June 21, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Fish-friendly restoration plan OK'd for Whychus

Aug 30, 2010

June 21, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Fish-friendly restoration plan OK'd for Whychus

Fish-friendly restoration plan OK’d for Whychus

Forest officials greenlight improvements to Wild and Scenic stretch of creek

By Kate Ramsayer / The Bulletin
Published: June 21. 2010 4:00AM PST

The Deschutes National Forest has approved a plan for the Whychus Creek Wild and Scenic River, setting a list of priorities for restoring the creek to a more natural state and making it more fish-friendly for returning runs of salmon and steelhead.

“We finally have a green light to go ahead with planning for the protection of the Wild and Scenic River and start some restoration projects,” said Maret Pajutee, district ecologist with the Sisters Ranger District.

The plan sets the boundaries of the 15.4-mile stretch of the creek designated by Congress as Wild and Scenic in 1988, when Whychus Creek was known as Squaw Creek. As part of the designation, the Forest Service was tasked with coming up with a plan to protect the “outstandingly remarkable values” of the waterway, which include its geology, hydrology, fisheries, scenic resources and culture.

The plan took more than 20 years to complete because the Metolius River management plan was completed first, and both plans were more complex than expected, Pajutee said. Plus, large fires on the Sisters Ranger District, like the B&B Complex Fire and the Cache Mountain Fire, took resources away from the planning process.

While the plan doesn’t outline specific projects for protecting Whychus Creek, it provides guidelines that the Forest Service will use to develop restoration efforts. And now, with a plan in hand, the first step is to get a handle on the vandalism and network of unofficial trails that causes erosion, Pajutee said.

“We’ll be starting a project to look at that and restore some of those areas,” she said.

People have created their own trail in the lower reaches of the Wild and Scenic river corridor, she said, so the U.S. Forest Service will propose official trails and try to direct people away from the unofficial ones. And it will try to close off roads — although previous attempts to block roadways haven’t been successful, Pajutee said, as people drive around rocks placed in the middle of the road to get to favorite party spots.

“Another priority would be user education for low-impact practices,” she said,“everything from camping to hiking to rock climbing.”

And the Forest Service will have help getting the word out about protecting thecreek. The National Forest Foundation has given about $700,000 in funding to support the Whychus Creek and Metolius River, in part because of efforts to reintroduce salmon and steelhead in the waterways, said Karly Hedrick, an AmeriCorps volunteer with the foundation and the Sisters Chamber of Commerce.

The National Forest Foundation is sponsoring “Friends of the Forest” days that focus on Whychus Creek, she said, getting volunteers to help clean up the area and build trails, but also teaching them about the waterway and all the restoration activities around it.

“A lot of people even in Sisters ... don’t really know about Whychus. They don’t really know about the efforts being done,” Hedrick said. “I really think just community outreach is a big step right now that needs to be taken.”

Kate Ramsayer can be reached at 541-617-7811 or at
kramsayer@bendbulletin.com.

Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2010

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