to the MRC for the indefinite future. Now, as I write these words, the state has finally made good on its contracts with us, allowing us to crank up to full speed just as our peak work season is beginning. Along the way, we have endured unprecedented financial pressures, with the state owing us more than half a million dollars for months. To navigate these straits, we have drawn on support from the local community and the patience of our contractors, and have realized how deep is the backing we can count on from the human constituencies that we serve in promoting the cause of watershed recovery. ‘Twas the week before Christmas 2008 when the state’s Department of Finance announced that California had no cash to pay for bond-funded projects, which represent about half of the MRC’s annual work. More than 5,000 projects were stalled statewide, a result of the global credit crunch that had kept the state out of the bond markets. In March 2009, the Treasurer’s office was finally able to again sell bonds on the open market. with attractive interest rates and a budget solution apparently in place in Sacramento, investors snapped up the bonds well beyond expectations. Here at MRC where we had slowed our bond-funded work to a crawl, reassigned staff, and maxed out our lines of credit, we breathed a sigh of relief, expecting that checks would soon follow. They didn’t. In April, the State held another bond sale, this one aided but complicated by the federal economic stimulus act. But May came and went, and we still hadn’t seen a penny from the State. Apparently the unconventional nature of these bond sales sparked mountains of paperwork. with our summer work season rapidly approaching, we reached the point where low flow — low cash flow, that is — would get in the way of the watershed recovery work that needed to be done. Enter the Mattole community. After 12 years of living here, I didn’t doubt that we are blessed with an exceptional community, dedicated to caring for our watershed. Even so, I was moved by the outpouring of support we received when we began approaching community members to seek short-term bridge loans. within one week, we had secured the $60,000 in loans we needed to get us through the last month of the bond freeze. As supporters dropped off their checks, they said things like “you all are near and dear to the heart of our community… you add so much through all your work…we can’t let you disappear!” These folks understood what was at stake were MRC forced to curtail its operations. For instance, they knew that without funding, MRC could not proceed with this summer’s Good Roads, Clear Creeks projects. GRCC has planned over 200 projects that over the next few years will stabilize nearly 1,000,000 cubic yards of sediment poised to enter Mattole watercourses, fill pools, exacerbate low flows and smother spawning gravels. This will be in addition to the 384,560 cubic yards already stabilized by the program throughout the watershed. Many of the upcoming erosion control projects are in the Upper North Fork, a major tributary which historically supported both coho and Chinook salmon. Our supporters also understand the importance of easing the hazard of wildfire. The bond funding freeze forced us to delay payments to local landowners reducing their forest fuels through our Fire Safe Forests and Homes program. This innovative program cuts the risk of catastrophic fire while simultaneously accelerating forest recovery, and is being used as a model by the County of Humboldt to expand this approach beyond the Mattole. In addition, folks step up to support MRC because they understand the importance of encouraging sustainable forestry, defending the watershed against invasive plants, and including ecological education in our local children’s education — a program that is doubly dear to my own heart since the birth of my second child, Cassidy, on April 11. Finally, in the last days of June, the State came through with what it owed us. we have now repaid our community bridge loans in full, and realize that through all of these struggles, we have become stronger together. Thank you!

Minding Our wake The Mattole Restoration News recently switched to a local printer. western web uses only soy inks and recycled paper. This paper is made from about 40% recycled waste paper and 60% wood fiber from mill waste. All paper waste generated from the printing process is sent back to the paper plant where it is recycled, and all of western web’s processing fluids and printing plates are also recycled!


Letters to the Editor I appreciated Joel Monschke’s front page thoughts on the lower river’s problems and wish we could count on nature to finish the clean-up as fast as she filled up the river with sediment and gravel. It took about 50 years for the Sacramento River to return to its channels after hydraulic mining was declared illegal . . . and SF Bay never flushed out the sediment. Consider what the need for restoration would be today, without the decades of work focused by the surveys and understanding of the MRC’s Elements of Recovery. For one thing, our native fish populations would have been diluted by hatchery fish, had the Mattole Salmon Group and the MRC not convinced Fish and Game to keep hatchery fish out. Thank you. Although fish and other river creatures still continue to struggle through our increasingly hot and dry summer months, we are fortunate to be in an area where the native populations which evolved in this place, these waters, remain to continue their adaptations to Mattole specifics. Studies show that native populations are better adapted to resist change and hardship. In too many places, people have introduced new species to supplement local populations, breaking forever the long chain of natural adaptations by local animals to their special places. Another remnant of the valley’s not-so-distant past as a prime fish stream flowing through shaded old-growth forests survives in the Mattole bronze shoulderband snail, Helminthoglypta. This elegant snail, with a tall, laterally flattened spiral shell, can be twice as large as the invasive European brown snail. I learned from the Internet that similar snail species are scattered throughout California. From the large number of family connections, I assume that these snails are very ancient and probably co-evolved with the great forests, the wild salmon, the ferns. we are fortunate to have them as a remnant, and hopefully as a future, population. In most of its range, Helminthoglypta is listed as data deficient, meaning that no one has estimated its remaining numbers. Does anyone know about the life cycle and feeding habits of this handsome snail?? All I can dig up is the provocative statement that this snail uses love darts . . . no photos or explanations provided. Lindsay Merryman, Petrolia

Letters to the Editor Policy Do you have thoughts on the natural processes at work in the Mattole? Do you have questions or ideas to share about their restoration? we’d love to hear them. Please email your letters to the editor – 300 words or fewer – to or mail them to Mattole Restoration News Editor, PO Box 160 Petrolia, CA 95558. Letters should include your full name and place of residence. we may edit for space and clarity.

You’re invited to the

MRC’s Annual Meeting and Celebration November 7, 2009

at Beginnings in Briceland Member Meeting at 4:00, Dinner at 6:30. Dinner and entertainment are open to all. 707-629-3514 for more information.

what kept us busy in 2008 The Good Roads, Clear Creeks Program: • upgraded 100 stream crossings, including 6 fish migration barriers: - Three bridge installations ranging in length from 40 to 53 feet - Three arch culvert installations with widths of 8, 16, and 22 feet - Forty-one new culvert installations with diameters ranging from 2 to 5 feet - Forty-seven rock-armored ford installations - Six rock armor placements for erosion prevention at existing culvert outlets • reshaped approximately 3 miles of road along 16 segments to improve drainage and reduce runoff concentration • decommissioned 23 crossings through sediment excavation and placement of rock for channel stabilization • stabilized eroding streambanks and landslides at 24 sites with riprap rock and willow planting • all in all, saved 106,830 cubic yards of sediment from entering the Mattole watershed - that’s more than ten thousand dump truck loads of material! Riparian Ecosystem Restoration: • planted 20,000 trees in Mattole Canyon, Blue Slide, Fire, Eubanks, wolf, Big Finley, and Grindstone Creeks, and the mainstem Mattole • collected 25 pounds of brush and tree seed • installed 250 feet of willow fence. Fire Safe Forests and Homes: • supported landowners in completing fire-safety projects on 40 different properties, totaling 115 acres • contracted 37 landowners to treat 99 acres around their homes and properties • completed the Telegraph Ridge shaded fuel break. Native Grasslands Enhancement: • planted 12,000 native grass plugs • collected 50 pounds of native grass seed • seeded approximately 5 acres with native grass seed. Mattole Ecological Education: • helped students plant several hundred trees around the watershed at revegetation sites • partnered with BLM to bring a phytoplankton monitoring curriculum to several schools in the watershed (see page 1) • worked with over 150 students, through multiple visits to every Mattole watershed school. Nick’s Interns: • provided restoration internships for 12 local youth. The Lower Mattole Turbidity Monitoring Project: • collected and analyzed over 600 winter storm season turbidity samples from 10 sites on lower river tributaries.

Interested in seeing some of the Council’s work in person? This fall, we plan to offer field trips to some recent restoration sites. Stay tuned to and local bulletin boards for announcements of these coming events. Have an idea of a type of project you’d like to tour? Call Marcia Ehrlich at (707) 629-3363.

To volunteer for this great event, please call or email SUMMER/FALL 2009 • MATTOLE RESTORATION NEwS • 3

Calling All Volunteers By Lindsey Baris I have been deeply inspired by my past volunteer experiences. Volunteering has been a part of my life for ten years, and I have had the blessing of giving back to the community and the environment in a social setting where everyone learns from one another. The last time I worked with volunteers, I’d recently joined the staff of a land trust. I was in the field with a group of retired Boeing employees, restoring prairies in Western Washington. These folks – some of whom had been volunteering weekly for 15 years – became selftaught experts on prairie ecology, learning about topics including bird and butterfly identification, pollination, native grasses, and

‘My vision for the MRC volunteer program is to give residents of the Mattole more opportunities to participate directly in the restoration effort happening here, and thereby make it theirs on an even deeper level.’

participate directly in the restoration effort happening here, and thereby make it theirs on an even deeper level. I would like to get more people out in the field, seeing and taking part in the efforts to restore this beautiful watershed. We are all lucky to live in a place so unique and special. Keeping the valley healthy, sustainable, and productive not only benefits native salmon populations and plant diversity, but it also greatly benefits us and our children as we continue to enjoy life in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Some volunteer events have already happened this year, including a “Pull and Plant” to remove invasive Local volunteers lend a peaceful hand during a volunteer broom pulling broom and plant riparian trees, fuels reduction at an event on Lighthouse Road. Photo: MRC staff elder Mattole resident’s home to create defensible space around his house, broom pulling at Mattole plant propagation. With their long experience, they knew better Triple Junction High School and along Lighthouse Road, and many than me what needed to be done. We reclaimed ownership of days spent propagating plants at our native plant nursery. the land and the actions to help restore it, working together with If you are interested in volunteering, have an idea for a great common goals and mutual respect. Seeing community members project, or would like to host a volunteer event on your property, come out and work together to restore and protect our beautiful please contact me at 707-629-3514 or at We’ll home brings a tear to my eye. also announce upcoming volunteer opportunities on our website Now, as one of the Council’s Americorps volunteers in the – – and on the bulletin board in downtown Watershed Stewards Project, I have taken on the task of coordinating Petrolia. a volunteer program at the MRC. My vision for the program is Hope to see you in the field! to give residents of the Mattole Valley more opportunities to

MRC’s Nick’s Interns Program Earns National Volunteer Award! The federal Bureau of Land Management has named the Nick’s Interns program of the Mattole Restoration Council as a winner of the 2009 Making a Difference National Volunteer Award. The award is given annually to a select group of organizations and individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the conservation and management of public lands. Nick’s Interns is a unique program that provides restoration work opportunities to high school students. This year, 8 recipients were chosen out of more than 60 nominations. The winners were honored at a special awards ceremony on May 14 in Washington, DC.

4 • SUMMER/FALL 2009 • mattole restoration news

The County’s planning website enables citizens to create maps (such as this one) of the land uses proposed under each of the General Plan alternatives now under consideration. The map at left depicts the Honeydew area, including the recently created “Rural Community Center” zone extending west of the current Honeydew Store area. “T” stands for timberland; AG, AGR, and AE for various kinds of agricultural zoning, and RR 520 for rural residential with a density of one house per 5 to 20 acres. To view such a map for your area, go to the General Plan website at, and follow the links for Web GIS mapping and then “General Plan Update.” Happy mapping!

The Humboldt County General Plan Update Plods Along By Ali Freedlund After eight years of glacial progress toward an update of the Humboldt County General Plan, the last few months have seen a surge in public interest and debate over the plan’s treatment of rural lands. The MRC has been tracking this process closely because land use patterns in the Mattole will have a significant effect on the watershed’s restoration and recovery. Many Mattolians are conscientious stewards of the land, but even so, the effects of what we do on our own private property spill over onto our neighbors’ land, and propagate further to affect precious things we hold in common: our river, our salmon runs, our clean air and water. In the best case, the General Plan can lay out a common vision for land use that fairly accommodates human needs along with those of other species who share the county with us. The state requires the county to update its general plan at least once every twenty years. The General Plan guides the location of buildings, development, and public infrastructure, and must also update county policy to conform with state policy. It is developed by Humboldt County (HC) planning staff with input from the public and direction from the Planning Commission (PC), and is ultimately approved by the Board of Supervisors. Once approved, it is to last 20 years — although the lengthy update process often means it is in effect for 25 years or more. (The current one was approved in 1984.) The HC General Plan Update (GPU) comprises 12 elements (listed at The Housing element was first to be addressed; currently the PC is hearing public comment on the Land Use element. Within the Land Use element are chapters that cover agricultural, timber, rural and urban lands. Policies developed from this element will guide growth, development, and land use until 2030 and beyond. At the heart of the debate over the Land Use element is whether the County should protect large timber and agricultural holdings from further fragmentation and subdivision. What makes many of the proposed policies so troublesome is that large timber holdings are zoned Timber Production Zone (TPZ), but so are thousands of small parcels owned by homesteaders. As a result, small landowners can easily be ensnared in policies written to curb the feared excesses of large timber companies — a phenomenon familiar from the recent history of logging rules as well. For each element, four options are developed with input from agencies and the public, as is common to planning processes. Option B is the preferred staff option — in between Option A, an alternative which would control growth more stringently, and Option C, which would allow more unregulated growth. Option D is the current plan approved in 1984. Most likely, the final approved language will be an amalgam of goals and policies from different options, rather than selecting one exclusively over the others. When MRC board and staff examined the options, we concluded that we couldn’t support any of them in their current form. Instead, the MRC recently submitted comments advocating principles that, we believe, are best for the watershed. We want the Plan to encourage rural landowners to improve their stewardship rather than making permit processes more costly or cumbersome. For instance, we want the plan to incorporate water conservation incentives to ensure adequate water quality and quantity for all aquatic

species. In addition we want the Plan to support the maintenance of large acreages of working lands for wildlife and aquatic habitat. Also, we feel it is essential to maintain agricultural land for food production to promote sustainable communities into the future. As we have described in these pages many times before, increasing the Mattole population runs the risk of pushing the watershed beyond its capacity to sustain human needs while also providing for aquatic life. It is important to plan ahead to forestall development that would exhaust the vitality of our watershed. In addition, if Mattolians restrain our appetites — for instance, by reducing our water use and limiting other domestic impacts — we will be better able to coexist with our human and other neighbors and enjoy a high quality of life. MRC encourages you to become informed in this public planning process and to consider becoming involved in it. Below are some important distinctions to clarify the how the plan would apply to the Mattole watershed. • All options allow homes to be built on rural land. Permits for a second residence on a parcel would depend on density standards for that parcel, which would be different under each of the four alternatives. (See above for information on how to view zoning maps under each option.) • No one will be required to merge their parcels with other ownerships under any option. • All options allow for the Alternative Owner-Builder (AOB) ordinance which allows for legally permitted owner-built homes, subject to fewer inspections than the usual building code. • The GPU cannot change the rules on waste disposal. The County Environmental Health Department can (and should) be pressured to allow for safe, water-conserving non-septic waste disposal on rural land. • All options allow for voluntary Conservation Easements. • The GPU will set specific policy regarding Timber Production Zoned land. The biggest proposed change would occur under Option A, creating a distinction between Industriallyowned TPZ land (IT) and smaller ownerships of TPZ land (T). In this scenario, home-building on Industrial TPZ land would have to be very sparse, unless landowners agreed to cluster their development and forgo their right to build outside those concentrated development zones. • The GPU will set specific policy for Agricultural land. All Agricultural land (AG) allows one residence by right across all options. Similar to the case with timberland, Option A would limit development on larger ownerships (AGR) more tightly than on land zoned AG. For more information: You can read the Land Use Element (Chapter 4) of the draft General Plan and track the other elements online at Or call Martha Spencer at the Planning Department, 2683074, to obtain your own printed copy. The Planning Commission is set to consider the different chapters of the Land Use Element during its July meetings. Debate over the alternatives will doubtless continue until the Board of Supervisors settles on a final version sometime next year. If you want to affect the outcome, make your voice heard early and often. SUMMER/FALL 2009 • mattole restoration newS • 5

Pulling weeds where it Matters Most:

Invasive Plants Projects on Conserved Properties By Mike Gordon “My first trip to the Mattole Valley was in 1949, when there were still old-growth forests throughout the watershed; where there were still an abundance of fish in the river; when the river was still deep and cold and the channel narrow. And I was there after the clearcutting and saw the devastating results of that destructive practice; and I never wanted it to happen again on any of my land.” Those are the words of Francis Scarpulla, who was motivated to protect his ranch near Honeydew with a conservation easement prohibiting its subdivision and protecting its old growth Douglas-fir. The grove of old growth sweeps up above a meadow dominated by native bunchgrasses that lies astride one of the oldest orchards in Humboldt County. These resources are striking to behold. To have ancient forest immediately adjacent to native prairie provides a rare opportunity to glimpse the extraordinary potential for beauty and biodiversity on this landscape. Conserved properties – though their terms vary – generally benefit the landscape of the Mattole by preserving open space, maintaining forest cover, and often restricting development. Subdivision can place more of a burden on resources such as water supply and water quality – more property owners using water for their residences and more roads altering natural hydrologic flows. Another way easements can benefit the Mattole is by preventing the spread and introduction of invasive plants. Some easements explicitly forbid the introduction of invasive exotic species. Others may help simply by restricting the creation of new roads or restricting other activities that could lead to soil disturbances (and most weeds thrive in disturbed soil). Thanks to a grant from the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation’s “Preserving wild California” program, the Mattole Restoration Council’s Invasive Plants Program has been able to help get a handle on invasive plants occurring on conserved properties in the Mattole. On many

conserved properties, invasive plants present a significant threat to the very resources that conservation easements seek to protect. For example, though the lovely old growth and grassland on the Scarpulla property has escaped destruction via clear-cut logging and overgrazing, they are currently threatened by a large stand of French broom. The plant is spreading over the grassland and into the openings between the old trees. If the broom were to continue to spread through the grassland it would completely outcompete the more sensitive, and rare, native prairie species. Beneath the old growth trees, the greatest threat the broom presents is in changing the behavior of a wildfire. Because it grows densely and is composed of highly flammable material, the chief concern was that a wildfire consuming that material could burn so hot as to damage the cambium of the trees, or act as a ladder fuel allowing flames to climb into the forest canopy. The MRC’s approach to the problem was holistic and innovative. Crews spent several days pulling and chainsawing the large brooms from the zone where the forest transitions into meadow, a ditch where the broom was expanding outward under the orchard/native grassland, along the main driveway and the edge of a large meadow that was important to the landowner for hay production and horse pasture. The piles on the forest edge are to be burned and will be broadcast seeded with native grass seed from on site this year. The broom plants removed from the edge of the ditch were packed on the bottom as a means of controlling the erosion that had deepened the gully and lowered the water table upon which the old orchard depended. The landowner is interested in following up the work with regular mowing, targeted grazing and possibly a prescribed burn. On another conserved property, the Sweet Ranch near downtown Petrolia affords the public with scenic open space and contiguous habitat for wildlife. Unfortunately, Scotch

‘On many conserved properties, invasive plants present a significant threat to the very resources that conservation easements seek to protect.’

See “Conserved Properties” - continued on facing page

BEFORE BEFORE: a dense understory of French broom beneath protected old growth Douglas-fir.

AFTER AFTER: French broom pulled from the same stand, resulting in increased habitat for native understory plants. Photos by Mike Gordon

A conservation easement is a voluntary, private agreement between a landowner and a land trust, such as the local Sanctuary Forest, that limits certain uses of a property in order to protect its conservation values. These conservation values are the specific ecological, scenic, cultural or natural resource features that give the land its special character, and provide enduring benefit to people and the larger ecosystem. Conservation easements are permanent and run with the land. As easement lets owners continue to own and use their land, eventually passing it on to heirs or selling it, but present and future owners are bound by the easement’s terms. Each easement is tailored both to the unique properties of the land and to the specific wishes of its owners. – Sanctuary Forest’s Conservation Easement Information Guide 6 • SUMMER/FALL 2009 • MATTOLE RESTORATION NEwS

Invasive Plants Projects on Conserved Properties - continued from page 6 broom threatens to convert this biologically diverse and economically valuable grassland/pasture into a monoculture of exotic shrubs that also present a serious fire danger to other nearby residents. MRC has collaborated with landowners Francis and Lorana Sweet and CAL FIRE to contain the stand through a coordinated approach. A prescribed burn has been planned to reduce the standing vegetation on an area small enough that follow-up treatments would not be prohibitively costly or complex. Through the Vegetation Management Program, the landowner and CAL FIRE have worked out a cost-share on the burn, and MRC has contributed labor hours for a crew of weed pullers to remove small outlier patches adjacent to the burn area. The burn is scheduled for fall of 2009. MRC has been eager to test the use of prescribed fire to control invasive brooms on a pilot project such as the Sweet Ranch. Large stands on steep terrain are impractical to treat by other common methods such as manual removal or heavy equipment. Fire is therefore an appealing tool that, if applied smartly, could effectively favor grassland species over such exotic woody shrubs. Ranchers in this area used to set fire to their grasslands regularly, understanding that recurrent fire could effectively control woody species that otherwise tend to invade the grassland setting. This integrated approach is meant to protect the myriad values inherent in the conserved property as well as provide a template for land stewardship strategies on a larger landscape scale. The work done on these properties has immense importance for the Mattole, as their conserved status means they will continue to exist in perpetuity as places to observe ecological processes and model stewardship techniques. We hope that other landowners are inspired by what has been taking place on these two ranches, and may consider undertaking land conservation and stewardship projects on their own.

Speaking of Invasives... Sudden Oak Death Update

So far, the pathogen that causes Sudden Oak Death has not been detected in the Mattole- but is near the edge of the watershed. For information and updates about SOD and what the MRC is doing to monitor its spread, call Andrew at 629-3514.

Publicly conserved lands on this map include the area held by the federal BLM, State Parks, the state Wildlife Conservation Board, and the State Lands Commission. In total, 38213 acres—approximately 20% of the Mattole—falls in this category. We have not included here land held by public agencies for institutional or recreational purposes, such as A.W. Way County Park or land that belongs to the various school districts. Privately conserved lands are those either held by a nonprofit land trust for conservation purposes, or covered by a conservation easement that restricts the management or future development of the land. More than 6% of the Mattole watershed, or 11,552 acres, are protected in this way. Data are current as of late 2008. Map produced by Mattole Restoration Council GIS staff

And if You’re Seeking Natives...MRC’s Native Plant Nursery Has Them! This fall we will have a variety of restoration and landscaping plants available for sale at the MRC’s Native Plant Nursery in Petrolia. Come by and check out what we have in stock or place a plant order for certain species at the Petrolia office or Nursery. Questions? Call Monica at 629-3514

And now in Shelter Cove at 99.5

Reclaimed redwood and fir - 629-3506 SUMMER/FALL 2009 • mattole restoration news • 7

Lower Mattole Turbidity Study’s First Field Season Yields Valuable Baseline Data

By Nathan Queener

The MRC’s Good Roads, Clear Creeks program has now inventoried and treated sediment sources in over 50% of the Mattole River watershed. To what degree are all these waterbars, wing deflectors, and upgraded culverts having an impact on the amount of sediment carried by Mattole streams? We’ve now completed the first year of a multi-year study designed to help us answer that question by looking at chronic turbidity at several sampling sites on tributaries to the Lower Mattole River. The amount of sediment any stream carries is the result of a complex mix of factors, including geology, climate, vegetation, and land management history. In some streams in this erodible corner of the world, unstable geologies and extreme precipitation events can result in high sediment loads regardless of human activity. For a more in-depth discussion of sediment transport, turbidity, and this study see page 5 of the previous edition of this newsletter. REACHING INTO THE MURK: Nathan Queener reaches down to take a turbidity sample on Lower Mill Creek. We sampled on receeding flows following a storm until the study streams cleared up. After a water sample is taken, it is poured into a small glass vial which is then inserted into a turbidimeter, which determines the turbidity of the sample (measured in “nephelometric turbidity units – NTRU). We collected and analyzed over 600 water samples this past winter. Photo by Flora Brain GETTING A HANDLE ON STREAMFLOW: Jen Hayes and David Bloch measure streamflow at the Cook Gulch sampling site. Typically, the amount of sediment a stream carries following a storm event varies dramatically with the magnitude of the storm and the streamflow. Knowing how much water a stream is carrying at the time we take a turbidity sample is essential to interpreting turbidity data. In order to determine streamflow at the time each sample is taken, a staff gage (the vertical white pipe in the foreground) was first installed at each sampling site. Our staff gages are simply plastic pipe with a length of tape measure attached. Each time a turbidity sample is taken, the sampler records the stream stage, or height of the water surface, on the staff gage. Stage is simply a relative measurement, depending on the geometry and gradient of the stream channel, and the height at which the gage is placed. In order to determine the discharge, or volume of water flowing past at any given stage, we have to take a series of flow measurements at a span of streamflows, from very low flows to the highest wadeable flows of the season. Streamflow is measured in cubic feet per second (CFS) by measuring water depth, stream width, and velocity. In the photo above, Jen is holding a Marsh-McBirney current meter and measuring water velocity. We plot the stage and discharge from each measurement, and develop from our measurements a stage discharge rating curve, which is a prediction of the streamflow at any given stage. Photo by Nathan Queener

Lower Mattole Tributary Lower Bound Lines, Water Year 2009 50

FROM POINTS TO LINES: The graph below shows turbidity and discharge from samples at two sites, the West Branch of East Mill Creek and Lower Mill Creek. For a given flow, the West Branch of East Mill Creek appears to show much higher turbidities, and therefore carry more fine sediment, than Lower Mill Creek. The lines on the graph are the “lower bound lines” for each site, a representation of the minimum turbidity we sampled for a given flow. A steeper lower bound line indicates that a stream maintains higher turbidity concentrations at a given flow.

Lower Mill Creek (LMC) and West Branch East Mill Creek (WEM) 200





Granny Ck

North Fork South Branch East Mill Ck

Boots Ck 40

East Branch East Mill Ck


South Fork South Branch East Mill Ck


Cook Gulch

25 Saunders Ck 20

Lower Mill Ck



Turbidity (NTRU)


Turbidity (NTRU)

Discharge vs Turbidity

West Branch East Mill Ck






0 0











Discharge (cubic feet per second/square mile)

60 40 20 0 0





Discharge (cubic feet per second/square mile) 8 •SUMMER/FALL 2009 • mattole restoration news


WIDE SPAN IN LOWER-BOUND LINE SLOPES: The “lower-bound lines” from all of the lower Mattole tributary sites plotted side by side, above. There is a large degree of variation in turbidities amongst the sampled streams, reflecting differences in a multitude of factors including a basin’s geology, vegetation, microclimate, and land management history. Sediment reduction work will occur in some of these drainages in the summer of 2010. We plan to continue this project for at least two years following erosion control work to document the effects on instream turbidity levels. There is no “correct” level of turbidity in a stream – levels between different tributaries will vary significantly due to differing physical characteristics between basins. We expect to see a gradual relative reduction in the steepness of the slopes of the lower-bound lines in streams where a considerable amount of work is taking place. Erosion and sediment transport is a complicated, mysterious phenomenon, and this study helps add to our understanding of the potential impact landowners and restorationists can have in reducing sediment loads in the Mattole. Stay tuned for more exciting lower bound lines following this next winter storm season! This project would not have been possible without the hard work of the field technicians who took samples and flow measurements in the wet and cold, landowners who graciously allowed us access to their property, and hydrologist Randy Klein who provided technical guidance and data analysis. SUMMER/FALL 2009 • mattole restoration news • 9

Phytoplankton Collective - continued from page 1 species, and split into competing Jeopardy teams to demonstrate their knowledge. Like detectives searching for a serial killer, students were especially keen to find a California destroyer—Pseudo nitzschia. Pseudo nitzschia is a diatom that produces a toxin called domoic acid which can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning and short-term memory loss. Luckily, it has gone undetected all year. what conditions cause a normally innocent species to turn killer and form HABs? Temperature, salinity, sunlight, and nutrient changes all work together to create the conditions that encourage exponential growth. It’s one thing to have a thousand Pseudo nitzschia producing domoic acid, but once a bloom gets going, a colony’s population can grow into the millions. Sometimes, a hazardous bloom can grow so big, as with a red tide caused by the dinoflagellate Gonyaulax catenella, that it can go from 200,000 cells to 2 million per ml of water. when these enormous colonies are pushed to shore by winds, the waves break open the phytoplankton cells and the toxin is released. Most red tides that plague California’s coastline aren’t toxic, but it’s best to be cautious about any massive phytoplankton bloom. Some are deadly, which is why the National Phytoplankton Monitoring Project is keeping a watchful eye on our coastal zones, before an HAB can impact fishing and marine-dependent life. The phytoplankton monitoring project is partnership at its best! So many different elements have been involved—students, educators, scientists, resource professionals and restorationists— all working together seamlessly to generate important scientific data with local, statewide, and national relevance. Moving into the future, let’s hope more of these beneficial types of partnerships will continue to develop.

Above: Tim, a student at Mattole School, holds up his sculpture of the diatom Odontella. Left: Wesley, a student at Mattole School, adjusts his microscope’s magnification before searching for phytoplankton on his slide. Below: Electron scanning microscope close-up of the dinoflagellate, Protoperidinium. Photos by C. Moss


Owner, C10 license #815229 Box 2364, Redway, CA 95560 (707) 845-4367 Solar System installation and repair Custom cables Storage batteries a specialty


Talking About Forest Health Enhancement It’s more than just cuttin’ brush! By Dave Kahan A puzzled grimace wrinkled the nose of the woman as she quizzed me: “Don’t you guys work with the MRC?” “Yes ma’am,” I replied. “Then how come you’re cutting trees, and what has this got to do with the river?” This exchange occurred recently during creation of the Telegraph Ridge Shaded Fuel Break on Ettersburg Road. And this article seeks to scratch the surface of addressing this issue.

‘Then how come you’re cutting trees, and what has this got to do with the river?’ It’s important to understand initially that most of the forests all over the western US are very different today than they were 150 years ago. Locally there was a much higher prevalence of larger trees with more open, “park like” understories. Periodic fire (here on the coast more human-instigated than from lightning) was a major force in maintaining the character of these forests. Since then, wildfire suppression – in conjunction with clearcut and other “evenaged” timber harvest practices – have brought about a profound change in the nature of these stands. Now understories are typically choked with thickets of dense brush and smaller trees. Fires recurring every 5-20 years on average (in the belief of many who study this topic) would “clean up” the understories and keep them open, with usually little to no damage to the larger trees. Ecologists and restorationists mostly agree that the conditions existing prior to settlement by peoples of European descent (“pre-contact”) constituted a “healthier” ecosystem and provide a reference point to guide restoration efforts, often modified by contemporary economic realities and the looming specter of climate change. Today it’s usually not practical to consider simply reinstating “broadcast” fire (applied over a span of the forest floor, as distinguished from “pile burning”) directly to its former role for a variety of reasons. In many situations it may be desirable to use broadcast fire as a tool to maintain an otherwise “restored” landscape, but space limitations defer that discussion to another newsletter. However, over the last 30 years or so “mechanical” means for brush control have become more and more prevalent. Although heavy machinery has been developed to accomplish this, for various reasons it has manifested locally most often as people on the ground using chainsaws, in conjunction with brush handlers (“swampers”) feeding burn piles or chippers to dispose of the cut brush. Three main objectives drive most of the motivation to undertake this work – public safety, economic, and ecological. One of the legacies of fire prevention and suppression efforts is that because of fuel build up many wildfires today burn more intensely, spread more rapidly, and have more negative effects on both the ecosystem and human developments. Compounding this is the trend of human development to reach farther and farther into the “wildland,” making those developments more difficult and dangerous to defend. This is commonly known as the wildland-urban interface, or WUI. Modification of forest fuels to increase fire safety is probably the most common incentive to fund manipulations of the forest stand. Throughout this decade MRC has partnered successfully with the Lower Mattole Fire Safe Council to create regionally strategic shaded fuel breaks on Telegraph, Wilder, and Prosper Ridges, and in Panther Gap. In addition, MRC’s popular Fire

‘Today it’s usually not practical to consider simply reinstating broadcast fire directly to its former role...’

Safe Forests and Homes project has to date helped 90 landowners treat 192 acres to create defensible space around homes and safer access routes to and from them. Timber stand improvement (TSI) is another common goal. Removing competition for space and nutrients enhances growth of selected individuals of desired species. Pruning the trunks of the trees left in the stand increases both their potential timber value by inducing growth of knot-free wood and their safety from fire by reducing “ladder fuels” which help fires climb from the surface to the canopy where negative consequences increase tremendously on all fronts. In addition, re-establishment of traditional balances of species diversity, relative abundance, structure and age class distribution has ecological benefits, potentially including enhanced wildlife habitat and resiliency from infestations such as Sudden Oak Death. In this regard MRC stands out as a leader in applying innovative prescriptions for this work. Most fuel modification or TSI prescriptions are relatively simplified and fairly rigid. For example, a TSI project might dictate to leave a conifer every 15 feet; a fuel reduction might focus on elimination of surface brush along with some pruning. Along with local Registered Professional Forester (RPF) Tim Metz’s company (Restoration Forestry, Inc.), the Institute for Sustainable Forestry, and University of California Cooperative Extension forester Yana Valachovich MRC seeks to achieve multiple objectives wherever possible. For instance, it’s common to find fir trees growing into and/or through the canopies of bigger, older

‘For instance, it’s common to find fir trees growing into or through the canopies of bigger, older madrones.’ madrones. Under pre-contact likely scenarios, periodic fire would knock back the smaller firs and maintain the dominance of the madrone on that spot. A large madrone generally has much higher value to wildlife than a young to middle-aged fir. Without intervention, the firs will eventually shade out the madrone and take over the site. So we would be inclined to cut the fir and leave the madrone. MRC’s inception 26 years ago was largely a part of the response to declining salmon runs. Professional evolution and maturation eventually led to manifesting the ecological axiom that “it’s all connected” by spawning the Wild and Working Lands program to help address these issues. One example of this is that a very hot and expansive wildfire could result in much soil erosion, to the detriment of fish habitat. Recognition of the ecological flow and interplay between the stream channel and the ridgeline dovetailed with the outlook of many at the MRC, of the appropriateness of this organization to do its share to help build the infrastructure to balance ecological health, sustainable economy, and fire safety in the Mattole. Look for more thorough treatments of these topics in future newsletters.

Mattole Restoration News is pleased to announce the inception of a new feature. Readers are invited to write in with questions pertaining to strategies or techniques for forest stand manipulation, technical tips on chainsaw use and maintenance in service of these projects, or related queries. Dr. Rakergauge, an ancient and venerable local practitioner of these arts, will humbly attempt to address these concerns. Remember, “Ask Dr. Rakergauge” is interactive, and depends on your participation!

SUMMER/FALL 2009 • mattole restoration news • 11

Kids’ Page Starting now, this page is dedicated to stuff for, about, and by kids only! Match the creature to its home! Each Mattole animal on the left lives in one of the homes on the right. See if you can match them up!

WORD SCRAMBLE Directions: Rearrange the scrambled letters to find the words that relate to the Mattole Valley! Answers are posted at the bottom of pg. 15.

1) neroh:

HINT: a bird that likes to fish in the shallows 2) malnos: HINT: they are at home in the river and the ocean 3) pirarian HINT: area near streams and river 4) isonoer: HINT: runoff 5) ohoc: HINT: smaller and fewer than kings 6) lamasanders: HINT: have gills when young 7) verri: HINT: flows through the valley 8) uribyttra: HINT: feeds into the river 9) stewdareh: HINT: a drainage basin is a 10) lowiwl: HINT: tree found at river’s edge

11) lopo: 12) ratew: 13) shrummoos: 14) ereck: 15) redal: 16) twen: 17) sterarionto: 18) gleae: 19) hedeleast: 20) gyceolog:

winter/spring 2001 • mattole restoration newsletter 12 • SUMMER/FALL 2009 • mattole restoration news

HINT: swimming hole HINT: all living things need this HINT: another word for fungi HINT: another word for stream HINT: water-loving tree HINT: has an orange warning belly HINT: heals the land HINT: hunts fish from above HINT: like a salmon, but this fish may spawn more than once HINT: the study of home

We gratefully acknowledge the following donors whose generous financial gifts of $100 or more in the last year have helped make our work possible Anonymous Robert Beede Jose Beltram Paul and Geri Bloch David Buxbaum and Daniele Rossdeutscher Kevin Canada and Ruth Olin Ken Carpenter Justin and Spring Cogswell Richard Elefant and Diana Jacobs Richard and Sally French Jimmy and Lela Friel

Kristi Gochoel and Barbara Penny Joshua Johnston Adriena Kajdos & Bill Stiles Destiny Kinal and Barry Skeist Peter Mayfield Lindsay Merryman and Robert Wiele Peter and Judy Nash Richard Noble and Susan Richardson Andrew Oppmann Lillian Perras and Claire Perricelli

Rinehart Engineering and Construction Scott Roberts Jed Sherman Francis Scarpulla Don Scoville Robert Stemler Dani Walthall Chad and Jessica Whitmire Sheldon and Emily Wolin John Williams and Kathryn Radke

Thank you also to all of our donors who are not listed here. Your names are too numerous to list, but your gifts are equally important and appreciated!

removing an abandoned stream crossing: $5,000

planting a bare creek-bank with Douglas-fir: $250

raising a tray full of native bunchgrasses to plant on charred or exposed soil: $60

clear creeks in winter, cool creeks in summer: priceless.

BECOME A MEMBER OF THE MATTOLE RESTORATION COUNCIL! Benefits of Membership Becoming a member of the MRC is one of the easiest ways to become a part of the Mattole restoration movement. Your membership dues are extremely important to us, allowing us to pursue important work that may otherwise fall through the cracks of our grants and contracts. Additional Benefits: * Subscription to our twice-yearly newsletter. * 20% discount on custom mapping services (applies to labor costs only). * Members who are also residents or landowners in the Mattole watershed are eligible to vote in our board elections.

Name (or two names for family membership)________________________

____________________________________________________ Address_______________________________________________ City, State, Zip___________________________________________

Telephone_____________________________________________________________ E-mail Address __________________________________________ Payment type (circle): MC VISA CHECK MONEY ORDER Card Number _______ - _______ - _______ - _______ Expiration Date: _____________________

1) I/we live or own property in the Mattole watershed: ___Yes ___No 2) This payment is for: __New Membership __Renewal __Just donating (skip to #4) 3) Please select membership level: __Individual $25 __Family $40 (two votes) __Low Income $15 4) __YES! I would like to make an additional tax-deductible donation. Amount $_________ 5) Mattole watershed wares: (to see photos of these products, visit our website at Thinking Like a watershed (VHS Video) $20 each Qty:____ Totem Salmon (paperback) $15 each Qty:____ MRC Pint Glasses $ 5 each Qty: ____ MRC Aprons $20 each Qty:____ MRC T-shirts S M L XL XXL $15 each Qty: ____ MRC Sweatshirts S M L XL XXL $25 each Qty: ____ Ribbed MRC tank tops S M L XL XXL $15 each Qty:____ Mattole watershed color relief map (11 x 17”) $ 5 each

Qty: ____

6) ____Please send me raffle tickets for the sculpture, ‘Nautica.’ $2 each Qty:____ 7) Total amount enclosed (#3 + #4 + #5 + #6) $___________ 8) ____Please contact me about additional ways to give to the MRC, including donations of stock, property, and planned giving. 9) ____Please keep me informed of volunteer opportunities.


Staff Update Blase Bonpane - pictured at right with Americorps interns Lindsey Baris and David Bloch - departs the MRC to join the faculty at College of the Redwoods, where he will teach American and International Political Science. He has also started as a consultant under the firm Nonprofit Leadership Services. Blase served the MRC since the fall of 2006 and we are grateful that he remains a member and volunteer. ‘Bye Blase, and thanks for your passion for social and environmental justice!

The MRC sends off Matt Cocking to enter the College of Natural Resources at HSU to pursue a Masters in Science in Forestry. Matt’s graduate study focus is fire ecology. He will be studying under Dr. J. Morgan Varner and will be at HSU for two years, after which time he hopes to find a job in Natural Resource Management or wildland Fire Management. Matt sends his best wishes to the MRC and the community.

The MRC bids farewell to Jessica DeKelver. Jessica kept a close watch on the financial interests of the Good Roads Clear Creeks Program for more than five years. Her long-term dedication to the MRC was commendable.

MRC welcomes Laura Cochrane who joins our whitethorn office as Contract Manager for the Good Roads, Clear Creeks Program. Laura grew up in Eureka and as a child spent her summers with her family on the Mattole, and she is very happy to be home! Laura has been working as an Academic Lab Coordinator (and part time Field Biologist) at San Francisco State University for the past 8 years, and is in the final stages of completing her Master’s degree in Ecology. when not at work or busy writing her thesis, Laura enjoys volunteering, spending time with her family, swimming in the river, hiking and kayaking.

Mike Gordon leaves this August after three years in Petrolia. Having begun as an Americorps watershed Stewards Project volunteer, he continued his loyal service to the Mattole’s human and vegetation communities as Invasive Plants Program Coordinator. He seeks to continue the mission of protecting wild landscapes from the scourge of invasive weeds in other regions, and possibly as a graduate student


<-- wIN this sculpture for just $2! “Nautica,” valued at $2,800, hand-carved by John McAbery Get your tickets at MRC offices in Petrolia or whitethorn, the Petrolia Store, tickets sellers at local events, or at our website: Raffle will take place at Beginnings on Nov. 7th. All proceeds support MRC’s effort to restore the Mattole River watershed. /

Local Artist to Show Sculptures On September 4, 5 and 6, John McAbery will unveil a collection of his nature-inspired sculptures, carved from local California bay wood. Sept. 4th-6th from 1 to 8 pm, Mattole Valley Community Center in Petrolia

12th Annual Coho Confab August 28-30, Mendocino Coast

SRF, Trees Foundation, the Mendocino Land Trust and Jughandle Farm will host the 12th Annual Coho Confab featuring tours of Caspar Creek fish ladders and road work, underwater fish identification, macro-invertebrate sampling and other habitat restoration tours along the Coast including post-fire erosion control, fish passage projects, and large woody debris recruitment. Tours will visit the Garcia River, Usal Forest, Caspar Creek, Jackson State Demonstration Forest, and the Sinkyone. Please visit the SRF website for more information or call (707) 923-7501. 14 • SUMMER/FALL 2009 • MATTOLE RESTORATION NEwS

Community Column Pigs, Acorns, and Oak Groves By Peter Marshall I hadn’t taken Rex Rathbun’s advice to “get back into the woods as much as possible.” Instead I was inside and had googled “Oak Regeneration.” Shazam—there were endless sites dealing with seedling protection tubes, time-release fertilizer tablets, shade cloth, bamboo stakes, and on and on. Summed up, though, they answered my persistent question, “Where do Oak groves come from?” about as cogently as farmed Atlantic salmon answers the yearning for wild Chinook. Less than zero. So I took Rex’s advice and went back outside. In the Spring of ‘07, I acquired two weanling pigs from Robbie and Lauren after a decade of despairing of ever again tasting decent pork from the market. (If I was the Ayatollah, I’d issue fatwahs against all feed lots, baby carrot mills, peanut butter factories, spinach bagging facilities, and factory farms.) All summer long I fed these two better than I feed myself. Every day they got lots of mashed grains with huge amounts of a freshly chopped ‘pesto’ of organic vegetable trimmings from Eureka Natural Foods. This was augmented by a steady stream of local runaway zucchinis, crooked cucumbers, Giant Pumpkin Contest winners, and the Valley’s abundant apple crop. Did you know that pigs wag their tails? Oh, yes! It was a wonderful summer and I was looking forward to slaughter time with growing respect and gratitude. I had planned on doing this dance with Lefty and Whitey just as the rains set in. But then one September day at feeding time something happened: an acorn fell from the laden branch and hit me on the head. Over the next few weeks, I gathered a half-gallon or more of sound white oak acorns every day from one of seven nearby groves. When I would gather from the grove adjacent to the pig pen, their pitiful moaning accompaniment to the rat-tat of handsful of acorns tossed into the tin gathering bucket finally emboldened me to turn the pigheaded critters out and try my luck at herding them to the acorns and back. There followed four of the more remarkable and pleasant months of my life. We hung out together for hours a day, rain or shine, six days a week, for four months in the Oak groves. We stood in the middle of what a Southern Humboldt resident described as the heaviest mast crop he had seen in his entire 87-year life. I was not asked to write about pig herding, but Whitey and Lefty acted as potent agents of a special observational perspective. While they feasted, I spent my time admiring these Standing People, the Oaks, who had seen, perhaps, two or three hundred years and still offered another generous blanket of these rich acorns to the forest floor. What was to become of them? By their girth, by their massive limbs, by their thousand branches and huge canopies they were obviously perfect and complete in every respect. What more could possibly be in store for them? Two disturbing dynamics are apparent. One is abrupt and accompanied by CRACK then CRASH as a huge limb finally becomes unbearable or the cat-faced, fire-scarred root crown fails, sending the entire ancient Oak crashing to the ground. The other observed disturbance to the Oak grove is the vigorous emergence of Douglas-fir seedlings beginning under the northerly shade of the Oak’s canopy. We saw this disturbance in five of the seven groves we visited. My guess is that within two decades all five of these Oak groves could be overtopped by the closing canopies of five 21st century Fir forests. Now that may be all well and good, yet Lefty and Whitey seemed to urge me to bring along the lopping shears and, on occasion, the twelve-inch chain saw. Not thinking that I would change the course of history, but rather that I might forestall the inevitable or prolong the wonderful present, I limbed and thinned fir saplings. I lopped and scattered while the pigs worked their way contentedly about the grove. Did you know that they spit out the acorn shells? They do, and any wormy acorns right away, also. My time roaming about with Whitey and Lefty eventually came to an end and another year has passed. I return to the groves now and again and continue to ponder the question of how Oak groves come to be, arrive at maturity, and perpetuate themselves. I plan to

continue my puny forestalling tactic in one particularly productive grove soon to be overtopped by three forty-foot fir trees, with dozens of attendant saplings of at least two distinct generations. I plan this even though I am certain that in half a decade there will be a new crop of fir seedlings. Isn’t this strange that old Oak would offer such sweet refuge to the Fir young, knowing full well that Fir may someday play a part in Oak’s eventual demise? There must be something else. My wonderment is compounded when I look among the Fir saplings and see countless one-year-old Oak seedlings. Those pigs weren’t blind; they were just full. This co-mingling of Fir and Oak energies is astounding because each appears (at first glance) to be so at odds with the other. Each seems to take from the other something it cannot supply for itself. The Fir thrives in the shade of the Oak canopy and in the Oak duff rich with composted leaves and the droppings of grazing animals. It’s harder to grasp what the Oak seedlings gain from staking their claim smack dab in the midst of riotous Fir regeneration. Something’s got to give. Where’s the give-and-take? Most descriptions of the landscape at the time of Euro-contact include mention of the indigenous use of fire to clean the groves of oak moth larvae and to eliminate litter that hides the fallen acorns. If this was, in fact, a frequent occurrence, the resulting fire could well have been Fir’s give and Oak’s take. Low-intensity fire at the end of the growing season would surely kill all the Fir seedlings and would scorch the leaves of the Oak seedlings, but would leave the Oaks’ root crowns unharmed, hardly killing the entire crop, given their noteworthy juvenile tenacity. I do a good imitation of mellow groundfire using the lopping shears and small saw. It will help sustain the Oak groves’ longevity and productivity if the Fir riot is toned down every so often. But what about the CRACK then CRASH? There’s no stopping this disturbance; the Standing People simply lie down after offering so many acorns. So many acorns, no one’s seen more in 87 years. Is this where Oak groves come from? I intend to get back into the woods as often as possible and watch as the surge of Oak energy settles in over the course of the next decade or two. I think the answer to my question will be clear. It’s easy to imagine hardy groves of fifteen-foot tall Oak saplings, with a mighty Fir nearby to broadcast clouds of plump Fir seeds, and maybe a couple of pigs.

We invite you to experience Mattole Camp!

Answers to the Word Scramble on page 12: 1) heron 2) salmon 3) riparian 4) erosion 5) coho 6) salamanders 7) river 8) tributary 9) watershed 10) willow 11) pool 12) water 13) mushrooms 14) creek 15) alder 16) newt 17) restoration 18) eagle 19) steelhead 20) ecology

Situated along the Mattole River, Mattole Camp has served Humboldt County for over 60 years as a year round gathering place for churches, schools, organizations and events in a serene location away from the distractions of life.

Weddings, Receptions, Reunions. 707-629-3308 SUMMER/FALL 2009 • mattole restoration news • 15

Mattole Salmon Group News Downstream Migrant Trapping Yields Some Good Tidings By Flora Brain With the closure of the Mattole river mouth on July 2 comes the end of the salmonid outmigrant trapping season at the Mattole Salmon Group. In April, MSG staff and volunteers installed a fyke net trap on the Lower North Fork and a rotary screw trap on the mainstem Mattole River. MSG staff annually measure, weigh and count downstream-migrating juvenile salmonids (coho, Chinook, and steelhead) before returning them to their watery home. Though all the data for this year are not quite processed, staff Biologist Sean James is extremely happy to report that we did see coho salmon smolts in the mainstem trap this year. Why so happy? Given that coho spend their first full year in freshwater, last summer’s alarmingly low flows in the headwaters habitat that they depend on caused grave concerns for their survival. But despite those worrisome low flows last summer, our local coho appear to have found some mysterious habitat to hide in, with cool enough water to get them through until the fall rains came. Way to Top: Staff Biologist Sean James, Kate Cenci (Mattole Salmon Group Program go, little fish! Still, Mattole coho are far from off the Assistant), and Chris Root and Sarah Burstein (Americorps Watershed Stewards hook, and continued vigilance and concern for low Project Interns) check the fyke net trap on the Lower North Fork. summertime flows are certainly warranted. To put Above: A steelhead smolt at the mainstem trap gets measured before being released it in perspective, last year only 313 juvenile coho into the recovery bucket and back to the river. Photos courtesy of the Mattole Salmon Group outmigrants were trapped; in 2007 the number was just 222. 2006 saw 450, but don’t get too excitthe headwaters. The concern was that those Chinook redds might ed; remember we’re talking about juvenile fish. Considering the likelihood that any tiny percentage of these juveniles would make get blown out by heavy rains and subsequent high flows. While we don’t have the numbers for this year quite yet, we definitely did see it through the gauntlet consisting of the Mattole estuary, ocean conditions, and back again, and orchestrate a successful return to more than a few Chinook juveniles looking frisky in the mainstem trap. Either we got lucky and—how ironic is this?—didn’t weather spawn—with another—in their Mattole home, the prospects of a self-sustaining Mattole coho salmon population still look fairly grim a high enough subsequent flow event, or Chinook spawners, eggs indeed. (Also, it should be noted that none of these numbers con- and fry are more adaptable than we sometimes think (or likely both). However you look at it, more than a few of those kings perstitute nor translate in a consistent way into population estimates; sisted. And last year 18,457 Chinook juveniles were counted in the the reasons for that are low trapping efficiency and variable trap mainstem trap. In 2007, that number was 10,953. In 2006, only 8,008 efficiencies year to year and species to species, as well as weather events making trapping seasons vary year to year. Please resist the juvenile Chinook were caught. (Again please refer to the disclaimer on all numbers.) temptation to compare numbers for each year. For example, in any The last bit of qualified good news concerns the Lower given year, a heavy early spring rain may bring high river flows dur- North Fork trap. For the second year in a row—and that trap has ing which the traps must be pulled out.) only been in place for two years now—the large lower river tribu A second bit of happy news from the mainstem trap requires tary has turned up a few Chinook salmon juveniles (not more than another exercise of medium-term memory. Harkening back to last fall/early winter…remember those worrisome low river flows that twenty). Due to the low number of Chinook captures this year, MSG left Chinook spawners stranded below some seriously shallow did not do any trap efficiency calculations. Last year, 86 juvenile Chinook were captured in the Lower North Fork, and the populariffles in the lower river? There was some concern for the Chinook redds that were dug low in the river system due to the fishes’ inabil- tion estimate based on trap efficiency was 628 juveniles. Overall, this year’s juvenile salmon observations—despite ity to make their way upstream to the preferred spawning habitat in some challenging conditions in the last year for coho and Chinook— may be reason for local fishheads to enjoy a quick smile. On the one hand, we are again given cause for awe and reverence towards our resilient Oncorhynchus neighbors, and it seems that those decades of unflagging efforts to restore their habitat were not in vain. On the other hand, it is certainly not time to go out and start catching and eating them. Mattole salmon are still with us—but they’re just hanging on. /

The Mattole Salmon Group is dedicated to restoring self-sustaining salmon populations in the Mattole River Watershed. For more information, please visit the MSG website, SUMMER/FALL 2009 • mattole restoration news • 16

Mattole Restoration Newsletter #32 Fall 2009  

The Mattole Restoration Newsletter is a bi-annual publication of the Mattole Restoration Council. Come read about current events and project...

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