Bear Creek Restoration
The Freshwater Trust (TFT) is an Oregon-based non-profit organization with a mission to preserve and restore freshwater ecosystems. In 2018, TFT entered a contract with the City of Ashland to develop and implement a “water quality trading” (WQT) program for the City. This WQT program involves planting and maintaining native trees and shrubs in the Bear Creek watershed, with the goal of generating shade that the City will use to comply with its Clean Water Act wastewater permit.
Establishing a native plant community and controlling invasive weeds will increase stream shade and will also reduce erosion, absorb sediment, nutrients and pollution before they reach the stream, and increase the wildlife habitat and connectivity along the creek corridor. In addition, clearing weeds and replacing them with long-lived native trees and shrubs reduces maintenance needs while beautifying and increasing the property’s value for the public.
The Bear Creek 24.8 site is a streamside (or riparian) planting project on 6.7 acres. It includes the removal and control of invasive species and weeds and the planting of 1,300 native trees and shrubs per acre on both sides of the creek. Temporary plant protection (cages) and an irrigation system have been installed for the first few years to help plants get established. Additionally, weeds are being cleared nearby to prevent them from reentering the project area.
Pre-project conditions: thick swaths of invasive blackberry plants:
Post-planting: New native trees and shrubs:
This area is home to an abundance of wildlife, including American black bear, river otters, herons, egrets, and eagles. While Bear Creek is southwest Oregon’s most urbanized waterbody, it continues to support Chinook and Coho salmon, steelhead, lamprey and other native fish species.
Trees planted here include big leaf maple, Oregon ash, black cottonwood, incense cedar, Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, Douglas hawthorn, willow, and others. Shrubs planted here include mock orange, chokecherry, Pacific ninebark, Oregon grape, Douglas spirea, snowberry, and blue elderberry. Native trees provide shade, while native shrubs provide flowers for pollinators and berries that become food for wildlife. Certain species thrive by the water’s edge, while others are more drought-resistant and thrive in the upland. All these plants help to develop a dense, healthy, multi-story forest.
The site was planted in 2022 and will be maintained for 20 years by The Freshwater Trust through the City of Ashland’s Water Quality Trading Program.
The City of Ashland and The Freshwater Trust are partnering to use shade produced from restoring streamside forests to help the City comply with its wastewater permit under the Clean Water Act. This program finds local sites that would benefit from riparian plantings and reduce instream temperature. As the plants grow at each restored site, they block kilocalories of solar load (sunlight), which generates credits for the City and helps keep the stream cool for native fish.
The Freshwater Trust selects sites using its StreamBank® BasinScout® tool, which prioritizes many potential sites based on several values, including benefits to the environment. Sites throughout the basin are identified using satellite imagery and modeled for future conditions of full forests. This allows the team to locate the most impactful planting sites and work with willing landowners to restore them.
Water quality trading sites are closely monitored to ensure that the plants are growing well and that invasive species have not returned. Each year, TFT staff and local contractors visit the sites to mow, treat weeds, and fertilize and irrigate the new plants. Additionally, water quality trading sites have mandatory third-party verifiers who ensure that the site meets its performance targets and generates the credits needed to comply with the wastewater permit requirements.
Get in touch
Have questions about restoration in the Rogue watershed?
Eugene Wier, Restoration Program Manager