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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

KLAMATH FALLS FWO: Native Workforce Restores  Bull Trout Habitat

Region 8, September 12, 2012
Native workforce improving habitat complexity in Leonard Creek
Native workforce improving habitat complexity in Leonard Creek - Photo Credit: n/a

By Jared McKee, Restoration Specialist

The  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife program of Klamath Falls collaborated with their partners to improve bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) habitat complexity in two creeks in Southern Oregon. Partners included the Klamath Tribes,Lomakatsi Restoration Project, United States Geological Survey (USGS), Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife Office's Ecological Services, and JWTR LLC.

In the fall of 2012, tribal members from the Klamath Tribes created large woody debris jams through hand felling overly dense conifers, strategically bucking the trees, then transporting and placing wood pieces at geomorphically appropriate locations in Leonard and Brownsworth Creeks. This method of enhancing habitat complexity is preferable due to the low impact in the riparian area.

Typically, habitat complexity enhancement projects use heavy machinery with metal tracks, rubber tracks, or rubber tires. This approach often results in considerable negative impacts to the riparian area. Hand placement of woody debris also allows for improved refinement of placement and securing of debris jams allow the structures to work with the force of flowing water instead of against it.

Like many western streams, Leonard and Brownsworth Creeks have lost much of their natural habitat complexity due to anthropogenic effects of timber harvesting, fire suppression, and cattle grazing. The Service and USGS have been counting, tagging, and tracking salmonids around the Gearhart Mountain Wilderness since 2010. It is hypothesized that increased habitat complexity will favor native bull trout and give this federally listed threatened species a competitive advantage against non-native brown trout.

Tribal Crew Leader Joe Ochoa noted, “It’s great to be out here working on the land and streams that are part of our historic tribal grounds. Working in places I remember going as a kid, reconnecting with these places, and trying to set things right – there’s no better job than that.”

Due to the success of this pioneering effort in hand-placed large woody debris jams, the project may be expanded to include more reaches within Leonard and Brownsworth Creeks as well as expanding to other bull trout critical habitat streams in the area.

Contact Info: Jared McKee, 541-885-2522, jared_mckee@fws.gov