SYRCL, the US Forest Service, and the Truckee Donner Land Trust hosted a stakeholder meeting at Sugar Bowl in late March to highlight the importance of meadow restoration in the Yuba headwaters and to discuss the proposed meadow restoration project at Van Norden Meadow.
Headwater regions in California are some of our most prized places and are also areas that are especially sensitive to land use change and our changing climate. Researchers who study the effect of climate change on sensitive species have placed a lot of importance on promoting what is referred to as “headwater resiliency”. What that really means is placing meaningful protections and evaluating and restoring our headwater watersheds so that they function to the best of their ability as we move into an uncertain climate future. The sensitive ecosystems at the very top of our watersheds need to be ready for change. The species that depend on them for their survival have nowhere else to go; they have already evolved to live at the top.
The impacts that meadows have sustained over the last 150-200 years are largely human caused. Humans love meadows. They have provided Native Americans a place to congregate and early European settlers a place to rest and get water. They have sustained our growth into modern day California with ranching, timber harvesting, gold mining, and reservoir building. Currently 40-60% of California’s meadows are considered degraded. A degraded meadow is one whose channels are deeply incised due to years of erosion, have evidence of soil compaction due to heavy use, have invasive species and encroaching conifers. Van Norden Meadow is a beautiful meadow that also suffers from generations of management that has not always prioritized this sensitive ecosystem.
SYRCL is working with many different individuals and organizations to improve conditions within the meadow for the next 150-200 years. Our partners include The Tahoe National Forest, The Truckee Donner Land Trust, UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, Gateway Mountain Center, Balance Hydrologics, Point Blue Conservation Science, Earthwatch, and many others. These partnerships allow us to bring high level research and monitoring to the meadow while at the same time using the meadow as a living laboratory to teach students about meadow ecosystems and watershed management.
More than 50 interested people ventured out on a snowy evening on March 25th to learn more about the meadow and provide feedback about the proposed restoration design. Presenters included Rachel Hutchinson of the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), Joanne Roubique and Randy Westmoreland of the Tahoe National Forest, and Ryan Burnett of Point Blue. The evening began with an overview from SYRCL about the importance of meadows, meadow restoration, and ongoing scientific monitoring at the meadow. Burnett of Point Blue explained the importance of meadow habitat for birds and showed how Van Norden Meadow, even in a degraded state, is providing good habitat for birds and has provided a refuge for many species during the long drought. Finally, Randy Westmoreland of the Tahoe National Forest explained the proposed meadow restoration design and provided an overview of the current hydrologic condition of the meadow.
Future stakeholder meetings and field tours are expected during the summer and fall of 2017. To receive updates about the project, please contact Rachel Hutchinson, SYRCL River Science Director.