Children work to restore streams

Parts of Ashland will look a little greener next week when students plant trees as part of Streamside Forest Recovery Week.

Spearheaded by the Lomakatsi Restoration Project, the week of Nov. 17-22 will see students from grades K-12 planting native trees on public and private land along Bear Creek and its tributaries, including Wrights, Roca and Paradise creeks.

Students from Ashland High School, the Wilderness Charter School, Willow Wind Community Learning Center, Helman Elementary and Southern Oregon University will join youth from across the Rogue Valley in a project that really began three years ago.

Then, students began cultivating trees and shrubs at five community nurseries through Lomakatsi's Full Circle Schools Restoration Ecology Program.

Now, thousands of those trees are ready to go in the ground.

"Those seedlings have huge root systems and they need to be planted," said Niki Del Pizzo, education and outreach coordinator for Lomakatsi.

The rainy season is the best time of year to plant native species because the trees can establish themselves without supplemental water, Del Pizzo said.

The trees will include ponderosa pine, incense cedar, alder, Oregon ash, dogwood, willow, maple.

This restoration work greatly benefits the streams, Del Pizzo said.

Planting takes place along creeks where non-native blackberries have outcompeted other plants, Del Rizzo said. Lomakatsi crews clear out the brush so students can plant.

Trees help prevent streamside erosion and keep water temperatures cooler by shading streams, providing better habitat for fish, Del Rizzo said.

Restoration work also benefits the students, she said.

In conjunction with the field work, Lomakatsi workers will talk to the students about riparian habitats, restoration and native tree identification.

Kate Giles, an educator with the Job Council and Medford Opportunity High School, will participate in the week with a group of at-risk students who plant trees and work on fuels reduction and removing invasive species throughout the year with Lomakatsi.

The work boosts students' morale and shows them the importance of restoration, Giles said.

"It allows them to be active participants in their ecological community," she said.

Ashland High School teacher Caroline Spear's students also work with Lomakatsi through her catalyst class, a program designed for students who don't learn in traditional ways.

Restoration work allows students to learn first-hand how the natural world functions, Spear said.

"It gives them the direct experience of environmental science without having to look at a textbook," she said. "It's just direct experience and direct learning, which for some students is the only way."

Of course elements of service, physical education and working cooperatively are also sprinkled throughout the project, she added.

"It's really been a wonderful partnership and the students have gained a great deal of understanding about ecology, restoration and the local environment," she said.

Spear's class is also helping with fundraising efforts, asking friends and family members to sponsor the project for $10 per tree.

Lomakatsi is raising money for the streamside recovery week to help replenish the nurseries with trees.

"We're trying to use this as a goal to fundraise for," Del Pizzo said. "We feel that people can rally behind kids doing restoration work on creeks."

She is doing tabling and mailings to fundraise and canvassing local businesses for donations. Students from AHS teacher Reed Sorensen's leadership class will be helping her with the fundraising, she said.

And students from his catalyst class will join hundreds of other youth in planting trees next week.

"This work we're doing now will have profound impacts on the Bear Creek Watershed," Del Pizzo said.

For more information, go to or call 488-0208.

Staff writer Kira Rubenthaler can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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