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The effect of clearcuts on water temperature

Water temperature is a critical limiting factor in the lives of many fish and amphibians. According to recent scientific research, air temperature is the most important factor influencing stream temperature.Gualala River north-to-south Redwood forests provide shade and cool the air, which in turn cools the stream below. Clear-cutting those forests raises stream temperature, condemning cold water fish like coho and steelhead to death.

While a single clearcut might not have an obvious effect on stream temperature, the Gualala River watershed today is a checkerboard of clearcuts, as the photo on the right shows.

The Gualala River watershed is listed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as impaired by excess sediment and high temperature, under the provisions of section 303(d) of the federal Clean Water Act.

Helen Libeu, a member of the California Foresters Licensing Board, is proposing a new rule to the State Board of Forestry to limit adjacent clearcuts, to prevent the kind of damage seen in the Gualala watershed today.

Ms. Libeu’s presentation to the Board of Forestry has been rescheduled for the Board’s September meeting in Sacramento.