Monday, November 26, 2012

Restoration of the Garcia River Forest

          On November 9, 2012, our class had the opportunity to explore the Garcia River Forest restoration project. We began our trek driving north on the 101, then hung a left towards Booneville, all the while hoping that we would be spared the forecasted heavy rains. Upon entering the Garcia River Forest with our guide, Madison from the Conservation Fund, I had little inclination that the surrounding trees had at one point been completely deforested.

Ingrid, Faye Marie, and KC surveying the landscape.

            At our first stop, Madison explained how the 24,000 acre forest was purchased from a lumber company in 2004 and since then, the Conservation Fund has succeeded in restoring it to a functional ecosystem while still profiting from harvesting timber.

           Before harvesting timber, the Conservation Fund must write a Timber Harvest Plan to be approved. Some people often protest against harvesting timber because they are concerned of cutting down old growth and habitats of spotted owls or other endangered species. However, the public relatively approves of their plan in the Garcia River forest because the Conservation Fund encourages public input and hosts hikes to show and explain their plan.

           Selective harvesting is not actually healthy for the forest. Choosing the healthiest and biggest trees will result in a weaker population of trees. Instead, they mimic a natural burn and select an entire area of trees and cut them all down so that the new generation of trees has the ability to start again with an even playing field instead of competing with older generations. However, they do try to select trees that are damaged by disease, insects, and fire first.
Historically, timber harvesters used to skid the cut trees down to the creek to collect at the bottom of the river. Now, however, to avoid the disturbance of sensitive habitat and excessive soil deposition into the river, the cut trees are sent down specifically carved skid trails.
An example of a creek restoration project. The creek was at one time cleared because people believed that fish needed a clear passage way. Now, fallen trees are strategically placed in the creek to recreate habitat for coho salmon, macroinvertibrates,  and other organisms. The logs minimize erosion and capture sediment, making cleaner gravels for spawning.

Felicia's Fungi Finds

            The Conservation Fund produces another source of income by selling their earned carbon credits. They are given a limit of trees possible to harvest through the California Climate Action Registry. When they harvest fewer trees than their limit, they are given carbon credits that can be sold to make a profit. In this way, the organization can raise money for maintenance and restoration projects on the property all while carbon is sequestered by the redwood and Douglas fir forest. 

         At the end of the day, our Restoration Ecology class gained a new appreciation and a lot of knowledge of a functional forest restoration project. We give thanks to Madison, the Conservation Fund, and the other non-profit organizations that provided the opportunity for such a great experience.

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