Nevada City, CA –Ten years after the Truckee Donner Land Trust and partners purchased Van Norden Meadow (Yayalu Itdeh in Washoe) to save it from development, the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL) and the Tahoe National Forest (TNF) have broken ground on actions to restore the meadow. The project began on August 8, 2022.
The 485-acre meadow, which was transferred into Tahoe National Forest ownership in 2017, is located at the headwaters of the South Yuba River. It is one of the largest meadows on the west side of the Northern Sierra and is critical for water storage, water quality, wildlife habitat, and forest resiliency. Healthy functioning meadows can also store as much carbon acre-for-acre as a rainforest.
Due to years of intensive utilization, fire suppression, and hydrologic modifications such as dams and roads, Van Norden Meadow is in a degraded state and is unable to perform its hydrologic and climate functions as well as it should. As the effects of climate change become more pronounced, these functions are more important than ever.
The proposed actions for the Van Norden Meadow Restoration Project include filling sections of the South Yuba River and Lytton Creek and building Beaver Dam Analogs — man-made structures designed to mimic the form and function of a natural beaver dam — in Castle Creek to reconnect disconnected stream channels with the meadow floodplain. These actions will increase the groundwater levels within the meadow. Willow and sedge planting will occur in areas where native plant restoration is needed. In addition, invasive species, specifically reed canary grass, will be removed from along the stream channel, and encroaching conifers will be removed from within the meadow and around the meadow edges. A new trail alignment, complete with viewing platforms, will be constructed in the years to come, led by the Tahoe National Forest.
Once completed, this project will result in improved meadow habitat, enhanced ecological and hydrologic function, improved water quality and increased summer base flows, increased carbon storage, managed recreation opportunities, and the improvement of the overall resiliency of the headwaters of the South Yuba River to changing climatic conditions. The project will also lead to a greater scientific understanding of meadow processes which can then be applied to meadows and headwater streams across the Sierra region.
This project would not be possible without support from the Wildlife Conservation Board, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Truckee Donner Land Trust, The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s California Climate Investments Program, Placer County Tourism Master Plan grant program, and The Martis Fund—a collaborative project of Martis Camp landowners, DMB/Highlands Group (the developers of Martis Camp), Mountain Area Preservation (MAP), and Sierra Watch. SYRCL and Tahoe NF would also like to acknowledge landowners, Boreal Ridge Corporation, and Sugar Bowl Corporation for their participation in this large-scale meadow restoration effort.
The Van Norden Meadow Restoration project is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities. More information about the project is available at yubariver.org.