Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife team up for Gales Creek stream restoration projects

Mark Meleason, the riparian and aquatic specialist for the Oregon Department of Forestry, plots where a tree should be placed in Gales Creek using GPS. This project will improve steelhead habitat in the Tillamook State Forest. Photo from ODF

Gales Creek – Two state agencies, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, (ODFW) have teamed up in efforts to improve steelhead and other stream wildlife habitat in the upper Gales Creek watershed.

According to a press release from ODF, Gales Creek—a steelhead-bearing stream—serves as critical habitat for a strain of the species known as upper Willamette steelhead, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. 

The most recent project undertaken by the agencies was held in the fall of 2018; a mile long stretch of Gales Creek was worked on by contractors and state employees, with plans for a second mile to be done in the summer of 2019. 

Crews cut and placed 100 trees from the surrounding forest into the stream, which serve as habitat, cover, shade, and increased complexity in the stream, sheltering steelhead, salmon, crayfish, and more. 

“When I do projects like this, it’s more than my professional duty,” said Mark Meleason, aquatic and riparian specialist for ODF’s State Forests Division. “Our model for state forests is we want to do the right thing, and this is doing the right thing for the environment. We’re providing good habitat, and we’re enhancing it.”

Logs placed in the stream channel create pools where fish can spawn, young fish can seek shelter from predators and rest from the strength of the winter water flows. 

The trees used in the project were selected to provide a mix of conifer and hardwood logs, and will be replaced with a 1000-seedling planting job along the creek bank this spring. 

“Logjams are the most important part of stream habitat for fish,” said Dave Stewart, a stream restoration biologist for ODFW. “When you have wood in the stream, it creates habitat for juvenile fish, spawning and amphibians. All the fish and wildlife species need this wood – we’ve documented that with many studies.”

Contractor Mark Pierce (left) and Mark Meleason, the riparian and aquatic specialist for the Oregon Department of Forestry, choose trees to be cut and placed into Gales Creek to improve steelhead habitat in the Tillamook State Forest. Photo from ODF

This portion of Gales Creek where the project was done is in the Tillamook State Forest and was part of the Tillamook Burn, a series of catastrophic forest fires from the 1930s-50s that, decades later, still leave a mark on the environment – in this case, less wood is available for stream enhancement in the creek bed. Projects like this, according to ODF, mimic the natural pattern of trees falling into streams as they age or are knocked down by Oregon’s Coast Range storms.

This joint effort is one of many cooperative projects conducted by ODF and ODFW  as part of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds to restore healthy salmon populations and their watersheds throughout the state.

More information can be found at www.oregon-plan.org