The Official Blog of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC)


Immersing In The Flow of Time

Posted by admin on February 28, 2016

by Michael Max Hentz

All of a sudden spring is back in the air. The alder catkins are hanging out in the wind. Leaf buds taut ready to burst, spring plants popping.  Song birds returning, snow will be melting. Sun’s rising higher and days grow longer, even the stars are shifting back to summer configurations.

It is coming on 10 years this May since I moved back to live again within the Klamath Mountains.  Somehow, as time passes and I get older, I become more respectful of these changes, I believe partly because of an awareness of my own finiteness.  It is as if I miss it already and I am yet still here. Below you can see the scene in my backyard as it changes with the passage of time.

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Home Winter 2015 Panorama LQ.jpg

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A lot of us live remotely, surrounded by creeks and rivers, forests and mountains. Living “in” the Klamath creates strong connections.  Our food and energy systems rely on it; our water, often taken from springs, is a signal of our relationship, particularly during these last dry years.  Many subtle changes occurring simultaneously are easily overlooked and then there are the more dramatic changes, the fires and floods, snowstorms, rockslides, births and the deaths.  All are encompassed within this river of time.

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Working for the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC), I reflect on the youth (such as the ones pictured to the right) who have grown up in this country and who have participated in our programs, including watershed education events, school field trips, rafting adventures, noxious weed pulls, even prescribed fires…   You see a picture from 8 years ago when the kids were six and now they are 14, or they were 13 and now they are sophomores in college. Some of these youth return to work on field crews for MKWC during the summer.  How much have they been learning and growing during this period which to me seems to be moving by so fast?  It was just yesterday that they were learning to shift the flow of water to improve fish passage for migrating salmon, to identify and pull invasive weeds that compete with native plants, to wield a shovel or a drip torch on a fireline, and maybe most importantly, to understand the changing conditions on the ground.

Then there are the historic changes to the country.  Western Europeans entering the Klamath in search of beaver and gold created a cataclysmic disturbance with cultural and ecological consequences unimaginable and still reverberating.  The move into the forests for timber to build after the great world war, roads were constructed to take us there, to protect the forests from fire “Smokey The Bear” led us there. Our actions created unintended consequences we are now struggling with, let alone paying for…We are trying to learn and re-invent our way out of this, something that takes time. Home Birthday Fire Aug 25 2014.JPG

Rightfully, there is a renewed effort to learn from and reinstitute local native cultural practices, what is known to some as “Traditional Ecological Knowledge”.  This understanding was developed, tried and true as they say, in this place by countless generations of practitioners and is finally being respected. It’s about time. There is concurrent development in Western science in the fields of forest and river management that gives me hope: putting fire back into the landscape and pulling out dams. In other words, we are beginning to learn an approach to stewardship with a longer view.

I remember the flood of 1997 and how shaded cool creeks with deep pools and stately canopies of alders, maples and cottonwood overhead were turned into broad riffles in the full sun, pools filled in with sediment where water temperatures rose.  This flood was kin to the last large “El Niño”, the cyclical Pacific weather pattern which returned to us this year.  But those flood effects were also related to the more immediate local management of our uplands.  The roads that were perched on too-steep slopes, forests denuded of protecting cover and many culverts were not quite “right sized”.   This combination moved mountains in short order.  You look at photos of the same streams today and it is breathtaking how fast alders grow, how continually the creek changes and how the natural rehabilitation of the stream channel works its magic. My fisheries friends talk about gravel recruitment and large woody debris inputs enhancing spawning and rearing habitat, a result of floods, an apt metaphor- “that time heals all wounds”. Here, you can see the effects of flooding in Grider Creek watershed, a key salmon bearing tributary to the Middle Klamath:

Grider Flood Before Motyka.jpgGrider Flood After Hentz LQ.jpg

Another saying is that only time will tell. My hope is that we will keep learning to live well and respectfully with the Klamath Mountains, but I am not always sure time is on our side.   There is a Latin phrase fugit inreparabile tempus  “It escapes, irretrievable time”, also known simply as time flies, so we better keep working on it. 


Oh yeah! And don't forget to turn your clocks forward on Sunday, the 13th of March at 2 a.m., because we cannot even leave time itself alone.

Michael Max Hentz lives in the Elk Creek watershed, a major tributary stream in the Middle Klamath subbasin. He works primarily in MKWC’s Fisheries, Fire and Fuels, and Watershed Education Programs.

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Appreciating What We Have

Posted by admin on November 26, 2015

by Erica Terence

Confession: I do not love to catch fish (though I wish I did). It seems a shame to live in a place like the Klamath without fishing. As a youngster 13 years my brother’s junior, I preferred the grasshopper-swatting live bait lead-up to the fishing itself – I liked to imagine myself a grasshopper making a springy getaway through our meadow. My big brother’s legs were a lot longer, and his patience a lot more developed than mine. And when I would sit down, shivering, in the creek and refuse to go further, he’d roll his eyes and go on around the bend without me. To his credit, he always came back to make sure I was still wriggling and lure me home. Slate Springer Happy.jpg

But when I would settle in the creek bed in protest, I began a lifelong appreciation for the bugs, moss and debris in the creek, for the peace of mind and cool, fresh breath of air that creeks provide us. Most importantly, I learned a deep appreciation for my brother. An early watershed education program that started up at the rural elementary school I attended up the California Salmon River refined my interest in how natural systems around us work. From that program emerged my formative understanding of how important salmon are in the scheme of the Klamath’s natural cycles.

All that watershed education led me to a career in natural resource conservation – a trajectory that I am continually thankful for.  Recently, on an unprecedented trip to San Francisco and then Chicago to reach more and different people about the work of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC), I was studying a map of tangled, unintuitive city streets. I was delighted to find that my work at MKWC has made me a better map reader, whether deciphering ridgelines and ravines or navigating traffic lights, bike/bus lanes, and one-ways.

Erica in China Creek 3.jpgMy Wednesday/Friday job all this past summer offered the chance to document wood in Middle Klamath tributaries and decide which streams would benefit from more large logs to help salmon grow, eat, hide and leave robust offspring behind. Often I relied on a map to know which unmarked road to turn up to access a creek, and which section of the creek to survey. I spread the map out, relieved to have a navigation tool in my hands I could trust, and tried to imagine what this topography looked like before it was paved.

Quitting fishing so early in life remains one of my biggest regrets. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that you don’t have to slay fish, or even live in the Klamath to love what the people and salmon who live here represent. I love to see the shadowy shapes of wild salmon spiraling around in a deep hole in the river. I love to know that they’re there. I love that they spend their whole lives trying to get home, much as the rest of us seem to do. I love the cultures that have evolved around salmon in this place.  Mostly, I love that catching them is the best therapy for my brother. And maybe someday his kids will have the patience to teach me to fish and I will feel brave enough to try again. 

For now, I count myself lucky to have a job that pays me to be in creeks improving salmon habitat near the town where I was born and raised, and to report back to people like you about it.  Check out what we’re up to on our website at, or read the diversity of blogs our employees are writing about this place:

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Can you help us sustain this work to ensure that we maintain strong, healthy ties to the natural world we all depend on? Can you make a tax-deductible contribution to MKWC today?

We are so thankful for all that you already do, and honored to have you as partners in this effort to restore one of America’s great river systems.

Erica Terence is MKWC's Outreach and Development Director. Born and raised on the Salmon River, one of the Klamath's major fish-bearing tributaries, Erica is devoted to engaging communities near and far in restoring this place she calls home.

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Salmon In The Treetops: A Critical Feedback Loop

Posted by admin on October 27, 2015

by Jillienne Bishop

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It’s October in the Klamath Watershed—easily the region’s most beautiful month. The light is changing, shadows lengthening, and everything is ripe and ready to pick. It is time to celebrate harvest and renewal, but more than any of that, it is the time of year the Klamath Salmon are returning home.

The journey of Klamath salmon is nothing short of miraculous. It is believed they swim thousands of miles by navigating the stars and smelling their way back to their home streams—all for the promise of procreation. Salmon are anadromous, meaning they are born in freshwater, migrate to the ocean, and then return to freshwater to spawn. Salmon females dig salmon nests, or redds, in shallow moving water by moving small gravel substrate with their tails. Once the redd is constructed, female fish deposit eggs into the redd, and male fish fertilize them with milt. After completing their redds, adult spawners guard their redds for several days before dying. But their sacrifice is for more than just their young.

You can witness a small part of this process when you watch this  short by FishBio films: 

Video: Salmon Spawning over a redd. If you live in the Mid Klamath and want to volunteer with MKWC on a Fall Salmon Survey contact the MKWC office at (530)627-3202 or

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Salmon give to the treetops. As their carcasses decompose and are distributed throughout the riparian zone by animals such as Black Bear and Bald Eagles, they deliver nitrogen, phosphorus, and other marine derived  nutrients to the trees, a process that can initiate bottom-up food web effects. Studies have shown that salmon rich streams provide adjacent terrestrial plants with 18-24% of their foliar nitrogen. As a result of this nutrient dispersal, growth rates of riparian trees are increased and the nitrogen increases foliage and litterfall. This creates a positive feedback loop by which nutrients from salmon carcasses help to improve aquatic habitat for future salmon.

riparian.jpgThe trees give to the salmon too. As large trees grow and eventually fall into the stream they create ecologically rich habitat for salmon. Scientists have determined that having an abundance of large woody debris in the stream can form large slow-water pools for rearing, help collect future spawning gravels, and prevent erosion that can harm downstream fish habitat.

However, the quantity and quality of in-stream woody debris has been drastically reduced in the Klamath Watershed by historical forest management practices. Logging, road building, culverts, and fire suppression have limited the number of trees that could fall into streams. In past decades, “stream cleaning” was sometimes conducted to remove fallen trees from streams, to prevent damage to infrastructure downstream, or in a misguided attempt to assist fish migration.

So what do we do now?

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Put the wood back into streams! As salmon continue to bring us marine derived nutrients that help grow the abundant ecosystem of the Klamath, we can give back to them too. This past summer the Mid Klamath Watershed Council’s Fisheries program surveyed 15 low gradient tributaries for potential locations to input large woody debris (LWD). We are in the process of submitting proposals to place LWD structures in several of these streams.  It's time humans gave back to the food web that supports us. By putting wood where we humans have often removed it in the past, we are giving salmon somewhere to hide, feed, spawn, grow up, chill out, and sustain a time-honored natural cycle.



Jillienne Bishop is a Watershed Education Program Director and Fisheries Project Coordinator for the Mid Klamath Watershed Council. 

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Letter to Smokey

Posted by admin on September 21, 2015

Dear Smokey Bear,                                                                                                                         September 21, 2015

Even though I feel like I know you, I’ve only seen you a few times in my life. When I was a child, you showed up at my school to make an impression. You certainly did! It was weird, though, because your message was so scary while your big furry personage shook my hand and seemed friendly and oddly cuddly, like an overgrown teddy bear. When we parted company I remember feeling that somehow I would be personally responsible for a destructive Evil Fire that would burn us all up! “Only You Can Prevent Wildfire” you said over and over. I guess that’s what you wanted me to feel….. so I would be fearful and careful.  I was both!

Remember, this was in the sixties, you were still pretty young. And I was just a child. Simplistic messages appealed to me.  Your story and message were compelling but did not paint the whole picture.  We know better now. Smokey, we have both grown up.

Ever since we started excluding fire entirely about 100 years ago, I imagine the ghosts of your grandparents’ grandparents have been whispering into your ear, warning of troubling times. After all,   you and yours have known forever that fire is a natural and necessary force in our forested lands. And not only you, but the people who lived here first knew it so well they used it regularly and for eons (until they were forced to stop) as a superb management tool. Regular fires opened the canopy, creating mosaics of new growth and good food for wildlife and people alike. Regular fires deposited nutrients on the forest floor, feeding and replenishing the whole system.

Smokey, I am not blaming you for this conundrum. I know it’s not your fault. You have been saying important things to kids about being careful with fire, not playing with matches, and things like that…. And after all, you don’t even speak for yourself. You have been given your message by your inventors and handlers. Not only that but you didn’t even exist until someone thought you up.  It was after World War II, the war machine needed a new focus and found it in fire suppression. You were a direct result of an ad campaign, bent on putting the fear of fire into every heart and mind. Later you were a real bear cub, rescued during a forest fire, with burnt paws and life in a zoo to look forward to. But that was just a convenient footnote, added to tug the heart strings of people (and children especially) enamored by baby animals.

Smokey re WUI cropped.jpgThe years went by and as you listened to your ancestors’ sage whisperings about the tragic exclusion of fire, you must have also been shaking your head in disbelief as more and more of us built our homes squarely in the way, naively wanting to “live in the woods”, without realizing how this would complicate and compound the difficulties in protecting lives and property. Sorry, Smokey, we didn’t realize…!

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Now, even your handlers agree that you must present a new message. Perhaps you can say something like “Learn to Live with Fire”, or maybe you could use the “Good Fire/Bad Fire“ wording to help people understand the verities of our situation today. Getting fire back into its natural cycle is going to require not only a lot of work but a whole shift in attitude. You have the chance to be instrumental in spreading the good news; that a wiser wildfire management is coming our way, and that fire is coming back, as long as we make our communities fire resilient and learn to use the excellent tool of prescribed fire in the places where wildfire cannot go. But you know all that. I swear I have recently seen you with a drip torch!  

You will have to be very brave from now on, Smokey. The situation is dire due to a century of fuels buildup. You will be biting your nails, worried about how huge and catastrophic the forest fires are these days and worried about the safety of the brave fire fighters sent to deal with increasingly dangerous and increasingly complicated situations. You may even worry about prescribed fire escapes, but I remind you, these are actually very occasional; in 2012, out of 16,626 prescribed fires, there were only 14 that escaped!  You can do it though. (Only You can Help Educate People!) I encourage you to speak out and tell the truth about fire!

Recently, you might remember, I met you again after all these years. We participated together in some great “Firewise” events at the local elementary schools. Because our partners at the USFS insisted that an event without you would be lacking, we had invited you to come along. It is true, what they say, that the children adore you. An evaluation at Junction School, for instance, was dominated by kids’ comments about you! So, it looks like you are here to stay…I have to admit, I had been thinking it would be better if you went away entirely…(to enjoy a quiet retirement somewhere?) I was thinking your notoriety and cultural permanence would be impossible to alter. But since you won’t or can’t just leave the scene,  I trust that you will work hard to present your NEW MESSAGE, so that people begin to understand that we can’t and shouldn’t keep excluding fire from where it needs to be….. Good Luck, Smokey Bear.

Your friend,

Nancy Bailey



Nancy Bailey is Co-Director of the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC) Fire and Fuels Program and a long-time resident and steward of the Middle Klamath subbasin. 




Forest Steward Cover graphic by Laurie Littman, Norb Szczurek, and Will Harling.

Wildland Urban Interface cartoon by Glen Foden. 

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Back To The Future

Posted by admin on August 7, 2015

by Michael Stearns

It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come. Ten years ago, the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC) moved from a dilapidated Forest Service trailer with holes in the floor to an old grocery store in downtown Orleans. With only a few staff members, we suddenly had almost 5,000 square feet of interior space, including tons of old grocery junk, a rusted hulk of a house trailer and an ancient, chronically leaking generator contaminating our soils.
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Excitement about the possibilities was contagious (and terrifying) and many people lent a hand to clean up the old messes and begin a new era for the Panamnik Building. Humboldt County’s Headwaters Fund and the Humboldt Area Foundation were very supportive of our efforts. MKWC was eventually able to purchase the building in 2010. It could never have happened without the support of our local community members who attended countless fundraising events, and continue to do so.

MKWC immediately began to make all the extra space available to the local community. With an emphasis on positive events open to everyone, we continue building up community programs. The Panamnik Building is regularly used for everything from yoga, exercise and Kung Fu classes to natural resource and wildfire meetings as well as preschool playgroups.

After cleaning up the messes inside and outside the building, with the help of the Somes Bar Arts Council, MKWC began to develop its property behind the Panamnik Building along the Klamath River. Our outdoor amphitheater area project and a safe kid friendly area to gather are in progress. Construction of an outdoor stage and a fabric band shell will complete the amphitheater project.

By providing a place for community events along the Klamath, MKWC hopes to provide a spark of revitalization in Orleans. MKWC has tried to clean up from past land uses and is endeavoring to set an example for responsible land use and increasing community vitality. As an organization we have much to contribute and high hopes for the future, but as the saying goes, it takes a village.

In my opinion, change begins with each individual. Only through personal accountability and being a good citizen, can positive change happen for the entire community. Like John Muir said, “Everything is hitched together”.

As the Panamnik Building moves into the future, MKWC plans to continue developing partnerships with other organizations and the community at large. We plan to use the development of the Panamnik Building as a testing ground for creative community uses and ideas. We all have dreams of rainwater catchment and solar panels, but also more grounded goals of a new roof and insulation. Our building survived the 1964 flood, but is now in need of some serious upgrades. How we plan, dream and scheme to make positive changes for our community building program is largely a matter of how high our hopes are and the will to make it happen.July Third Thursday 2.jpg

MKWC is hosting the monthly Third Thursday café August 20 at 6 p.m. as a fundraiser for the Panamnik Building Project. The menu features grilled tri-tip steak, stuffed peppers (ground tofu and veggies), summer pasta with pesto and zucchini, and cucumber gazpacho. Non-alcoholic blackberry sangria and blackberry sangria with vodka, as well as beer and wine options, will be available at the bar. There will also be a dessert auction.

Events like this one are possible because so many kind local people show up and pitch in. Please come share in our dreams, schemes and plans!

As MKWC's Panamnik Building Director, Michael Stearns oversees building operations, improvements, and the greater campaign to convert an old grocery store into a thriving community center and a model for green living and working in the heart of downtown Orleans. 

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