Restoring fish habitat in the Rogue Valley with repurposed trees
In September 2020, more than 2,400 Oregonians lost their homes and 173 commercial structures were destroyed in the Almeda Drive Fire. The fire tore through the Southern Oregon cities of Talent and Phoenix in the Rogue Valley, leaving very few structures in its wake. Many of these structures were within mobile home parks – small, tight-knit communities suddenly separated and displaced. Where homes once stood, the Almeda Drive Fire left large piles of metal and woody debris behind.
Almost a year later, the Oregon Debris Management Task Force (Task Force) has cleared most of these sites as part of the state-led cleanup program. For those enrolled in the program, Task Force crews have removed ash and debris and hazard trees for property owners to begin rebuilding. The remains of those hazard trees often lay as decked logs on-site for property owners to use as they see fit. In some cases, the Task Force donates those hazard trees to local agencies and environmental groups for habitat restoration projects.
In coordination with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) donated about 30 cut hazard trees from fire-destroyed Horizon Mobile Home Park in Phoenix to restore fish habitat along the lower Whetstone Creek in the Rogue Valley. In this video, ODFW biologists Ryan Battleson and Eric Himmelreich explain how they plan to use hazard tree logs for native fish habitat restoration and the interagency coordination it took to get the logs on site.
“Both the Rogue and the Umpqua, they have the chance to really help the recovery of the whole species... When we have good Coho years on the Coast, it just brings so much to the economy. That’s why the food source in the fresh water that the fish need is important,” explains Fish Habitat Restoration Biologist Eric Himmelreich.
The 2020 wildfires left the Rogue Valley in a deep need of healing. As survivors come together to rebuild their homes and communities, good things can happen for fish and wildlife, too.
“There’s a lot of little positives where the Rogue Valley has come together in the last year... to be able to bring those logs to a site that we are trying to restore and rehabilitate and create some good things for wildlife and our native fish, it’s been really cool,” said Assistant District Fish Biologist Ryan Battleson. “My mother lost her home in the Almeda Fire and I work with that community - and it’s definitely a neat, positive little story that’s coming out of that.”