Restoration at Santiam Pass

WRP has partnered up with the Detroit Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest to rehabilitate sub-alpine meadow plant communities impacted by the use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in the Big Lake area of Santiam Pass. The project, which has received grant funding from the Mountaineers Foundation, incorporates students from local school districts, providing them with interactive, hands-on lessons in habitat restoration.

Prior to the designation of ATV trails in October 2008, 8.5 miles of illegal ATV routes and 13 illegal campsites impacted fragile sub-alpine meadow plant communities. These trails and sites have been decommissioned, but disturbed soils within this area possess little organic matter, thus reducing the soil’s capacity to hold water. These unique site conditions have required human intervention for the rehabilitation of native plant communities. The anticipated outcome from this project is established native populations of vegetation in decommissioned ATV trails and campsites in mountain communities. Increased forage for pollinator species, stabilized soils and reduced erosion will all result from these efforts, and data gathered through monitoring in the growing seasons will be shared with public agencies and used to help guide restoration projects in similar eco-zones.

Project Schedule

In the summer and fall of 2012, WRP collected seed of herbaceous grass and sedge species for re-vegetation within the project area. These seeds, which were collected from non-impacted plant communities in the project area, were both broadcast into test plots and sown into plug cells by local nurseries for fall 2013 planting. In late summer and early fall 2013, WRP again collected native seed from non-impacted plant communities to be utilized both for direct on-site sowing in fall 2013 and for propagation purposes for fall 2014 planting.

WRP has conducted propagation lessons with students from McKenzie High and Middle Schools, as well as the Network Charter School in Eugene, Ore. WRP has also worked to integrate youth from the Sisters School District in restoration efforts at Santiam Pass. Although a fall 2013 fieldtrip to the Santiam Pass project site was canceled due to early snow in the Cascades, students will travel there in spring 2014to plant native plugs that they helped to propagate during the previous school year. Plugs from seeds collected in 2013 are being grown out in a WRP-facilitated nursery. In fall 2013, WRP planted plugs grown out from seeds collected in 2012. Broadcast test plots sown in fall 2012 were monitored during the 2013 growing season, and monitoring will continue in the 2014 growing season to evaluate the effectiveness of direct sowing vs. the planting of established plugs. Successful establishment of direct sown test-plots will help facilitate large-scale project implementation. Planting strategies employed during this project to achieve success include (1) planting only after the fall rainy season has begun and (2) placing plants in a micro-site (i.e. adjacent to woody debris to help provide shade).