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Going to New Heights to Restore Habitat


Talk about taking restoration to a whole new level: last month, we—along with The Mattole Salmon Group and other partners—flew trees in by helicopter to create fish habitat on Northern California’s Mattole River. The Douglas firs had been removed from a nearby prairie, which is being restored and replanted with native grasses. Rather than burning the trees as waste or using them for firewood, we decided to use them to create in-stream habitat called “large woody debris.” The new habitat will benefit threatened fish like salmon and steelhead.

Logs and other natural, woody debris help slow the flow of water in parts of creeks and rivers, providing resting places for fish. We’ve used trees on other projects in California—but this is the first time we’ve used a helicopter to transport them. In fact, hauling logs by truck can be an expensive and slow process, taking several weeks to complete.

With this project, we were able to fly in 200 trees in only 11 hours! Not only were we able to place them quickly, but the project actually saved money by using the helicopter rather than trucking them to the site. Using the helicopter also meant that the local community and the river weren’t disturbed by heavy equipment rolling through town.

More than 200 trees—roots and all—were placed in four different configurations, optimized to form fish habitat. They will create pools in the low-flow months of summer, and provide shelter for fish during high flows in winter months.

We partnered with the Mattole Salmon Group, The Nature Conservancy, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on this project. The Mattole Salmon Group will monitor the site to see what kind of changes the trees bring to the river, and how many more fish swim and spawn there in years to come.

Posted December 16, 2013



Trees are flown in by helicopter.
Credit: Amanda Malachesky.
Trees are placed in the Mattole River to create large woody debris.