High elevation meadows are among the most unique and valuable habitat in the Sierra Nevada region, providing a disproportionate number of ecosystem services compared to the area they cover. The Sierra Fund’s project at the Clover Valley Ranch works to restore ecosystem and community resiliency in tandem, ensuring that as the meadow recovers from a century of disturbance there is local capacity to steward the land into the future.
The 2,655-acre Clover Valley Ranch is located in Red Clover Valley, at the headwaters of the Feather River watershed in Plumas County. The site has a distinctive history as a rural ranching community that pre-dates World War I. Prior to the 19th century Gold Rush, the area was inhabited by the Mountain Maidu. Since the displacement of the Mountain Maidu from the valley, overgrazing and poor land management has led to severe degradation.
This project, launched in 2017, includes data collection and analysis, management planning, collaboration, and outreach and education, in order to improve water availability, reliability, and quantity, facilitate the restoration and resilience of native and culturally relevant high elevation wet meadow vegetation assemblages, and increase habitat integrity and availability.
The success of our work at the Clover Valley Ranch is measured through evaluation of data related to hydrology, geomorphology, avian species diversity and abundance, vegetation, and water quality. Best-practices are informed by the involvement of the Mountain Maidu, engagement of researchers from multiple universities, and dissemination of findings through collaboration with the Sierra Meadows Partnership. Our multi-faceted approach is allowing us to refine best practices and protocols for meadows assessment and restoration, which we are using to inform the region-wide Sierra Meadows Strategy.
In 2018 NRCS contractors installed a series of grade control structures to slow the passage of water though the meadow. TSF supplemented these activities by building beaver dam analogues (BDAs) with the help of Maidu youth, seeding disturbed areas with native grasses, and planting thousands of willow harvested via partnership with a local rancher. The combination of grade control structures and BDAs will allow flood flows to access the floodplain and facilitate deposition of sediments and nutrients into newly planted and existing vegetation, providing key habitat. We are monitoring the meadow’s response to these activities so that success can be evaluated and lessons learned can be incorporated into additional revegetation and BDA maintenance slated to take place in 2019.