Watershed Restoration: Principles and Practices

Chapter 14: Thinking Like a Watershed: Mattole River of California

S. Zuckerman

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569049.ch14

In clumps of two or three scattered up and down the banks, teenagers and a few grown-ups are hard at work next to Mattole Canyon Creek this February morning. Armed with digging bars, sledgehammers, and burlap sacks full of willow cuttings, they are replanting the riparian (streambank) forest that once thrived on this tributary of the Mattole River in northwestern California. Students and their teachers will plant more than 8,000 willow cuttings in the week that their high school will devote to this project in lieu of class time. The following spring, these cuttings will sprout and trim the barren gravel banks in green; by the time the younger students have graduated from high school, the willows will provide cover for juvenile salmon and steelhead in the creek and hold the banks in place against high winter flows.

The work these teenagers and their teachers are doing is just one facet of a larger attempt to restore the habitat on this creek, which is part of the larger effort to restore the Mattole watershed in one of the first citizen-initiated watershed restoration projects in North America. Inhabitants of the Mattole basin have been working to improve the ecological health of streams, fisheries, forests, and soils in the watershed for more than 15 years.