Wanna go wild? Upcoming salmon spotting field trips and how to help the Willits “Hub”

Two events this weekend and more coming up.

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MENDOCINO Co., 3/12/17 — Want to know more about local salmon runs? Need information about where to go hiking? Interested in helping out with habitat restoration, protecting native species, and growing “salmon-safe cannabis?” There is going to be a new cooperative “hub” for environmental organizations in Willits, located at the home of the Willits Environmental Center (WEC) at 630 South Main Street. In that building, WEC will be joined by the non-profits Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP), the Mendocino Wildlife Association, and Willits Economic Localization Project (WELL), who are moving in to create a central meeting place and resource center for the north county region.

In order to create the Hub, however, the groups need community support to pay the next year’s worth of rent and utilities, and they’ll be holding a series of events over the next month as part of an ongoing fundraising campaign that lasts until April 15, according to a recent press release. These events include two upcoming presentations this weekend, on March 18 and 19, involving a steelhead sighting and restoration project field trip, and a Hub open house featuring talks by various environmental experts working on Mendocino projects, and a viewing of clips from a new film, “A River’s Last Chance,” about the Eel River.

“I believe supporting the Willits Hub, a historic organizing space that has been a vital part of the WIllits community for more than 25 years, is the best way to ensure the southern Eel River watershed has groups championing its protection and recovery well into the future,” wrote local journalist Will Parrish in an email.

We’ve listed the details of the upcoming events below, both are free but donations are accepted. If you’d like to help out the Hub, you can donate to the crowdfunding campaign here, from now until April 15. There will be more events planned during that time, including field trips on April 2 and April 9, Hub activities on April 1 and April 8, and a “Best Practices for Growing Cannabis” workshop on April 15 from 10am – 5pm, followed by a fundraising celebration. Here’s the full calendar of upcoming events.

Soda Creek, part of the upcoming field trip March 18. Photo from ERRP.
Soda Creek, part of the upcoming field trip March 18. Photo from ERRP.

Saturday, March 18: the ERRP will be leading a field trip to a streambed restoration site and steelhead spawning site in the Mendocino National Forest. The ERRP conducts data-gathering and monitoring projects throughout the Eel River Watershed, and field trip leader, fisheries biologist and ERRP Managing Director Pat Higgins will take the group from the upper Eel River to Soda Creek and Lake Pillsbury via Upper Lake. The group will depart from the Willits Hub at 9am, and travel to a Soda Creek restoration site managed by Trout Unlimited, a trout and salmon conversation non-profit, and Laytonville-based BioEngineering Associates. Next, the group will walk over to a steelhead-spawning location to try and spot some fish, then head to a picnic lunch in the meadows just above Lake Pillsbury, where hundreds of tule elk often gather.

Sunday, March 19: the Willits Hub will open at 9am to begin a day of presentation from local environmental experts discussing salmon monitoring, aquatic life, watershed restoration, and the Eel River, along with a special film screening. The day-long event starts at 9:30am with breakfast, followed by talks beginning at 10am.

Presenters include the ERRP’s Pat Higgins, who will be giving presentations throughout the day on the organization’s data collections projects and topics ranging from “fall Chinook salmon, Sacramento pikeminnow dive results, basinwide temperature patterns, and using aquatic insects to understand stream health.”

Other presenters include “long time Mendocino County fisheries biologist” Park Steiner, who will cover 30 years of his work on the upper Eel as well as salmon surveys around the Potter Valley Project and in Tomkii Creek, In the late morning, the University of California Berkeley’s Dr. Mary Power, the Faculty Director of the Angelo Reserve on the upper South Fork Eel River near Branscomb. Mary will talk about UC research in the Eel River basin, and her husband, UC Berkeley Professor of Geology Bill Dietrich, will also present his findings from a local multi-year project.

Afternoon talks include restoration overviews of two Mendocino County riparian restoration projects from Evan Engber of BioEngineering Associates, who will talk about using live willow and rocks in Eel River restoration. Next, former watershed coordinator and retired river guide Craig Bell has a slide show of a seven mile restoration project on the Garcia River.

The day will conclude with a clip from “A River’s Last Chance,” a new film made by Shane Anderson about the Eel River, and from 4 – 6pm a dinner of wild caught rock fish will be served.

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