Two Main Causes of Streambed Degradation
Timber Harvesting and Land Clearing
Timber in the watershed is harvested and cleared for pasture and construction. It takes 25 years for one native Red Oak to reach 10 inches in diameter. Many of the best trees are being taken out with the idea that the smaller ones will grow. This is like selling the top end of your cowherd and keeping the culls. Reproduction is left to those of lesser quality.
Timber provides food and shelter for wildlife. Along with other vegetation, it stabilizes the topsoil, slows runoff and retains moisture by keeping the land cool and shaded. One acre of Riparian forest is capable of filtering 7,000 gallons of water each day.
Removing Trees and Brush from Banks
Current studies on Spring Creek indicate that a main problem is deterioration of the creek banks.
Trees/brush and their roots are very beneficial. They hold the banks together, provide food and cover for game and fish, and cool the water with shade. Trees and brush filter sediment and pollutants from water running off the land during storms. Grasses alone do not provide all of these benefits.
Removing trees and brush from around creeks results in bank erosion. When this happens, creeks fill with fine sand and gravel. They become more shallow, wider, and warmer. This accounts for the lack of deep pools and pool-dwelling game fish that many long-term residents of Spring Creek recall. As the creek widens, pastures. forest lands and roadbeds are lost to washouts.
Living next to the creek, it’s natural to want to embrace it. If we aren’t careful, we will spoil what we came to the creek to enjoy. So, when thinking about “cleaning up the creek banks“, please consider the fish, wildlife, and your downstream neighbors. Leave a wide border of trees and brush at least fifty feet from each bank. Build pathways to the water instead of wide clearings.