A lot has changed across the landscape of Fox Valley since European settlement. The area provided the tribal people opportunities to seasonally gather roots, wild celery, fish, and upland game for year-long storage and sustenance. Permanent use of Fox Valley by homestead farmers that established cattle operations on the land dates back to the mid 1800s. These activities inevitably altered the path and ecological function of Fox Creek by simplifying the channel for increased grazing land, placing berms for flood control, and open grazing by cattle in the riparian areas.
A secondary tributary to the North Fork John Day River, Fox Creek today is still home to Endangered Species Act-listed Middle Columbia steelhead. In spring, adult steelhead spawn in the headwaters, and juvenile steelhead rear in much of this watershed. However, the use of land in the area has contributed to decreased habitat complexity, degraded riparian areas, and decreased ability to retain cold-water that is vital for the survival of all ages of steelhead.
Guided by basin prioritization and best available science, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs- John Day Basin Office launched a large-scale project to restore a 1.5-mile privately-owned stretch of Fox Creek. In the summer of 2018, restoration actions were implemented that sought to increase floodplain connectivity, channel sinuosity, and instream habitat. Large amounts of native plants and an elk fence were also installed to restore riparian habitat conditions. A similar, larger project is scheduled several miles upstream in crucial steelhead spawning habitat and will be completed in the summer of 2019.
The resulting habitat quality from the projects are also expected to benefit the landowners, finding common ground between diverse interests. These efforts, along with a variety of other restoration projects scheduled for implementation along Fox Creek and the John Day Basin, are a small part of the commitment by the Tribes to protect precious natural resources and ensure the long-term success of culturally significant fish populations throughout the Columbia Basin.
Guided by basin prioritization and best available science, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs- John Day Basin Office launched a large-scale project to restore a 1.5-mile privately-owned stretch of Fox Creek.