Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Ottawa NF completes large wood restoration project

A tree-lined lake on Ottawa National Forest.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative project intends to restore woody habitat in lakes by adding trees to the near-shore area. Felled trees provide shelter and feeding areas for a diversity of fish species and may also provide nesting and sunning areas for birds, turtles and other animals above water. USDA Forest Service photo by Anthony Saxman.

MICHIGAN—The Ottawa National Forest recently completed a large wood Great Lakes Restoration Initiative project to enhance aquatic habitats in the Lake Superior watershed. Ottawa National Forest contains over 500 named lakes and nearly 2,000 miles of streams that drain to the Lake Superior, Lake Michigan or Mississippi River watersheds. Management of these streams includes the restoration of aquatic habitat through the addition of large wood structure to enhance and restore cover for fish species.

A stream lined by brush bundles.
Brushing and placement of brush bundles/mats help to restore stream morphology by narrowing and deepening the channel. The bundles provide undercuts or overhead cover to improve fish habitat and restore some of the physical stream attributes to benefit native aquatic species, invertebrates and furbearers. USDA Forest Service photo by Anthony Saxman.

To restore aquatic habitat, the forest’s fisheries crew added large wood to lakes and streams using chainsaws and felling live mature trees directly into the water and also by installing brush bundles. The crew placed trees and brush bundles in two streams. The project enhanced 6 miles of stream habitat enhancement, all within cold-water tributaries of designated National Wild and Scenic Rivers. Trees were also added along the shoreline of three lakes on the forest, and brush bundles were added to a fourth lake, for a total of 40 acres of lake habitat enhancement. All lakes and streams treated in 2019 are within the Lake Superior watershed.

Most of the major rivers within the Ottawa, including the Ontonagon, Paint and Presque Isle rivers, have segments designated as National Wild and Scenic Rivers; the 22 designated segments total 340 miles. Certain features specific to each segment have been identified and classified as Outstandingly Remarkable Values, for which these segments are managed. Over half of the segments have fish listed as an ORV, and most of these streams or their tributaries contain cold-water habitat that sustain populations of native brook trout.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, wholesale logging of the area as well as the removal of instream wood and creation of dams to facilitate log drives and hydroelectric energy led to a decline in large wood. This project is part of an ongoing effort to increase large wood structure within lakes and streams in order to enhance and restore cover and habitat.