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Respect the River/Rio — Forest Programs

Willamette National Forest

Tree damage in dispersed campsite

Tree damage in dispersed campsite

Introduction/Overview

The Santiam River Zone (SRZ) of the Willamette National Forest is planning to begin implementation of the Respect the River program in the North Santiam and South Santiam Rivers in 2007. The SRZ includes the Sweet Home and Detroit Ranger Districts located on the west slope of the Cascade Mountain range in northwest Oregon and is within 2-hours drive of 80% of the State’s population.

The number, size and location of the unmanaged recreation sites are negatively impacting the riparian and aquatic resources across the SRZ. Detroit Lake in the North Santiam Canyon is the most popular lake in the State of Oregon due to the close proximity to Portland, the Willamette Valley, and Bend. Highway 22, the busiest east-west highway through the Cascade Mountains, follows the North Santiam River and funnels many visitors onto the Forest. As a result, there are many dispersed recreation sites in all of the major corridors on the Detroit Ranger District. The South Santiam River on the Sweet Home Ranger Districtis flanked by Highway 20 for approximately 10 miles allowing easy access for unmanaged recreation activities.

The North and South Santiam Rivers are municipal water sources for approximately 200,000 people in the cities of Salem and Albany in the Willamette Valley. Steelhead and Chinook salmon inhabit the waters of the North Santiam and South Santiam Rivers making watershed restoration and improved water quality important goals for the program.

Problems

Soil Compaction and loss of riparian vegetation-Visitor use of the National Forest has dramatically increased in the SRZ over the past ten years. Fishing and dispersed camping are popular activities occurring in the riparian areas of the Forest. Soil compaction caused by camping and vehicle and foot traffic in riparian areas adjacent to the North Santiam and South Santiam Rivers has reduced or eliminated vegetation. Resource concerns associated with soil compaction and loss of vegetation include increased runoff and degraded water quality as sediment delivery increases and riparian shade decreases.

Improper disposal of human waste-Disposal of human waste in dispersed recreation sites is problematic. This unsightly problem is both a public health and water quality issue.

Litter left behind by campers-Garbage service is not provided at dispersed recreation sites and users are expected to pack out their trash. However, illegal dumping and litter left behind by campers is on the rise all throughout the Forest.

Vandalism-Tree scarring, recreational tree felling and mudding are illegal and destructive activities occurring in and adjacent to dispersed recreation sites. Many green trees are damaged or cut down by forest visitors which reduces shade and creates a safety hazard as trees die. Mudding occurs when off-highway vehicles are driven on flat open areas saturated during and after rainstorms and after snowmelt. ATV use is increasing on the forest and unmanaged use in riparian areas and adjacent to streams has negative impacts on fish and water quality.

 

Mudding through the forest

Mudding through the forest

A makeshift forest toilet

A makeshift forest toilet

A large dispersed site adjacent to the Little North Fork Santiam River with damaged and felled trees

A large dispersed site adjacent to the Little North Fork Santiam River with damaged and felled trees

 

Solutions and Opportunities

Respect the River in the SRZ will be accomplished through interdisciplinary cooperation of specialists in fisheries, wildlife, hydrology, botany and recreation. SRZ wide involvement through education by fire prevention, District visitor information center staff, and law enforcement personnel will also help the success of this program.

Restoration-Restoration of dispersed recreation sites will decrease the area affected by soil compaction and loss of riparian vegetation. Large boulders will be placed to designate parking areas. Treatments include soil decompaction and replanting with native vegetation. The remaining campsite will be defined by signage, wood rail fence, or boulders with a designated path to the river or other attractions. Signing will explain restoration activities and educate visitors about watershed and resource protection. Restoration of dispersed recreation sites will improve water quality and riparian health to benefit both aquatic and terrestrial organisms.

Education-Education is an important component of the SRZ Respect the River program. Contact rangers, brochures and signing will inform users about watershed protection, restoration and river friendly camping. Outdoor School education and outreach to middle school aged children will help teach future generations about the importance of healthy streams and rivers. Art by local middle school high school students on interpretive signs and table tents in local restaurants will help link the community to the restoration efforts. Overall, there is to potential to reach thousands of people with this program.

Future

The Respect the River program is just beginning on the Willamette National Forest. During the next four years we will be working to develop partnerships and control unmanaged recreation on the SRZ. We hope that by educating the public and addressing resource concerns associated with recreation adjacent to our lakes, rivers and streams we can accomplish our goal of a healthy functioning riparian ecosystem while providing aesthetic recreation settings for visitors to care for and enjoy.

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer opportunities on for the Respect the River program on the SRZ include site clean-up, riparian planting and revegetation, stewardship, and public education.

Main Contacts

Darren Cross
Fisheries Biologist
Willamette National Forest
Detroit Ranger District
HC 73 Box 320
Mill City, OR 97360
503-854-4212
dmcross@fs.fed.us

Dani Pavoni
Willamette National Forest
Detroit Ranger District
HC 73 Box 320
Mill City, OR 97360
503-854-4208
dpavoni@fs.fed.us

K. C. Briggs
Fisheries Biologist
Willamette National Forest
Sweet Home Ranger District
541-367-3492
kcbriggs@fs.fed.us

 

 

U.S. Forest Service
Last modified: April 12, 2012
http://www.fs.fed.us

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