Ranch Creek vegetation project

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photo source: Colorado Water Trust
photo source: Colorado Water Trust

by Kirk Klancke

For all those County residents sporting a Save the Fraser River bumper sticker and all those who care about the health of our rivers but don’t have a sticker, you now have a chance to put your passions to work. This spring, the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited is partnering with Learning by Doing to improve the stream health on a main tributary of the Fraser River. We will be harvesting willow stakes on Saturday, May 19th and planting them on Saturday June 2nd and Sunday, June 3rd. This is an excellent opportunity to meet like-minded locals and to actively participate in Saving the Fraser River.

The project will involve harvesting and planting over 3,000 willow stakes on a section of Ranch Creek. We have chosen this location because decades of overgrazing have decimated the wetlands plants that keep the stream healthy. These plants help to keep moving soils from clogging up the stream with sediment and provide shade to keep the stream running cooler.

We are planting willows on this reach of Ranch Creek for many reasons. Willows are a great source of shade for the stream. Ranch Creek has been placed on the States impaired rivers list for temperature (303d list). Planting willows will provide much needed shade to help prevent the stream from reaching such high temperatures. Presently, these high stream temperatures are flowing from Ranch Creek into the Fraser River just above the Fraser Canyon. The Fraser Canyon holds some of Grand County’s best fishing water. These willows will also provide shade for other wetlands plants which will re-establish and become the filter that protects the stream from moving soils. Willows are also a deep rooted woody vegetation that help hold the stream banks from eroding.

Our project site is on the old Black Ranch which is now owned by the Devils Thumb Ranch. The DT Ranch has fenced off both sides of the stream to keep cattle from further destroying the damaged wetland plants. This will assure that our projects efforts will grow to fruition.

We need help to make this a successful conservation project. With your help we can start to reverse the failing health of our County’s rivers and streams. All ages are welcome. If you are in High School and want public service hours or if you are older and just want to be a part of making our rivers healthy, please go to www.coheadwaters.org, click on events and sign up to help. Lunch will be provided and if you don’t have one, we will have plenty of Save the Fraser River bumper stickers. Each volunteer will also receive a Save the Fraser River travel mug. We hope to see you there.

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