The Rogue

Our vision is ambitious. Changing systems requires time, fortitude, and collaboration. Yet when critics balk that the trajectory of a basin canʼt be altered in years, or that fish response can be nearly immediate when youʼre working in the right places, we point them to the Rogue.

The 215-mile river courses through Southwestern Oregon from the Cascades to a dramatic terminus at the Pacific. Visitors covet well-known opportunities — renowned runs of salmon and whitewater. Quietly, it supplies water to hundreds of thousands and supports a vibrant agricultural community. Yet an unforgiving combination of rapid population growth, rampant invasive species, erosion, and the loss of streamside vegetation have taken their toll. An increasingly arid and unpredictable climate promises to continue exacerbating these challenges.

For more than a decade, TFT has holistically tackled the limiting factors in this basin. In partnership with two of the biggest municipalities in the area, Medford and Ashland, we have now achieved 6.25 miles of streamside buffers.

In 2021 and early 2022, many of the projects were implemented on public greenspace on behalf of the City of Ashland. Soon, nearly 10 acres of vegetation along city park property will be restored.

Target Achieved

Planting hasnʼt been the only restoration action. Working with the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), nearly 350 large wood structures have been installed and projects to restore fish passage have been implemented. Additionally, many adjacent to other revegetation projects bolster planting efforts and add habitat complexity.

In fact, after a decade-long partnership with BOR, TFT has now successfully implemented 15 habitat projects designed to meet BORʼs permit obligations. In 2012, the National Marine Fisheries Service issued a Biological Opinion containing requirements for BOR to mitigate for its operations in the Rogue basin to benefit coho salmon in the Little Butte and Bear Creek watersheds. Biological Opinions are well-known for their governance of ongoing dam operations in the Northwest. The team will monitor and steward these 15 projects until 2027 to ensure that their benefits, including clean water and increased fish returns, persist.

“Itʼs not every day that Reclamation is able to achieve the outcomes set forth in a Biological Opinion,” said Meg Belais, Northwest Programs Director. “Setting a target and working toward it is something we want for this entire sector.”

Resilience in Mind

Our solutions are implemented with restoration and resilience in mind. The importance of this has never been so underscored as in the wake of the wildfires that swept through the region in 2020. Restored areas have proven to dramatically slow spreading wildfire, because native plants burn more slowly than invasive ones.

“Watching our previous work on Wagner Creek recover from the impacts of the Almeda fire to an even higher functioning state than it was previously has made it very clear why this work is so important as we prepare for the impacts of climate change in our communities,” said Eugene Wier, Restoration Program Manager.

Several recent replanting projects carried out with the City of Ashland have taken place on scorched portions of the watershed, particularly along the Bear Creek corridor.

Over the last year, we partnered with local contractors, including Lomakatsi Restoration Project, M&M Services, and FireSafe Landscaping, to clear 5.6 additional acres of burnt land and replant them with a diverse selection of native trees and shrubs. This native vegetation will continue to guard against the impacts of future wildfires and protect the watershed and the communities we call home.

Projects underway in 2022 will assist in healing the site where the Almeda fire began and restore the plant community to prevent fire from spreading in the riparian area again in the future.

A Replicable Model

Nothing has been ad hoc about our results here. Itʼs why we often point to it as a model for what we envision elsewhere. Analytics guided us to the projects that will allow us to achieve a tangible target. Diverse funders have been brought together to collaborate toward a common goal. The economic resilience of a rural community has been bolstered by delivering millions in contracts to local businesses. Weʼve remained transparent with funders and supporters and reported progress toward goals.

“What weʼve done here is replicable and can put basin after basin on an inevitable path toward resiliency,” said Joe Whitworth, President & CEO.


Want to help The Freshwater Trust and the Rogue River Basin Partners keep working on the Rogue? Make a gift today.

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