Rock Creek Meadow Restoration

Project Summary

Background

Historic fire suppression has led to an increase of woody vegetation encroachment, primarily Western Juniper, across meadows and sage steppe habitat within the Great Basin. This has led to a reduction of desired forbs, and total ground cover. Addressing the encroachment of juniper will promote and reestablish herbaceous and bitterbrush communities that are more desirable to deer and other wildlife.

 

The interstate herd as well as local populations in the Modoc drastically reduced and noted as most critical and in need of restoration efforts. Lack of successional fires has enabled juniper encroachment across the landscape which has led to greatly reduced quality forage components for all wildlife. Encroachment of conifers into historic meadows have depleted one of the most beneficial and diverse ecosystems that wildlife of the region is dependent on (DAU 2, CDFW).

 

This project was preceded by a test cut in the upland area. This cut was conducted to estimate what the understory response would be on the larger cut. The results of the test cut were very favorable resulting in a 62% increase in forb and grass diversity and an increase of over 50% in total ground cover within the first grow season.

Specific Goals and Objectives

  • Restore historic meadow boundaries and the beneficial vegetation communities found within these ecosystems.
  • Reestablish quality forage components beneficial to wildlife and subjugate species.
  • Address hydrology issues and erosion by reconnecting waterflows within meadow systems, watersheds, and springs.
  • Restore sunlight to banked native seed components to reestablish forage and vegetation communities.

CDFW Selected Priorities

  • Invasive Plant Removal/Treatment: The Project will remove approximately 200 acres of Juniper from the Rock Creek Floodplain and surrounding uplands. The cut will take place to restore the hydrology in the surrounding riparian meadow, sage steppe, and side hill seep meadows. Juniper will be removed across approximately 500 acres landscape with 200 acres of juniper being cut while leaving a varied forest edge on the upper elevations to promote edge species. The lower elevation and meadow will be cleared of all juniper. The remaining slash will be pilled and burned. Burn pile locations will be carefully managed to minimize damage to desired vegetation
  • Migration Corridor Barriers: Rock Creek Meadow Restoration is within the migratory route of the Devils Garden-Modoc Interstate Deer Herd. The Rock Creek Meadow contains quality forage components for migratory deer, antelope, and elk as well as providing hunting grounds for a population of Big Eared Bats which are found at the head of the box canyon above the Rock Creek meadow system. The cut areas prioritize Juniper removal in bitterbrush areas and meadows to return sunlight and water to more desirable forage components. Increasing and restoring desired forage within migration routes and home ranges of deer, antelope, elk, and other wildlife is paramount to mule deer recovery in this region. To recover deer numbers, the restoration of key forage components and natural vegetation communities such as those found in meadows, seeps, aspen stands, and bitterbrush landscapes is necessary. Connecting quality and abundant forage components on a landscape level approach throughout the migratory corridors and home ranges of deer is key to their nutritional needs for fawn recruitment and retention.
  • Surface Water Management: By removing the encroaching Western Juniper, surface level waters and meadow hydrology will increase and be more prevalent

Expected Benefits

The addition of this project to others in the region adds to the connectivity for migratory wildlife and their nutritional needs throughout this region. Restoring these connected areas in order to provide higher quality forage components, bedding, and water are key in promoting deer herd health and growth. Providing favorable conditions to grow fawns will provide greater opportunities for recreational use as well as hunting. The national average shows that for every 3 deer we grow/increase in numbers, we gain one hunter. Growing and retaining fawns through sound, connected habitat projects focusing on returning high quality, desired forage components to the landscape is the priority tool in this equation. Using deer as the identified umbrella species, these efforts also have a positive effect on many other wildlife species of the region.

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Project Details

  • Project Year 2020
  • Project County Modoc
  • Projected Start Date January 1, 2020
  • Funding Source CDFW, Big Game Management Account (BGMA)
  • Focus Restoring Critical Mule Deer Habitat
  • Contact

This project includes removal of approximately 200 acres of Juniper from the Rock Creek Floodplain and surrounding uplands. The cut will take place to restore the hydrology in the surrounding riparian meadow, sage steppe, and side hill seep meadows.