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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

STOCKTON FWO: Merced River Salmonid Habitat Restoration and Education

Region 8, April 1, 2011
Michelle Workman, USFWS, shows students how to conduct pebble counts on the Merced River.
Michelle Workman, USFWS, shows students how to conduct pebble counts on the Merced River. - Photo Credit: n/a

By Michelle Workman, Stockton FWO

On a beautiful day in April, the U.S. Fish and Wlidlife Service Stockton officeWS and Cramer Fish Sciences (CFS) staff hosted a field trip to the Merced River Ranch site to teach these young students about the importance of restoration, and some of the finer techniques involved in assessing the available habitat. Some of the educational stations included: seining for juvenile fish, sampling for macroinvertebrates, conducting pebble counts, and measuring water temperature and dissolved oxygen.

The Anadromous Fish Restoration Program (AFRP) of the US Fish and Wildlife Service has funded, permitted, and begun habitat restoration activities at the Merced River Ranch site on the Merced River. , and not only is it benefitting the resource, it is providing an ongoing educational opportunity for the students of Snelling Middle School.

AFRP is currently funding a project on the Merced River that will rehabilitate 1.25 miles of river channel and add 6 acres of floodplain and side-channel habitat on California Department of Fish and Game owned land on the Merced River near the town of Snelling. This area of the river has been impacted by mining operations and the construction of dams. The combination of these impacts has altered available spawning habitat for salmonids and limited opportunities for floodplain and side-channel rearing for juveniles.

This restoration grant, awarded to Cramer Fish Sciences, will improve conditions for salmonids in this reach of river as well as serve as an opportunity for public access and education for the local community. As an important part of the program’s outreach, the USFWS and Cramer Fish Sciences has been meeting regularly with the middle school classes of Karen White (4th/5th grade), and Joyce Mattos (6th/7th grade) to inspire the next generation of restoration ecologists by giving them a living lab right in their own backyard.

These activities were all explained in the context of the importance for fish habitat and river function and how these measurements help us monitor the success of our restoration projects. The Merced River Ranch project is in the first of 3-5 years of on the ground restoration work, and we anticipate many more opportunities to engage the local public and get them excited about restoring their river.

Contact Info: Ramon Martin, 209-334-2968 ext. 401, ramon_martin@fws.gov