Was That Actually a Road?
Can you see the road in this picture? Likely not, and that is why Rebecca Lloyd, Y2Y’s U.S. Director of Science and Action, who is standing next to a 15 foot pine tree and surrounded by lush vegetation, is beaming with joy.
Back in 1998/99 this area was an abandoned logging road, one scheduled to be removed as part of a Clearwater National Forest program. It was one of the first roads Lloyd surveyed and the first she and her team* dug up and reshaped back to the original contours of the mountain using the same kind of heavy equipment that built the road in the 50’s. As you can see, today the road is non-existent.
“It is fantastic to be able to go back 15 years later and see that we really did make a difference,” says Lloyd with a smile on her face. “We always said our goal was to make it look like the road was never there and we definitely succeeded. If you didn’t know better you would say you were standing on ground that had never been roaded.”
Road Removal and Contouring
The program Lloyd was working on some 15 years ago was in reaction to a devastating natural disaster that took place in the winter of 1995-96. An unusual warming event caused several meters of snow to quickly melt. The area flooded and landslides damaged hundreds of miles of old abandoned and overgrown logging roads. Steams, critical for salmon habitat, were so filled with sediment from the logging roads that they were completely blocked.
The damage to the area and the impact to the threatened pacific salmon initiated a series of efforts focused on stabilizing the roads to avoid failure.
As the collaborators on the program became more skilled, the whole nature of the work began to evolve from crews focused on stabilizing old roads to a larger goal of restoring entire hillsides. Lloyd was part of a team spearheading these new methods to remove the roads and accelerate native re-vegetation.
Restoration Projects: Key to Y2Y Vision
Being able to see the fruits of your labor is rare for most scientists who frequently put their energy into the next opportunity with very little time for revisiting old projects.
“I feel really lucky to have been able to build a career in a way that I am still invested in work I did 15 years ago, and now be able to develop research related to my early projects and questions about restoration the program has struggled with for so many years,” she asserts.
Since Lloyd joined the Y2Y team, she has helped enhance the number of restoration projects (i.e. Yaak to Yahk) taking place in the Y2Y region – something that is key to Y2Y vision.
“Removing roads and restoring habitat,” explains Lloyd, “increases the ability of fish and wildlife population to remain connected. The restored habitat protects ecological function, diversity, and increases the resilience of the landscape to future disturbances whether the disturbances are related to our management, natural processes, or climate change.”
Lloyd’s research seeks to understand how the method of removing the road restores ecological and hydrological function and services, including evaluating the succession of vegetation to future productive forests, increases in carbon storage, and how these projects impact the quantity and quality of our water.
“We want to be able to communicate how restoration method makes a difference and be a resource to others,” says Lloyd.
Good for the Environment. Good for the Economy.
Donors and funders who support Y2Y and our restoration efforts are getting a bigger bang for their buck than they expected. As it turns out, restoration work is an economy booster!
According to a study conducted by the University of Oregon, $1 million invest in forest or watershed restoration generates between 14.7 and 23.8 jobs, compared to only 19 in transportation and infrastructure or five in the oil and gas industry.
Additionally, these projects produced between $2.1 and $2.6 million dollars for the local economy. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that its restoration projects, which involve labor-intensive activities like tree planting, produced up to 33 jobs per $1 million invested. (Read more...)
This industry also employs a vast number of workers from construction workers, landscapers and heavy equipment operators to technical experts such as engineers, and creates demand for local businesses like plant nurseries, quarries and others.
As Eric Schwaab of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said, “Habitat restoration jobs pay dividends twice, first in creating good, local jobs immediately, and then for many decades to come through increased benefits from fisheries, tourism and resiliency for coastal communities.”
* The restoration program is part of a collaboratively managed partnership between the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and the Nez Perce Tribe, with the University of Montana as its primary partner on the research.