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News and Events

Newsletter Update 3: February 2020

Happy New Year from the Elephant Hill Wildfire Riparian Restoration team!

2021 brings an exciting new chapter to our work restoring lands in the Elephant Hill Wildfire area. Last year, field crews from Secwepemc communities gathered data to determine the areas that continue to show poor recovery. Using this information and knowledge about the land, we created an ambitious plan aimed at restoring as much riparian land as possible, with limited resources.

We have identified 144 reaches (segments of rivers and streams) that are of priority for replanting and restoration this year. This work begins late winter and will continue throughout the spring. We will be planting a mixture of Douglas fir, yellow pine, spruce, lodgepole pine, aspen, cottonwood, birch, and willow at densities that more accurately represent the landscape that existed before logging and significant fire suppression practices came to the area.   

 

Beavers, Fish, and Water Flow

 

In our last newsletter, we shared some reasons we are planting trees to help restore fish habitat. But watershed restoration includes restoring hydrologic processes and habitat for other species of wildlife as well. Secwepemcúl'ecw (Secwépemc territory) is home to a diverse array of species who interact with each other and the landscape in interesting and important ways. Take the beaver for example. Beavers (sqlu7úw'i) are well known for their ability to drastically reshape ecosystems by altering water flows, they are sometimes called ecosystem engineers.  

One of the biggest problems created by severe wildfires, like the Elephant Hill fire, is the loss of trees that keep riverbanks stable and slow the flow of water through water retention. Without these trees, in the spring (pesqépts), runoff rushes quickly down the mountains, flowing into creeks and rivers. This large amount of fast flowing water can cause “blow-outs”, where rivers are quickly eroded (see image above). In addition, without water being stored in the ground at higher elevations throughout the dry summer months, streams in the fire area can dry out during July and August, leaving water unavailable for local wildlife and vegetation alike.

What can we do? Beavers, as ecosystem engineers, can do a lot of hard work for us – and they cost a lot less than technicians! They are a natural part of the ecosystem and can help with water storage at higher elevations.

Beavers can be a nuisance when they damage property and create hazards at lower elevations, but high up on the Bonaparte Plateau, they can do a lot of good. Beavers create dams which serve to store water, releasing that water slowly over time. Healthy beaver populations in the upper portions of the Bonaparte and Deadman River watersheds will hopefully create dams that can store water in the winter and spring, slowly releasing that water over the summer. This water storage may help prevent spring washouts and August droughts.

How then, could we bring beavers back to the Elephant Hill Fire area? For starters, by planting trees that they require for their habitat.

Planting Deciduous Trees

Beavers prefer deciduous trees, including alder (kwle7éllp), aspen (meltéllp), birch (qweqwllíllen̓llp), choke cherry (tkwel̓se7éllp), cottonwood (melmeltéllp), white poplar (melmeltéllp) and willow (q̓welséllp).

Planting these deciduous trees creates habitat for beavers so that they have the means to survive when they come back to the area. As with anything in restoration, this will take a long time. But, by giving nature a helping hand in bringing back more deciduous trees, our goal is to provide beavers with habitat that enables them to live in higher elevation parts of these watersheds and slow down the movement of water through the watersheds. A more moderated flow of water will, in turn, help fish and humans living in and around the Bonaparte and Deadman mainstems.

We need your help!

Do you know of areas within the wildfire area where streams or rivers have blow-outs or other problems? Are there rivers or streams that have been heavily impacted by the 2017 wildfire? Your input will help us identify priority areas for restoration as we move forward with the project.

Staying Connected

As always, we want to hear from you. If you have any questions or comments about anything related to the project – salmon, the Elephant Hill area, plans for restoration, or conditions on the land, you can reach us at info@srssociety.com at any time.

In the meantime, stay safe and take good care.

The SRSS team

LATEST NEWS

News and Events

Learn more about our latest news from the Secwepemcúl'ecw Restoration and Stewardship Society

Read More

4/29/2021 12:57:00 PM
2021 brings an exciting new chapter to our work restoring lands in the Elephant Hill Wildfire area. Last year, field crews from Secwepemc communities gathered data to determine the areas that continue to show poor recovery. Using this information and knowledge about the land, we created an ambitious plan aimed at restoring as much riparian land as possible, with limited resources.
11/1/2020 11:49:00 AM
This summer, field crews from SRSS member communities have been busy collecting data about how vegetation is recovering after the fire, and there have been several project activities that are advancing the restoration of the fire area.