Streamside clearcuts vs. selective thinning

Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2002

The recent Duck Creek tree-cutting incident, involving local developer Richard Harris, is yet another sad example of poor land stewardship along our ailing urban water bodies. Even sadder is Mr. Harris' attempt at comparing his actions to a Mendenhall Watershed Partnership restoration project on Duck Creek. Mr. Harris' streamside clear-cut and the partnership's selective thinning project are on opposite ends of a very wide spectrum.

Mr. Harris' actions appear to be in clear violation of a city and borough law designed to protect our salmon streams. In contrast, the partnership's riparian thinning project will restore an area on Duck Creek damaged years ago by misguided tree-cutting practices, not unlike Mr. Harris'.

Today, the legacy of such practices is evident as dense stands of weak and spindly young trees bordering many of our Mendenhall Valley streams. Decades ago, as Mendenhall Valley forest gave way to neighborhoods, streamside forests were cut down. The trees grew back, but competition for sunlight left the young forest so crowded that little sun reached the forest floor. Large trees, which create important cover for fish when they fall into streams, are absent, as are shrubs and other bank-stabilizing plants indicative of a healthy streamside forest.

Such is the case along Duck Creek between Taku and Mendenhall boulevards.

This summer, with a science-based restoration plan in hand and homeowner and CBJ involvement, the partnership will remove a few selected spruce and alder trees in this area, improving the health of remaining trees, while allowing a productive understory to develop below. Our goal is to undo some of the very same damage that Mr. Harris has inflicted upon Duck Creek.

John Hudson

Chair, Restoration Committee

Mendenhall Watershed Partnership

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