Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Field Trip with Wildlands CPR

Road Restoration Field Trip with Wildlands CPR 
Blog written by Tom and David

On Friday, November 2nd, we gathered at the motor pool on a cold Friday morning; most of the group huddled inside of the building while we waited for everyone to gather. Our guides, Adam Switalski of Wildlands CPR and David, a private contractor and former employee of the Nez Perce, met us at the motor pool, and we all drove over Lolo Pass to our first stop on the Wendover Creek road. Adam and David told us about the history of the area, and some of the road restoration efforts that had occurred. We were in an area which had been logged, and the loggers had built “jammer” roads; roads which switchback up a hill, cutting across as often as every few hundred vertical feet. These roads have many detrimental effects on wildlife, including habitat fragmentation, noise disturbance, and loss of cover. Jammer roads can leave 60 miles of road per square mile on the land, and studies have found that even one or two miles of road per square mile can have negative effects on wildlife such as bears and wolves. They also impact watersheds, as they are a chronic source of fine sediment and, on occasion, fill stream beds during landslides caused by mass road failure.
Wildlands CPR’s mission is to “promote watershed restoration,” with a “focus on reclaiming... unneeded roads.” At our first stop, branching off of an existing road, was a road that had been fully reclaimed, using many of the techniques which David and Adam told us about. It had been recontoured with heavy machinery pulling up soil from below the road cut where it had been left when the road was built. There were a lot of shrubs growing in the old road, and trees were starting to regenerate. We walked along the restored road for a few hundred yards to a wildlife camera that was being used to monitor wildlife response to the restoration effort, and looked at some of the pictures on the camera, which showed wildlife using the old road.

After lunch, we went down to the stream to look at some of the macro-invertebrates, which can be an indicator of stream health, and salamanders and frogs. Then we got back in the cars and drove up to our next stop to look at an example of the jammer roads. In some places, they make it look like the hillsides are terraced.

Our last stop was at a restored road, where we pulled knapweed for a while before heading back to Missoula. It was a great trip; we learned a lot about the effects of roads on wildlife and water, and some of the efforts to restore them.