Making Shift Happen: Momentum for New Thinking About River Restoration

"An unconventional gathering helped spur ideas to speed the pace and scale of river restoration projects across the West."

"Brian and Pat Robertson first noticed something wrong nearly 30 years ago. A stream called Little Bear Creek ran through their property in northern Idaho, but the waterway had long ago been altered during a logging operation and essentially functioned as a ditch, carrying water swiftly away from the valley. Trees were dying; the water table was dropping; neighbors were digging dry wells. After consulting with Natural Resources Conservation Service and touring several Forest Service restoration projects in Oregon, the Robertsons decided to take the creek back to Stage Zero.

Stage Zero is like hitting the reset button to a time before the stream had formed a channel. With help from 10 agencies, the Robertsons filled in their stretch of Little Bear Creek until it was flush with the surrounding landscape. They scattered large logs about to help slow the flow of water. Then the stream could decide where it wanted to go: spreading out in fingers across a valley; pooling in wetlands; creating little micro-habitats — places where water-loving plants could grow, insects could hatch and young salmon could thrive.

Since the restoration at Little Bear Creek began more than five years ago, the water table has risen several feet. The meadow is transforming into a wetland. In time, the Robertson say, willows may return, then beavers."

Juliet Grable reports for The Revelator May 8, 2023.

Source: The Revelator, 05/10/2023