Meadow restoration continues after the 2013 Rim Fire


Emma and the NCCC crew out at Cottonwood Meadow

This summer, Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership (SNAP) members Emma Burt and Hailey Gleason worked with their host site, Tuolumne River Trust (TRT), to restore land burned in the Rim Fire.

After the Rim Fire in 2013, TRT received grants for several restoration projects within the Rim Fire footprint. One of these grants funds the design of meadow restoration projects in Boggy, Cottonwood, and Boney Flat meadows. Meadows are essential to watershed health in their ability to retain water from storm flows, sequester carbon, and serve as biodiversity hotspots. However, they can only perform these functions well if their health is maintained. Meadows in the Stanislaus are impacted by climate change, man-made infrastructure and diversions, and livestock grazing. As a result, they have significantly lower water tables than in the past, deeper channelization that prevents them from flooding, conifer encroachment, and the establishment of invasive species.

Hailey and Julia (TRT Restoration Project Manager) in an aspen grove in Cottonwood Meadow. These groves are at risk as meadows degrade.

Beginning in 2020, TRT has been working alongside the U.S. Forest Service and the Plumas Corporation (Plumas Corps) to design restoration projects in meadows that aim to raise the water table and restore floodplain capacity by mapping out locations for placed woody debris and rock riffles and by installing groundwater wells to monitor the change in the water table over time. Right now, TRT and Plumas Corps are in the design phase of the process. Hopefully, with more funding in the future, the establishment of debris jams and rock riffles will raise the water table, and the readings from the wells will capture how different restoration methods can effectively raise the water table and restore the health of our meadows. Throughout June and July, Hailey and Emma were instrumental in helping TRT install the groundwater wells using a soil auger and post pounder. During one of their meadow days, Emma led an AmeriCorps NCCC team in some of the installation and meadow plant identification.

Hailey and Emma installing a groundwater well. 

TRT works to protect, restore, and advocate for the health of the Tuolumne River watershed. While the name might suggest primarily river work, TRT understands that the river’s health can also be supported by maintaining the watershed as a whole. TRT undertakes many projects, and to inspire others and continue their work, they need to show that their work holds up over time. These groundwater wells hope to exemplify effective meadow restoration methods.

Members from the Forest Service and Plumas Corps, along with TRT, scout the initial design for Boney Flat meadow restoration.

Along with being beautiful and a great place to recreate, Californians rely on Sierra water to provide for their water needs throughout the year. This resource is experiencing various hardships due to climate change and human impacts. The lack of snowpack has significantly exacerbated California’s water shortage. We may not be able to fix the big problems, but we can at least try and do our part to improve what we can to maintain the Sierra as long as we can for us, future generations, and the flora and fauna to enjoy.

Emma and TRT’s NCCC crew doing vegetation transects in Cottonwood Meadow.

Visit their website to learn more about the work Emma, Hailey, and the TRT team are doing.



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