Protecting trees in Ohop Valley

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2015 Nisqually Stream Steward, Warren Bergh, demonstrates how to pound stakes into the ground before installing tubes around plants.

The Nisqually Stream Stewards, in partnership with the Nisqually Tribe and Nisqually Land Trust, recently installed protective tubing around native trees and shrubs planting in Ohop Valley this winter.

The tubes are an important component of ensuring survival of most of the plants installed. Without these tubes, deer, elk, rodents, and other animals can browse freely on the plants, often resulting in mortality. To prevent that, the tubes are placed around the trees and shrubs for about 3 years, until they are big enough and established enough to withstand some browsing damage.

The trees and shrubs planted throughout Ohop Valley are native to western Washington and are designed to return Ohop Valley to a more natural state, benefiting salmon, wildlife, birds, and people. Species include ninebark, twinberry, Oregon ash, willow, nootka rose and many more. Once these plants are established, they will provide more shade, reduce erosion, provide safeguards against flooding, and sequester carbon found in the atmosphere.

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2015 Nisqually Stream Steward graduate and Nisqually Land Trust Board Member enjoys the sunshine in beautiful Ohop Valley!

Want to get involved?

The Nisqually Stream Stewards is an adult environmental education program hosted by the Nisqually Tribe and Nisqually River Council. Participants receive 40+ hours of free training in exchange for 40+ hours of volunteer time over the next year. During the class, participants travel from Mount Rainier to Puget Sound, meeting natural resource professionals along the way. Our goal is to provide folks with the knowledge and skills necessary to become strong volunteers, citizen scientists, and stewards of the Nisqually Watershed. For more information, contact streamstewards@nisquallyriver.org, or call 360.438.8715.

The Nisqually Land Trust offers weekly Wednesday work parties on various properties throughout the year. Saturday work parties occur occasionally too. Tasks vary from planting trees, to installing tubes and stakes, to removing invasive plants and more. If manual labor isn’t your thing, the Land Trust offers a range of other volunteer opportunities too. Their website offers a host of alternative volunteer needs!

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Volunteers from the Nisqually Stream Stewards and Nisqually Land Trust gathered to help install protective tubes around young trees and shrubs. This is just one example of endless volunteer opportunities in the Nisqually Watershed! Photo: Laurie Fait

 

Ohop Valley wildlife survey completed

Although the Ohop Valley Restoration Project primarily benefits salmonids that live in the creek, the project has had ancillary benefits on wildlife and birds that use the area. To document some of those benefits, the Nisqually Indian Tribe contracted ICF International to complete a wildlife use survey throughout the valley in 2015.

The project monitored culturally important species, such as elk, deer, and beaver, as well as bird species. Biologists used wildlife cameras, ground transects, nest surveys, and other monitoring techniques to gather data. Prior to the study, some baseline information had been collected. For example, the Nisqually Land Trust collaborated with Northwest Trek to host citizen science-based surveys in the basin. Local knowledge also helped provide a glimpse into past wildlife use. Beyond that, however, little information was available.

The results of the study showed that elk were the most detected mammal species in the valley, documented through images and signs (tracks, scat, etc) observed during ground transects. In fact, over 75% of all images captured were of elk. The study documented increased beaver activity on the site, and over 55 bird species were detected during the surveys.

Troy Rahmig (ICF International) presented on the results of the study at the February 2016 Nisqually River Council meeting. His presentation is available here, and a copy of the full study is available here.

2015 Planting Season Wraps Up

The 2015 planting season in Ohop was a huge success, thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who braved wet weather and cold temperatures. The season kicked off with a plant placement event on October 28, when several volunteers helped the Nisqually Indian Tribe, Nisqually Land Trust, Nisqually River Council and Nisqually River Education Project place 2,500 native trees and shrubs in specific locations.

The placing of these plants is crucial, because each plant thrives under particular environmental influences. For instance, some plants are able to grow in flooded ground, while others prefer drier sites. By appropriately placing the plants before planting, scientists can maximize plant survival.

On October 31, the Nisqually Stream Stewards, Nisqually Land Trust and Nisqually Indian Tribe hosted a community planting event. Despite a torrential downpour the entire time, 60 volunteers showed up to begin this year’s planting! Although a portion of the valley was flooded, the volunteers were able to safely remain on site from 9:00-12:00, making a large dent in the overall planting. The Halloween themed planting event has become a tradition in the Ohop Valley Restoration Project. Next year will mark the last community planting in the valley; stay tuned next fall for more details!

During the month of November, 10 classrooms visited Ohop Valley to plant the remaining trees and shrubs. These field experiences were made possible by the Nisqually River Education Program, which aims to use Washington State Learning Standards to promote environmental stewardship. The classes stemmed from throughout the Nisqually Watershed, with ages ranging from 4th to 8th grade. Before visiting Ohop Valley, classes received a presentation explaining the importance of the habitat restoration. On the day of the trip, students had a deeper understanding of the work they completed.

The work was finished with the tubing and staking of each plant. The tubes and stakes will remain around the base of the trees and shrubs about 3 years, to prevent rodents from nibbling on the stems and killing the plants. The tubes will be removed once the tree or shrub is sufficiently big enough to withstand browsing.

The trees and shrubs are an important part of a healthy floodplain. Not only do the trees provide habitat, food and shelter to land animals like birds or elk, they also benefit salmon.

  • The trees provide shade, keeping water temperatures low even during hot summer months
  • The roots hold soil in place, reducing erosion and improving water quality
  • The plants are a part of the food web. When insects fall from the plants into the water, salmon can eat them
  • The plants produce oxygen, which is important for us all!
  • When the trees fall down, they create large woody debris piles in the creek. These help provide hiding spots for salmon.

With just one year left of planting in the latest phase of the Ohop Valley Restoration Project, scientists and nearby homeowners are already observing the impacts of the young trees. Older planting sites are quickly becoming established, and plant survival has been high across most areas. Homeowners are also noticing animals returning to the area, after having left long ago. Reports of wildlife include elk herds, beaver and black bear.

Halloween Tree Planting in Ohop Valley

Construction has officially concluded in the latest phase of the Ohop Valley Restoration Project but the fun isn’t over yet! Now that the old ditch has been removed and the newly created channel is flowing with water, it is time to restore the floodplain by planting native trees and shrubs.

Historically, the Ohop Valley was covered with a variety of trees and shrubs, which were removed to make way for farming. Although this allowed early settlers to forge a life in the area, Ohop Valley was no longer a healthy floodplain. Healthy floodplains are important because they provides habitat for wildlife, nesting sites for birds and can reduce the risk of flooding.

Healthy floodplains are also important for fish! The trees and shrubs provide shade, keeping water temperatures low. When the trees fall down, the large woody debris offers hiding placing for fish and creates a variety of in-stream habitat. Insects that live in the forest canopy fall into the water, providing food for juvenile salmon. The roots of the trees prevent erosion, which increases the quality of water in the stream. Finally, trees also provide oxygen, which benefits not only salmonids, but humans too!

To help us restore that floodplain, we need your help! Join us on Halloween (October 31st) for a morning of tree planting! Costumes are welcomed!

What: Help us plant some of the 2,500 native trees and shrubs in the floodplain of Ohop Valley! It’s a great way to get involved in your community, meet new people, and make the Nisqually Watershed a little healthier!
When: Saturday, October 31st from 9:00 to 12:00. Note–ALL volunteers MUST be on site by 9:45! (more details below)
Where: The beautiful Ohop Valley, near Eatonville. You must RSVP to receive full directions. A short shuttle ride will be required because of a lack of parking at the restoration site. The last shuttle will run at 9:45. You MUST arrive before then to take part in the event!
RSVP: Sheila Wilson, Nisqually River Education Project. Email: sheila@nisquallyriver.org; phone: 360-438-8715, ext 2153
Bring: Warm clothes, good shoes, rain gear, and a costume (if you’d like!) Snacks and some beverages will be provided, but please bring more food and water if you think you’ll need it.

Do you have additional questions? Please feel free to call 360-438-8715 at any time. We’ll see you out there!

Ohop Creek Fish-out 2015!

Summer was a busy time of year in the Ohop Valley!

The final construction of Phase 3 began in early July. This involved digging a new, meandering creek bed to replace the old ditch. Ohop Creek has flowed through this ditch for over a century, but it provides very little habitat for fish and insects. The new creek bed will allow for deep pools, shallow riffles, and large wood debris–all of which is necessary for the survival of sensitive fish species like salmon.

Right now, construction is almost over! Before directing water into the new creek bed, however, the old ditch had to be drained. This exposed many fish and insect larvae. In order to prevent the deaths of many critters, the project partners, including Nisqually Indian Tribe, Nisqually Land Trust, South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group and Nisqually River Council organized a fish-out. The fish-out lasted for two days, with many volunteers using nets or electroshockers to move as many critters from the old ditch to the new creek as possible!

Some of the highlights of the event included rescuing a Chinook salmon, several coho salmon, and freshwater mussels! Final numbers of the species rescued are being added now, and will be shared when possible. As for next steps, project partners are gearing up for another round of fall plantings in order to establish native trees and shrubs in the area.

 

Nisqually Indian Tribe joins with neighbors on Ohop Creek restoration

We’re ramping up for another amazing year of restoration in the Ohop Valley! Construction on the next phase is slated to begin in mid-July, leading to another round of plantings in the winter. In the meantime, however, here’s a quick snapshot of the Ohop Creek Restoration Project, from above!

The Nisqually Indian Tribe, in collaboration with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, produced this video in the Spring of 2015 to highlight the work that’s been done and the impacts already observed.

Facts & Figures: Progress made since 2009

Although the Ohop Valley Restoration Project is far from done, there is already a lot to celebrate!

  • So far, 2.4 miles of new channel have been constructed, representing a 50% increase in stream habitat
  • Over 1,000 logs have been placed to create habitat for fish, birds, amphibians and other animals
  • Around 10,000 organisms have been moved and documented during 2 fish-out events
  • Over 75,400 native trees and shrubs have been installed since 2009
  • Around 200 acres of preserved in perpetuity
  • Funding and partnerships have come from 15 different organizations!

Thanks to Brian Combs, Project Manager at the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group for providing these numbers. To view more, please view Brian’s presentation by clicking here.

Plant a tree, make a difference: Ohop tree planting event!

Please join the Nisqually Stream Stewards and the Nisqually Land Trust for an important restoration planting event along Ohop Creek near Eatonville, WA. We will be restoring native vegetation to an important salmon spawning and rearing area.

Date: Saturday, November 1
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon
Place: Ohop Creek near Eatonville, WA

The restoration project has been a huge collaboration between many partners. It's impacts will not only be felt locally, but will also contribute to a healthier Puget Sound. Photo credit: Kim Bredensteiner

The restoration project has been a huge collaboration between many partners. It’s impacts will not only be felt locally, but will also contribute to a healthier Puget Sound. Photo credit: Kim Bredensteiner

A brief shuttle ride will be required due to limited access to the planting site – shuttles will run until 9:45 am. Please RSVP: Cathy Sampselle, Nisqually Tribe Salmon Restoration Biologist, (360) 438-8687 ext 2120 or sampselle.cathleen@nisqually-nsn.gov

Help increase the quantity and quality of salmon habitat along Ohop Creek by planting native trees and shrubs  and increasing the size of a riparian zone. This will be a follow-up event in a series of plantings with volunteers and local school children. This is an important coho salmon spawning and rearing area of Ohop Creek.  Chinook salmon, pink salmon, cutthroat and steelhead trout also spawn in this reach of the creek.

Please bring appropriate clothing and footwear – we will go outside rain or shine! Gloves, tools, and refreshments will be provided, but feel free to bring your own.

Directions to Ohop Creek:

From Tacoma: From I-5, take the Hwy 512 East exit, and follow it to Hwy 7. Exit on Hwy 7 south. In approximately 18 miles, you will pass a blinking yellow light at the intersection of Hwy 7 and Hwy 702. Continue driving about 5 miles past the Ohop Grange, a green building on your right, and continue driving down into the Ohop Valley. After crossing a small bridge, drive about 1⁄4 mile up the hill and turn left onto Peterson Road E. Drive 1/8 mile and park near parking signs.

From Puyallup: Take Hwy 161 south to Hwy 512 west. Follow for approximately 6.5 miles. Exit on Hwy 7 south. In approximately 18 miles, you will pass a blinking yellow light at the intersection of Hwy 7 and Hwy 702. Continue driving about 5 miles past the Ohop Grange, a green building on your right, and continue driving down into the Ohop Valley. After crossing a small bridge, drive about 1⁄4 mile up the hill and turn left onto Peterson Road E. Drive 1/8 mile and park near parking signs.

From Thurston Co.: Take I-5 heading north towards Seattle. Take the Marvin Rd. exit (exit 111) off I-5. Go forward through the roundabout and turn right onto Marvin Rd. heading east. Continue on Marvin Rd. through the Martin Way and Steilacoom Rd. intersections. At the third intersection (a round about), turn left onto Hwy. 510 and follow to Yelm. Stay straight through Yelm (road becomes Hwy. 507). In McKenna you will cross over the Nisqually river. At the stoplight in McKenna (the McKenna Y), turn right onto Hwy. 702 toward Mt. Rainier (Tanwax-McKenna Rd.). Follow the Highway for 9 miles to the stop sign and blinking red light at Hwy 7. Turn right onto Hwy 7. Continue driving about 5 miles past the Ohop Grange, a green building on your right, and continue driving down into the Ohop Valley. After crossing a small bridge, drive about 1⁄4 mile up the hill and turn left onto Peterson Road E. Drive 1/8 mile and park near parking signs.

From Eatonville: Take Center St./Eatonville Hwy W. to Hwy 7 (Mountain Hwy). Turn right onto Hwy 7, and drive approximately 3 miles to Peterson Road E. Turn right onto Peterson Road E. Drive 1/8 mile and park near parking signs.

From Roy: Take Hwy 507 out of Roy toward McKenna. Turn left onto Hwy. 702 and follow it to the red light at Hwy 7. Turn right onto Hwy 7. Continue driving about 5 miles past the Ohop Grange, a green building on your right, and continue driving down into the Ohop Valley. After crossing a small bridge, drive about 1⁄4 mile up the hill and turn left onto Peterson Road E. Drive 1/8 mile and park near parking signs.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Tree planting kick-off!

The first Ohop Valley tree planting trips are starting this week through the Nisqually Land Trust, Nisqually Indian Tribe and Nisqually River Education Project! Over the course of the next few weeks, thousands of native trees and shrubs will be planted along the new Ohop creek bed.

The trees will help purify water, provide shade, create habitat and make the valley a more beautiful place. By helping us plant these trees, you can also be a part of the Ohop Valley Restoration Project.

To get involved, please contact the Nisqually Land Trust (360.489.3400) or the Nisqually River Foundation (360.438.8715). You’ll need to bring rain gear and a smile!

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