What was the impetus for the Mad River Alliance working to organize this workshop?
Mad River Alliance organized the Growing Green in 2014 Best Management Practices Workshop because cumulative negative impacts of human land use occurs in almost every watershed across the North Coast including the Mad River. These negative impacts are not necessary, and with the use of best management practices and adaptive management, we believe the majority of these negative impacts can be reduced or eliminated.
Important land management topics covered in the workshop are: water conservation, erosion control & road management, pest control without poison, soil and amendments, legal compliance, and how to take action to reduce potential threats to watershed health.
What are the specific stresses to the Mad River watershed that you are most hoping can be alleviated by the workshop?
The three main stressors affecting the Mad River watershed are: excess sediment, high water temperatures, and limited tributary connectivity due to reduced flows. Other stressors that may contribute to watershed degradation include: use of pesticides, rodenticides, herbicides, excess fertilizers, and other chemical amendments.
The Mad River is a 500 square mile watershed listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as sediment impaired. A current sediment source analysis show that over 60% of that sediment comes from roads. The Mad River watershed has over 2,000 miles of gravel road, much of which, due to lack of funding, neglect, or little oversight, has been poorly planned and under-managed, causing un-natural rates of erosion, which further aggravates our presently sediment impaired river. As Tom Leroy of Pacific Watershed Associates explains: “There are two property site locations where erosion occurs most frequently but can be controlled with proper planning, construction, and maintenance: (1) roads and skid trails, (2) landings and building pads.” Tom will be sharing his expertise at the Growing Green in 2014 workshop on April 26th.
The Mad River was also listed by the EPA as temperature impaired in 2006. The mainstem Mad River receives its year round water supply from 40 tributaries, and also receives augmented summer water flows from Matthews Dam at Ruth Lake, 84 miles upstream of the river mouth. Though it may be beneficial to have water released from the dam, the dam water slowly heats up due to hot inland air temperatures. It is essential for water temperatures to be maintained below 68 degrees Fahrenheit or it becomes difficult for salmonids and other aquatic wildlife to survive. Some of the factors that affect water temperature of the mainstem Mad River include: amount of riparian canopy cover, ambient air temperature, cool water infiltration and tributary flow. The water session of the Growing Green in 2014 workshop is designed to help landowners learn the actions necessary to keep our river flowing cool!
Recent human development in the mid and upper sections of the Mad River watershed seem to have compromised the historic flow conditions for many tributaries. It is estimated that the flows from tributaries of the Mad are reduced by up to 25% and many small creeks that once flowed in the summer are now dry or reduced to just a trickle during the dry season due to water diversions and landscape changes.
Permaculture expert Dan Mar explains: “Water is an infinite resource that regulates atmospheric temperatures, shapes the Earth’s surface, passes through every living creature, transports nutrients, and creates spectacular visual displays. However, within constructed environments and land-use practices water has become a utility which makes it a finite resource. An integrated design approach reduces overall project cost, reduces maintenance, increases yields, and protects environmental integrity.” Dan will share his a 4-tier approach to designing an integrated water system for rural growing environments that reduces the need for stream or river diversions.
Conventional Rodent Control is another potential threat to Mad River and other watersheds across the North Coast. As one of our speakers Brad Job points out: “Many pesticides do not readily break down when released into the environment and tend to bio-concentrate or bio-magnify in predatory fish and animals. The most contentious pesticide lately is brodifacoum, which is the active ingredient in most common brands of rodenticide. Brodifacoum was clearly tied to excess mortality of Pacific fishers by Dr. Mourad Gabriel in 2011. Brodifacoum is chemically similar to its commercial predecessor, warfarin, except that it is much more persistent in the environment. These and similar chemicals prevent coagulation of blood and cause exposed animals to hemorrhage internally and die. Due to the persistence of rodenticides, a healthy red-tailed hawk, which can consume over 10,000 rodents in a lifetime, can be killed by consuming one or two rodents poisoned by brodifacoum. Over 25 non-target species have been inadvertently killed by ingesting rodenticides. For this reason, any means of rodent trapping, repelling, or avoidance is preferable to the use of rodenticides.” Brad Job and Kristin Nevendal will be sharing their expertise on the cumulative negative impacts of conventional rodent and pest control, and inform workshop participants of ways to manage these pests without causing harm to the environment.
Are best management practices a long-term solution, an attempt to make some immediate change, or some mixture of the two?
Some best management practices do show both short and long-term gain, for example: improvement on a road system can reduce sediment delivery in the first year, and in total road decommissioning entire slopes can re-stabilize to reduce sediment inputs almost entirely. However, some results are variable, and that is why adaptive management and reviews of BMP’s are a crucial component to any best management plan.
Who are the workshop presenters and what kind of material will they cover?
What are you doing to be sure that this important information can be available to folks who can’t make the April 26 workshop?
The Growing Green in 2014 workshop was inspired by the Northern California Farmers Guide to Best Management Practices, which is available as a free down load here: http://www.treesfoundation.org/BestPracticesGuide_2014.pdf.
There really is no substitute for the physical workshop, especially for people who learn through experience this is a great component that shouldn’t be missed. We do hope to develop an educational program that can be repeated in the future at other locations. If your watershed could use a workshop similar to this one we encourage you to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are your next steps after this workshop for addressing the impacts of the demands on the Mad River of expanding agriculture activities?
More outreach and education to those who may not be on board yet will be an ongoing part of Mad River Alliance’s plan. We hope to work with landowners for as long as it takes to help them understand why following suggested best practices will help reduce cumulative negative impacts in the watershed.
Knowledge is not really power, as much as it is a responsibility and I have faith that most people want to do the right thing once they are aware of what that is. As the State of California moves toward legalization, the market and regulation may play a role in determining land practices. As consumers learn more about the positive side to growing green, they will most likely prefer a product that is watershed friendly, and we will continue to encourage any movement in that direction.
What is your ideal outcome from this effort?
Ideally, for the Mad River watershed, the people, and the planet, the majority of North Coast agriculturalists will adopt these suggested best management practices and over time these workshops will become routine annual updates on the most recent practice improvements. Over time we hope improved management practices will keep our tributaries flowing, our aquatic wildlife populations thriving, and our rivers ecology in balance.
The immediate goal is to use this year as a learning year and build from here, and by 2016 we should have a full educational program that reaches across the state to the array of key players providing them with tools and management practices to live and work in balance with the environment they choose to live and work in.
Any last words about this workshop?
In the end, it comes down to each person choosing what kind of world they want to live in. Do we choose a world that may require a little bit more physical work and allows room for the widest array of biological diversity possible? We hope so. The Growing Green in 2014 Best Management Workshop is our attempt to help those that want to do the best they can to reduce negative impacts to our environment and continue to live and grow in these sensitive, beautiful, life giving watersheds.