Habitat Improvement at Ridgefield NWR
Beginning March 18, 2019, the Carty Unit at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge will undergo a process known as an “oak release.” This involves removing faster growing conifer trees, mainly Douglas fir, in order to create more ideal growing conditions for Oregon white oak trees.
March 18, 2019 for up to three months: The Oaks-to-Wetlands Trail will close north of the Oak Overlook (the end of the paved portion of the trail) for approximately six weeks during tree cutting. The trail will remain closed for up to two additional months in order to ensure the site is safe from falling debris. Look for the trail to re-open north of the Oak Overlook in June or July.
Why improve conditions for oak trees?
The Oregon white oak was once a dominant species in Southwest Washington and Oregon’s Willamette Valley, providing high quality nesting and food resources for hundreds of bird, mammal, and insect species. These trees, however, are much slower growing than trees favored for timber production, like the Douglas fir. Since European arrival in the Pacific Northwest over 150 years ago, the Oregon white oak has lost over 97% of its historic habitat.
From One Restoration Project to Another
Douglas fir trees may be on the way out for this Refuge restoration project, but they’ll find new life helping improve the in-stream and riparian conditions of Abernathy Creek, located just west of Longview, Washington. The Cowlitz Indian Tribe has led efforts to restore salmon and steelhead habitat in Abernathy Creek since 2012. The Douglas firs from the oak restoration project on the Carty Unit will be used to finish out the Abernathy Headwaters project and will likely be used in the Sarah Creek and Erick Creek projects (both tributaries to Abernathy Creek).
The Refuge’s Douglas fir trees are ideal for this project because mature firs are hard to find for this purpose and large trees will last a lot longer in a stream environment. Also, their size will keep them more stable without the need for cables or boulder ballasts. Trees from the Refuge will also bring down project costs.
Starting March 18, 2019, the Oaks-to-Wetlands Trail will be closed north of the Oak Overlook (the interpretive log near the giant oak tree). Following tree removal, which will last for about six weeks, the trail will remain closed as Refuge staff monitor for falling debris. This monitoring period will last up to two months. The trail will re-open when it is deemed safe.
Once the trail re-opens, the visual experience will be quite different. The area will be filled with tree stumps and natural debris piles as Friends and Refuge staff and volunteers work to remove invasive species and plant a beneficial native vegetation understory.
Check back to Refuge2020.info and the Ridgefield NWR website for specific closure dates and other project updates.