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.