Clover Valley

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.

Meadows are hotspots for biodiversity and cultural revitalization, providing significant ecosystem services including flood attenuation, sediment filtration, water storage, water quality improvement, wildlife refugia, carbon sequestration, and livestock forage.

Carrie Monohan, Ph.D., Program Director
TSF Staff at Annual SMP Workshop Tour in Clover Valley

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Background

The 3,000-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.

Project

This project, launched in 2017, includes data collection and analysis of surface and groundwater, water quality, vegetation, avian, terrestrial wildlife, and fish species diversity and abundance monitoring; land management planning; collaboration with First Nations; and engagement with the local ranching community. This project is focused on the evaluation of restoration actions to improve water availability, reliability, and quantity, facilitate the restoration and resilience of native and culturally relevant high elevation wet meadow vegetation assemblages, increase habitat integrity and availability, and support livestock grazing as part of a holistic approach to restoring ecosystem and community resilience.

Impact

The success of work at the Clover Valley Ranch is measured through evaluation of data related to hydrology, geomorphology, avian species diversity and abundance, fish species diversity and abundance, wildlife presence, soil carbon storage capacity, 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. This multi-faceted approach is allowing project partners to refine best practices and protocols for meadows assessment and restoration, which are being used to inform the region-wide Sierra Meadows Strategy.

Next Steps

In 2018, NRCS supported installation of a series of rock grade control structures to slow the passage of surface waters though the meadows. In 2019 and 2020, The Sierra Fund and partner Swiftwater Design 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 high flows to access the floodplain and facilitate deposition of sediments and nutrients into newly planted and existing vegetation, providing key habitat. The Sierra Fund is monitoring the meadow’s response to these activities so that success can be evaluated and lessons learned can be incorporated into additional revegetation and Process-Based Restoration stewardship actions leading to the development of best management practices for Sierra Nevada meadows.