Upper Butte Creek Watershed
Butte Creek is home to the strongest spring-run Chinook salmon population in the Central Valley, and supplies water to tens of thousands of acres of cropland. Its upper watershed is an important refuge for forest carnivores, California spotted owls, trout and many rare plants, plus meadows and fens that store centuries' worth of carbon. Surrounding the two rural communities of Butte Meadows and Jonesville, the area is a cherished recreational haven for folks from Chico, Oroville, and far beyond. Unfortunately, a lot of this watershed burned at devastatingly high severity in the 2021 Dixie Fire. Just as alarmingly, much of the remaining area hasn't burned in over 100 years, putting it at risk of the same outcome. BCRCD is helping the State of California make much-needed investments in the area's ecological health and rural economies. How?
- Colby Mountain Recreation Project - Funded by grants from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, the Friesen Foundation, and private donations, this project would build 40 miles of new non-motorized singletrack trail providing diverse hiking and biking loop options out of Jonesville, plus connections to the Pacific Crest Trail and the "Connected Communities" trail system providing trail connections to points as far away as Susanville and Truckee.
- Upper Butte Creek Forest Health Initiative - Funded by a $1.4 million grant from the Wildlife Conservation Board, this project will develop a forest health NEPA document on 20,000 acres of Lassen National Forest lands -- half "green," half "black". (The "black" acres burned in 2021 in the Dixie Fire.) The plan will return the area to resilience through meadow restoration, aspen improvement, forest thinning, and prescribed fire. This summer 2022, RCD-led crews and contractors are assessing forest stands, mapping botanical resources, evaluating miles of roads and streams, poring over archaeological resources and counting owls and goshawks to inform the plan. Scoping is expected in October 2022. It's all part of the new wave of "shared stewardship" (S2) projects, where Federal lands get backup from State and local organizations so we can protect our forests and communities for generations to come.
- West Lassen Watershed Infrastructure Assessment - Funded by NFWF, this Sierra Institute-led project is assessing 74 stream crossings and 14 miles of non-system road on Forest Service lands in anadromous watersheds in the west Lassen region. 16 of the crossings and 2.5 road-miles are in the Upper Butte Creek watershed, and those are the ones for which BCRCD will be conducting assessments and and creating repair recommendations.
- Butte Creek House Meadow Restoration - Funded by a Prop 1 Streamflow Enhancement grant from the Wildlife Conservation Board, this project will improve habitat for native species that depend on meadows, including sandhill crane, willow flycatcher, cascade frog, Sierra-Nevada yellow legged frog, spotted owl, and northern goshawk. A restored meadow can result in an increase in water storage capacity, reduce water temperatures in summer, result in higher dissolved oxygen levels, reduce erosion and sediment delivery, and increase carbon storage.