Yankee Creek Forestry of Coos Bay, Oregon, is a full-service foresting operation providing timber management and small timber harvesting, but that’s not all. Scroll through the company’s Facebook page and you’ll read stories of habitat improvement and restoration, pictures of trees being planted and wetlands being managed. You will realize quickly that—in true Oregonian spirit—harvesting timber is just a small part of Yankee Creek’s commitment to responsible land management.
A Declining Ecosystem
The Coquille River is a 99-mile ribbon of water flowing through Southwest Oregon. Four distinct sub-basins—the North, South, Middle and East—feed into the river as it snakes its way through the Cascade Mountains and empties into the Pacific Ocean at the coast near Bandon. Historically, the river has been a prime habitat for birds and aquatic species, most notably steelhead and Coho salmon. But the region, like so many others in the Northwest, also has a long history of natural resource extraction.
Rebuilding an Environment
Today, at a habitat restoration site along the Coquille, forester Jake Robinson uses small, pre-commercial logs from forest thinning efforts to build large nurse log systems. Nurse logs will be planted with Sitka Spruce and native shrubs to replicate the natural spruce swamp wetland habitat that was present over a century ago, before much of the area was converted to pasture. These planned structures divert waters throughout the forest creating wetlands, pulling water to new areas, helping to regulate water flow, enhancing nutrient storage and encouraging re-vegetation by native species.
The Essential Relationship Between Forester and Landowner
With grant funding from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Yankee Creek works with local agencies, nonprofits and landowners to create these quality habitat structures, providing cold water refuge waters for juvenile salmon and other aquatic species.
The current habitat restoration project exists within a 450-acre timber forest of which 50-acres is protected wetland. Restoration is happening in the watershed that provides critical upstream spawning grounds for native Coho salmon. Robinson aims to minimize environmental impacts, cutting and hauling logs by ATV and zip-line and using small-log structures to imitate the role beavers might play in a healthy watershed.
Setting The Bar For Conservation Efforts
Landowners who have dedicated some of their valley property to the salmon habitat restoration effort know that their commitment is not just about the trees. The wetland ecosystem provides diverse cool waters, which are ideal habitat for juvenile salmon and also creates sheltered environments for birds and amphibians. Yankee Creek’s work with spruce swamps in timberlands is an ideal example of a mutually beneficial relationship between working landowners and conservation-minded stewards providing long term care for the land.