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Bear Creek Restoration

BEAR CREEK RESTORATION
 

The South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative has worked with the Gifford Pinchot NF since 2010 on a forest restoration project in the Bear Creek watershed in the southern portion of the Mt Adams Ranger District. The group received funding from Title II South GP Resource Advisory Committee to perform stand exams and pre-NEPA surveys in the area. Portions of the area were determined to be within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, after the project was initiated, making the process more cumbersome. All pre-NEPA work will be completed by the Fall of 2013. The Mt Adams District will prepare the Environmental Assessment in 2014 or 2015.

 The objective of the Bear Creek Restoration project is to:

·         Restore and expedite the development of old-growth characteristics on 939 acres of Douglas-fir stands in the Bear Creek Watershed.

·         Restore 41 acres of Oregon white oak habitat.

·         Improve native shrub habitat by eliminating noxious weeds.

·         Improve hydrologic processes to function more naturally in the Bear Creek watershed, the domestic water supply for the community of Carson, WA and the lower Wind River Valley.

·         Improve existing, road surfaces, fill slopes, ditches, and culverts along portions of Forest Roads 68 and 6808.

·         Restore hydrologic connectivity and function by decommissioning 3.4 miles of forest roads.
 
 
 
 
 
The Bear Creek Restoration project is within the Wind late successional reserve forest (LSR) land allocation. The objective of the General Late-Successional Reserve lands is to protect and enhance conditions of late-successional and old-growth forest ecosystems, which serve as habitat for late-successional and old-growth related species, including the northern spotted owl. 
 
 

 

Currently, these young stands (40-50 years old) are mostly single tree species (Douglas-fir), contain a high density of trees that are currently causing inter-tree competition for light, water, and nutrients, lack multiple layer tree canopies, contain insufficient snag/coarse woody debris components, and lack a variable stand density that emulates natural diversity.  Restoration activities will accelerate the development of old growth characteristics such as creating large trees, large snags, multiple tree species, stand variability, and a layered canopy structure; all are key characteristics of the LSR desired future condition.
 
 
Forest restoration in these Douglas-fir stands will improve species diversity, stand structure and complexity, create multiple tree crown layers, add large down wood, create snags, and accelerate old-growth habitat for the northern spotted owl and other old-growth dependent species. 
 
Reducing tree densities would attain large diameter individual trees more quickly than would otherwise be possible in young, dense forest stands.  In addition, density reduction activities, within stands that are relatively uniform in stocking, species composition, and tree size, can also enhance structural complexity and species heterogeneity.  Deer and elk can also benefit from increased amounts of grass, forb, and shrub habitats within moderate-to-heavily thinned areas and by created small gaps.
 
Oregon white oak habitat is unusual within this portion of the mid-Columbia Gorge area. The presence of oaks in a more conifer dominant habitat offers a diversity in habitats that otherwise is not found.  This diversity favors the presence of other species (insects, birds, squirrels, etc.) that typically may not be present in the conifer habitat matrix. Restoring this habitat would improve the health of the existing oaks and possibly expand the oak stands.
 
Native shrub habitat will be improved by eliminating noxious weeds along forest roadways.  Noxious weeds compete with native shrubs for the moisture and soil nutrients.  Many weeds are more vigorous because they have fewer to no predatory insects etc. and thus have an advantage over the natives.  Controlling noxious weeds will enhance chances for more native shrubs to become established and propagate. 
 
 
 
 
 
Bear Creek supplies the domestic water for the community of Carson, Washington and residents in the lower Wind River Valley. Proposed road storm proofing, maintenance, and decommissioning should permit hydrologic processes in the watershed to function more naturally and improve the current water quality in Bear Creek.
 
Although the condition of road surfaces in the analysis area is good in most sections, the ditch lines are not maintained adequately and there are chronic problems with the culverts due to existing undersized culverts, the low frequency of culvert cleaning, damage occurring during cleaning, blowouts from intake clogging, and rusting due to age and soil acidity.  There are also an inadequate number of water bars present, especially upslope of the culverts.
 
Road maintenance and storm proofing of forest roads will reduce and treat drainage problems before catastrophic road failure or gullying occurs, improving hydrologic processes to the Bear Creek watershed and potentially improving water quality.
 
Decommissioning 3.4 miles of forest roads, within the Bear Creek watershed will restore hydrologic connectivity and function. It ensures elimination of motorized vehicles, and therefore reduces wildlife harassment. Decommissioning surplus roads would remove these road systems from the landscape and return these areas to a more natural forested landscape that would no longer require maintenance of any kind. Natural surface flow and drainage patterns would be restored by removing all culverts, re-contouring road surface, and creating cross drains.  Decompaction of the road surface would allow water infiltration, enable vegetation establishment, and reduce erosion and sediment transport to streams.
 

Overall, activities proposed in the Bear Creek Restoration project will restore forest health by: improving growing conditions of Douglas-fir stands to reach old growth characteristics more quickly while improving species diversity; improving Oregon white oak stands and associated species diversity; improving native shrub habitat through noxious weed control; and improving natural hydrologic conditions and decreasing erosion through road improvements and decommissioning.