California Volunteers ‘Fool’ Mother Nature
By Mark Holyoak, Director of Communications
In the 1970s there was a TV commercial featuring a commentator “fooling” Mother Nature by giving her Chiffon margarine instead of butter. She wasn’t pleased, and reacted by showing her wrath. The truth is, Mother Nature sometimes needs to be fooled, especially in cases where the health of wildlife habitat is in jeopardy.
For example, seven volunteers from the RMEF’s Mendo-Lake and Redwood chapters recently put in an estimated 60 hours of work to improve elk habitat northwest of Sacramento, California. This was the second of a two-phase project to repair two headcuts that had eroded a riparian meadow in Upper Craig Canyon on the old Payne Ranch, now managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
A headcut is an abrupt step or drop in a stream’s channel. In effect, it resembles a short cliff or bluff and oftentimes includes a pool of water at its base. If erosion becomes too pronounced, then the headcut will migrate upstream.
In Upper Craig Canyon, if left unchecked the erosion would have continued to the point where the water table in the meadow may have potentially dropped 8 to 10 feet. If that happened, the roots of palatable meadow species that elk love to eat, such as sedges and rushes, would no longer be able to reach the water table, and the area would eventually transform from a riparian meadow to brushy rangeland.
RMEF volunteers covered the lower headcut with a porous fiber material (felt) and filled it with rocks hauled by ATVs and wheelbarrows from a nearby boulder field. The work will allow water to flow over the rock and prevent further erosion—and maintain the riparian habitat. Volunteers repaired the upper headcut in 2013.
Is it nice to “fool” Mother Nature? No complaints here.