Tree planting program saves salmon
It didn't seem like a big deal. Dave Powell with Mosaic Ecology, bent over, dug a small hole in the soggy ground and planted a tiny tree.
But that small act was a big milestone. It was the half-millionth native plant settled into the ground through the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District's StreamCare program.
EMSWCD's StreamCare program has been planting native trees and shrubs for 12 years on public and private land in Gresham, Corbett and Troutdale to help improve stream health and salmon survival.
More than 200 landowners in East County have voluntarily joined StreamCare.
Nancy Hamilton, Executive Director of the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District said it's a win-win.
"For one thing, it's free. And we have found that once landowners understand the benefits for their land, they're excited to participate," she said.
The program is free for landowners along Johnson, Beaver, Smith, Buck and Big Creeks, and Bonnie Brook. The work is done by companies contracted by EMSWCD.
"Our crews are able to transform stream fronts from a blackberry bramble to a thriving native forest that attract wildlife, protect water quality, and build more resilient communities," Hamilton explained.
One of the main goals of StreamCare is to create shade.
As the trees and bushes grow, they cast shadows over streams and lower the water temperature.
"It's mostly to benefit salmon," said Lucas Nipp, StreamCare program manager.
"Salmon need cool water. Most of the streams in our area are far too warm for healthy salmon." Local streams have been home to runs of coho, steelhead, chinook, and chum salmon, or the streams feed into rivers that host the fish.
As stream side forests have been cleared for development, waterways are subject to more direct sun, which warms the stream's temperature, making them less hospitable to salmon.
"Add to that the impacts of a warming climate and we have a bit of a crisis on our hands," says Nipp. "Basically, we're putting back what was there before it got removed."
The plantings also filter the water that runs into the streams, removing some of the pollutants before they flow into the streams and then rivers.
EMCSWD points out that as the forests return to a more natural state, wildlife that rely on them "for home, food, and shelter from predators also begin to return. As the trees grow old and fall in the creek or drop their branches, the fallen debris creates deep pools that salmon are drawn to for the cool water and hiding spots. The fallen leaves are also food for bugs, which in turn provide food for fish, and so on up the food chain. Stream side forests also make our communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change, including mitigating the impacts of both flooding and drought."
StreamCare is also a boost for the economy. Since it started in 2009, StreamCare has provided over 38,000 hours of work for field crews. The paychecks have been even more important during these last several months when COVID-19 has increased unemployment and workers have had hours cut.
Want to join StreamCare?
StreamCare is offered for interested landowners along Big Creek, Smith Creek, Johnson Creek, Beaver Creek, Buck Creek and Bonnie Brook.
- Big Creek, Smith Creek watersheds — All land owners along the creek.
- Johnson Creek Watershed — All land owners along the creek with property outside the city limits of Gresham may be eligible for StreamCare.
- Beaver Creek Watershed — All landowners with property along any fork of the creek outside the city limits of Gresham may be eligible.
- Buck Creek Watershed – All land owners along the creek.
- Bonnie Brook Watershed — All land owners along the creek.
Call Lucas at 503-539-5764 to determine if you are in one of the eligible areas.
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