Enhancing and creating wetlands does a lot of good, providing important habitat, reducing nutrient runoff, and replenishing groundwater. With the many springs and seeps in the Driftless area, there are real habitat-enhancing rewards awaiting property owners. What’s really cool is that it’s possible to accomplish all this with just a few hours work … and by following the guidance from Utah State University Restoration Consortium’s “Low-Tech Process-Based Restoration of Riverscapes” – referred to as LTPBR below.
Here at Nature Nooks Resort (NNR), we have several springs and seeps. Across the river, at the base of the hill, there are six seeps and springs that, when I first walked the place in 2003, had created a broadly wet area full of skunk cabbage, watercress, and marsh marigold. I needed rubber boots or got wet feet to cross the area back then. One spring, I found a snapping turtle foraging in that little meander. However, over the interceding wet years, the water cut more deeply into the valley floor and created an 18”-deep, and far more direct, drainage channel to the West Fork. The surrounding area has dried up, been overtaken by reed canary grass (an introduced invasive), and become far less diverse. Here I will describe my efforts to restore this little wetland.
The Utah State Consortium’s primary recommended technique for improving wetland areas is installing Post-Assisted Log Structures, or PALS. These are intended to add complexity and hydrologic inefficiency to water conveyance. One such PALS is the Beaver Dam Analogue/BDA, mentioned in a previous blog entitled “Helping Beavers Help Us.” Other PALS relevant to creating and enhancing wetlands are Bank-Attached PALS, Channel-Spanning PALS, and Mid-Channel PALS. In the very small channel across the river that I have been working on, I am using Channel-Spanning PALS exclusively.
I have now built three channel-spanning PALS at the base of the hill across the river. See photos below that detail the process. Formerly dry and ugly, the area has now awakened the gone-dormant skunk cabbage; and, the watercress and marsh marigolds are spreading. In season now, frogs are present. If any of you would like to go take a first-hand look, let us know and we will set up a time for a guided tour. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll either wade the river or use the generally locked zip line/cable seat to cross over. However, be advised that feet will get wet either way. This walk and look will take an hour or so.
If you have further interest, check out Utah State University Restoration Consortium’s web site: www.lowtechpbr.restoration.usu.edu for the full scoop and the rationale behind this approach. Though much of that work pertains to western waterways, their PALS techniques are applicable to wetland restoration efforts in the Driftless and other areas. However, to avoid problems with the Department of Natural Resources or other such authorities, these techniques should only be used for non-navigable waters, springs, and seeps. Also, if you truly wish to proceed with any such efforts, I highly recommend purchasing their inexpensive little LTPBR Pocket Field Guide. It is full of excellent instructions and diagrams and darn near spelled out my plan-of-work for the site.
It is so much fun to do some habitat-enhancing good … and getting to play in the mud was a bonus!