Haskell Peak Meadow Restoration Project

SYRCL, in partnership with the Tahoe National Forest, completed the first year of project implementation on 229 acres of meadow, fen and meadow edge habitat within five high priority meadows in the North Yuba Watershed: Haskell Headwaters Fen, Chapman Saddle Meadow, West Church Meadow, Freeman Meadow, and Bear Trap Meadow.

This restoration project is using an ecological-process-based approach to restoration, by integrating tools such as beaver dam analogues (BDAs) and post assisted log structures (PALS), to assist the system in aggradation and floodplain reconnection. Aggradation is the process of sediment accrual that naturally occurs in healthy meadows via slow flowing waters that deposit sediment. Beaver dam analogues are manmade structures that mimic beaver dams. These low-impact tools have proven to be effective at promoting floodplain connectivity and complexity, increasing habitat heterogeneity, and increasing ecological resilience (Pollock et al. 2017).

Freeman Meadow BDA

During the 2023 implementation season SYRCL worked with Swiftwater Designs to install over 300 BDAs and PALS in the five project meadows. SYRCL staff continued our monitoring efforts recording data on; streamflow, water quality and groundwater as well as conducting conifer transects.  SYRCL began this monitoring in 2020 to establish baseline data for the Haskell Peak Restoration Project. Continued monitoring through each phase of the project will allow SYRCL and partners to document the effects of restoration actions based on reliable data.  We look forward to using this data to inform our current and future projects.

This winter and spring we will analyze the data collected during the 2023 field season. In the summer of 2024, we anticipate beginning a second year of restoration implementation and monitoring. The 2024 field season will focus on building additional BDA and PAL structures, the removal of relic features, and replacing a culvert that is currently impeding the hydrologic function of Freeman Meadow.   

West Church Meadow BDA

So why are we restoring these meadows?

 These meadows are vulnerable to climate change because of their sub-alpine elevation; the ecosystem processes of these headwater wetlands rely heavily on snowpack. Meadows are important ecosystems for sequestering carbon, they serve as habitat for threatened native species, and act as a “water bank” holding snow water as it melts and slowly releasing it through the summer. As temperatures rise and the precipitation regime shifts from snow dominant to rain dominant, the resiliency of these ecosystems is increasingly threatened. Existing habitat degradation in these meadows was initially caused by a variety of historic human impacts. This degradation is expected to worsen in response to the impacts of climate change without intervention. Specifically, stream channels in these meadows are incised, and increased precipitation in the form of rain will increase erosion, further degrading and incising these channels unless we act to restore them.

These sub-alpine environments support headwater streams and contain highly valuable meadow and fen habitats; thus, it is especially important to promote resiliency of these environments with restoration actions. The objective of our restoration efforts in these five meadows is to reconnect stream channels with their floodplain which will slow surface water flows and promote water storage. Our restoration efforts will support the following ecosystem benefits:

  1. increased groundwater recharge,
  2. increased stream flows later into the summer,
  3. increased capacity for long-term carbon storage and
  4. increased habitat for aquatic species.

From a watershed scale perspective, the improvement of degraded meadows throughout the North Yuba River watershed increases the capacity of the watershed to hold water and sequester carbon. At a larger scale, this project, combined with other projects SYRCL is doing, will increase the availability of functioning meadow patches across the Yuba River watershed to support wildlife as continued habitat for foraging, breeding, and rearing.

Project Landmarks

Monitoring for groundwater and surface water

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For more information, please contact:

Rose Ledford, Science and Education Project Manager
(530) 265-5961 ext. 207