Riparian Habitat Restoration
Mid-Semester Internship Report
Goals and Objectives
Working with the Tri-State Steelheaders, my partner Julie Armstrong and I are planning a riparian habitat planting in a section of a conservation easement that is permanently protected by law on the South fork of Coppei Creek in Walla Walla County. We are undergoing the project with the assistance two Tri-State Steelheaders, with John Geidel and Steve Gwinn, who have extensive knowledge of the land and streams around the local Walla Walla County. We are hoping to recruit around 30 volunteers for this project that is set for Sunday, November 4th. The area of restoration is a part of a conservation easement on a private landowner’s property. A well-established conservation oriented agricultural family has agreed to set aside 279 acres of land, which will be subdivided into 5 easements. By signing away their land, the family agrees not to harvest, log, or graze cattle. In exchange the family receives a monetary fund that will help to fund the restoration of the land. Another riparian restoration project is slated for early December, either at Nine Mile (Walla Walla River) or Mill Creek. The land that is provided for this extra project also belongs to a conservation easement, in cooperation with private landowners.
According to John Geidel, a rule of thumb for a successful riparian restoration project is to plant at least nine-hundred to one-thousand plants per project, “all on pure adrenaline and veins pumped full of sugar from donuts.” The technique of planting the various trees and native shrubs involves the use of plastic mulch to protect the various species from erosion and disease. Some of the native plants that we are planning to reintroduce to this area include the: quaking aspen, snowberry, hawthorn, and chokecherry. These plant beds will provide a buffer zone around the banks of the creek bed. Allowing the newly planted vegetation to shade the creek and help maintain cool water will provide higher oxygen intake and a healthier habitat for salmon and other wildlife.
Most importantly, in order for this internship and riparian project to be deemed a success depends on the availability of volunteers for the project. Time commitment is a major issue that we have faced with our project. Unfortunately, the only date that works for our schedule and both John and Steve is on November 4th. However, this is the day right after the newly rescheduled field trip to Boise Cascade, for the Environmental Studies class. I wish there was a way that we could have a written agreement between the volunteers and us, committing them to this project. Also transportation to and from the site is a difficulty. Luckily, I called Whitman’s physical plant services and reserved two vans for that Sunday. Jim and the Steelheaders are providing the tools (shovels, planting bars, etc.), a safety orientation, in addition to gloves, goggles, and snacks. The volunteers are asked to dress in adequate clothing (layers, raingear), wear proper footwear, and to bring water. Jim mentioned that regulations require the volunteers to sign a NRCS Volunteer Form that covers health and safety hazards. The volunteers will mainly be digging ditches, planting various trees and shrubs, carrying light to moderate loads, and cutting landscape cloths.
In the beginning of this project, up until the first week in October, Julie and I have experienced difficulties in contacting both Jim Geidel and Steve Gwinn. For the most part, I have been playing telephone tag with them, leaving more messages on their answering machines than talking to them in person. I know that both of these men are extremely busy and have other prior time commitments, however it was frustrating in the beginning not being able to be in direct contact with our advisors. In the end both Jim and Steve contacted Julie, and I had never talked to them until we met on October 15.
I enjoy being a part of the Tri-State Steelheaders. Jim Geidel has immediately taken Julie Armstrong and I under his direction and incorporated us into his vision for what he believes is instrumental in the restoration of critical areas for the survival of salmon. It pleases me to be apart of long established organization that educates children at local schools and works hard to restore the environment.
Final Internship Report
I would defiantly deem both Coppei Creek and Mill Creek projects successful. There were 18 enthusiastic volunteers (including Juli and I) for the Coppei Creek restoration project. I reserved 2 Whitman vans for this particular project, and the reservation process went smoothly through the Physical Plant Services. In only 3 hours, we planted:
380 conifers (ponderosa pine, lodge pole pine, douglas fir, white pine,
100 red osier dogwood
80 coyote willow
300 quaking aspen
The grand total for the day was: 860 trees planted. This is quite impressive considering there were only 18 individuals, and we almost reached the goal of planting around 900 plus trees. I thought there were going to be more volunteers out on this particular trip, however that turned out not to be the case (I will comment on this later). On average 16 trees were planted per hour. A majority of the conifers were planted in rows of 90, and the aspen trees were planted in clusters of 3 near the swampy section of land. This was to ensure adequate growing conditions for all the trees.
The Mill Creek Restoration Project was also a success. I am happy to say that 20 people showed up for this project on Sunday, December 2nd. This was a smaller scale restoration project, with only approximately 470 conifers and shrubs to plant. The conifers and shrubs (i.e. douglas fir, white pine, snowberry, hawthorn) were planted in rows of 80, in permeable plastic coverings to protect and keep down evasive weeds. All the plants were in the ground within 2 hours, with an extra plastic covering around their stems to protect the small seedlings from the elements. Not only did we plant efficiently, but also we all did this with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. It was really good to see a lot of familiar volunteer faces among these 20 people, it fill me with satisfaction that many of them had such a good time with Coppei, that they came back for more.
For both projects, both Juli and I had to be in constant contact with both John and Steve. Mainly, we needed to coordinate schedules about when a volunteer project would draw optimal participation from both the Environmental Studies class and the Whitman Community. Also we had to line up the dates for renting the Whitman vans for volunteer use. It was hard to gauge how many people were going to show up for the planting, thus it was hard to know how many vans we needed to reserve each Sunday. Due to the overwhelming response to my email from the Whitman Community for the Coppei project, I was anticipating around 40 people. Thus, I thought that a third van was needed to accommodate all volunteers. However, all vans where checked out on Sunday, so I had to search elsewhere. Bob Carson informed me that we could rent a van for a day, and the Environmental Studies department would cover the van rental charge. So a third van was rented for that day, in anticipation of 40 or more students.
On the Mill Creek project was a smaller project because it was planned and put together in such a short amount of time. Taking this into account, John suggested only needing around 15 volunteers. Steve Gwinn took Juli and I out to Mill Creek so we could become familiar with the general area of restoration. We wanted more class participation for this particular project, so we made a sign-up sheet listing all information about the project. I believe that we clearly emphasized importance for people to show up if they signed up, they had to make a serious commitment. No aspens were going to be planted on Mill Creek, so there was no use for the heavy planting bars. Bob Carson was finally able to come to a riparian restoration project. This was gratifying for both Juli and I because finally one of the professors from our class are able to witness what is accomplished with our internship. It turned out that the Sunday of December 2nd, we could only reserve one Whitman van. However, this did not turn out to be a major problem because Bob Carson agreed to shuttle people to Mill Creek because it was only 4 miles out of town.
It is very frustrating getting people to remember and make a commitment to show up for our planting. Sometime I even personally went over to people and reminded them that they signed up for each project, and most of the time they had forgotten. I wish there were more participation from our Environmental Studies class. Even though we had a sign-up sheet for the class listing our goals and objections for the project, many of the people that signed up never showed up. It is hard to gauge how many people are going to actually show up for the riparian planting, thus it is difficult to know how many Whitman vans we should reserve. I had an overwhelming response from the Whitman community along with our class. More than 40 people promised to come for the Coppei Creek planting, so we needed 3 vans. Unfortunately, I was only able to reserve 2 Whitman vans that weekend because there was a major debate tournament at the same time. However, Bob Carson was able to rent a third van from a private company for our use. Rather amusingly only 18 people showed up on that Sunday, from the anticipated 40 people, and the prior day Amy Molitor returned the rental van. So I guess that was a blessing in disguise, however I found that quite amusing.
Of the 15 people that signed up from our Environmental Studies class, only 5 showed up on Sunday for the Mill Creek project. I guess that is to be expected, considering December 4th is a major weekend for studying for finals, however I really thought that more people were going to come out. The weather was superb, and we only had to plant around half the amount of trees and shrubs that were planted at Coppei Creek. It was really difficult for me personally to get a hold of John Geidel or for that matter Steve Gwinn. They are both really busy individuals, however it would have been really good of them to return at least one of my phone messages. The Mill Creek project was planned so fast, and our second riparian project was thought to be at Nine Mile on the Walla Walla River. However, Steve informed Juli that there was a change in plans and that the planting would be at another conservation easement, Mill Creek.
The Environmental Studies internship project was a learning process for me,
however it was overall fulfilling and worthwhile. I would defiantly recommend
this internship to anyone who wants hands on experience with an excellent non-profit
organization. The Tri-State Stealheaders are also involved with Walla Walla’s
public schools. They have an educational outreach program with various local
high schools. They provide the students with handbooks on water quality and
sedimentation. The students then get to go to various creeks and rivers and
talk samples of the water and perform various tests for chemical compounds and
temperature back in their labs. This is an ideal resource in collecting data
on various local creeks, and an instrumental way in sparking the interests of
the younger generation about resource conservation. It was a privilege working
with John and Steve, and I would defiantly still want to be apart of this organization
next semester, even though my internship is for this class is officially over.