With the help of a heavy-lift helicopter, the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe placed 140 trees in a one-mile stretch of the Twin River watershed recently to create better habitat for salmon.
“Many watersheds on the Olympic Peninsula have been affected by historic logging practices in the last century, as well as forest fires, both of which removed streamside vegetation and simplified fish habitat,” said Mike McHenry, the tribe’s habitat biologist. “As a result, we’ve lost wood in the river channels, so we’re putting it back while the forest slowly regrows.”
Large woody debris is an important part of salmon good salmon habitat.
The helicopter placed trees as large as 50 feet long and 30 inches in diameter, and weighing up to 10,000 pounds.
Some of the trees had large rootwads, which act like an anchor in the creek. The rootwad helps slow down the water to create shallow pools where fish rest and feed. They also help create gravel beds suitable for salmon to spawn and create redds, or salmon egg nests.
The Twin River watershed is home to coho and chum salmon, cutthroat trout and coastal steelhead.
The tribe has been doing habitat restoration in the Twin River watershed since 2002. Efforts included working with private and public land managers to restore old logging road systems that were poorly constructed and were causing landslides that disrupted the fish habitat in the river, said McHenry.
Partners with the project include Washington Department of Natural Resources and private property owners.