Kilchis Estuary: Staff restore tidal channels, plant 200,000 trees and shrubs

[Original post from The Nature Conservancy in Oregon]

Kilchis Estuary Preserve | Photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy
Re-Creating Tidal Wetlands

Years of planning and mapping have come to fruition with the restoration of tidal wetlands at the Kilchis Estuary Preserve.

After removing dikes and re-creating tidal channels last September, water has returned to our Kilchis Estuary Preserve near Tillamook Bay. And with the water, came newfound beaver activity and spawning chum salmon—an exciting sight to see at a marsh that had been disconnected from the tides for nearly 100 years.

“With only 17 percent of Oregon’s tidal marshes remaining in natural condition, The Nature Conservancy is focused on restoring strategically located marshes that will provide multiple benefits,” said Associate Coast and Marine Conservation Director Dick Vander Schaaf. “Estuaries
are some of the most productive ecosystems on the planet; helping improve water quality benefits many wildlife species and human communities alike.”

With the channel work complete, staff is now focused on stabilizing and restoring the preserve by planting native trees and shrubs, such as Sitka spruce, Hooker’s willow, twinberry and spiraea. At the start of this year, more than 10,000 Hooker willow stakes were planted in one day—a feat in and of itself, but especially in the face of daily high tides and swelling winter river conditions.

During these next two years, the Conservancy hopes to plant a total of 200,000 native plants, including 120,000 willows and 8,000 Sitka spruce trees.

“These scrub-shrub marsh and spruce swamp habitats are critically important to rearing juvenile salmon—coho, Chinook, chum and steelhead,” Dick said. “Many other marine species and water birds also use this habitat as foraging and resting areas.”

Working with neighboring landowners has been a critical element to success during this project, and the Conservancy is thankful for these positive relationships. Our newly acquired 61-acre “Porter tract” lies adjacent to the Kilchis Estuary Preserve, is home to native tidal marsh habitat, and provides the best opportunity to protect and enhance tidal wetlands in the Kilchis basin.

“Our work at the Kilchis fits into our overall coastal strategy of restoring habitats important to juvenile fish,” Dick said. “We’re working to recover fish populations that are important to coastal communities and nearshore ecosystems.”