National Parks

Restoration Case Studies

Kennedy Flats Watershed Restoration (Pacific Rim National Park Reserve)

Project Lead: Central Westcoast Forest Society

Key Partners: (see list below)

Location: Kennedy Flats watershed (including Pacific Rim National Park Reserve), Vancouver Island, British Columbia (see interactive map)

Natural Region: Pacific Coast Mountains (see National Park System Plan description)

Ecozone: Pacific Maritime (see map and description)

Timeframe: 1994 to 2009 and ongoing

Project Size: As of 2009, the project has included over 10.1 ha of landslide stabilization, 114 km of logging road deactivation, 66 ha of riparian habitat and 78 km of in-stream restoration.

Quick Links:
Project Overview - Natural and Cultural Heritage Values - Defining the Problem - Goals and Objectives - Project Activities - Monitoring - Lessons Learned - What’s Next? - For More Information - Contacts - Key Partners
Rainforest near Long Beach, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve Rainforest near Long Beach, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
© Parks Canada / 10.104.03.05(102)

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Project Overview

The Central Westcoast Forest Society (CWFS) led the restoration of the Kennedy Flats watershed on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The project focused on restoring the damage of past forestry activities on the streams and ecosystems of the watershed. Numbers of salmon and steelhead in the streams and tributaries of the area had been severely impacted by former logging practices. Restoration efforts began in 1994 and included stabilization of slopes above the streams, logging road deactivation, removal of wood debris and log jams from streams, and placement of gravel in streams for fish spawning.

In 2001, Parks Canada joined with the CWFS, International Forest Products (Interfor), and other partners to restore the greater ecosystem within and beyond the park’s boundaries. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, a long coastal strip of beach and forest, is part of the Kennedy Flats watershed and contains several streams that drain the Kennedy Flats area.

Innovative partnerships, shared vision, and engaged communities resulted in the restoration of a critical piece of Canada’s West Coast ecology and culture. Natural stream flow patterns have been re-established and in-stream restoration that enhances fish habitat has resulted in greater numbers of salmon returning to spawn in restored areas.

The actions undertaken by the Kennedy Flats restoration team demonstrate the best practice approach described in Principles and Guidelines for Ecological Restoration in Canada’s Protected Natural Areas. The process of ecological restoration, as described by this approach, adheres to three guiding principles. Restoration should be:

  • effective in restoring and maintaining ecological integrity,
  • efficient in using practical and economic methods to achieve functional success, and
  • engaging through implementing inclusive processes and by recognizing and embracing interrelationships between culture and nature.

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Natural and Cultural Heritage Values

Kennedy Flats, located between Kennedy Lake and the Pacific Ocean on Vancouver Island, is a unique area on the west coast of Canada. The temperate rainforest abounds with life, and was once regarded as one of the most ecologically productive areas of the west coast. Salmon return each year to spawn in the streams, and have become symbolic of this west coast ecosystem. The Kennedy Flats area includes 18 sub-basins, some of which drain through Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The park itself protects a long strip of coastal temperate rainforest and marine environment.

This is an area of high cultural significance to local First Nations, and the ecological and cultural links are inseparable. For thousands of years, salmon have been recognized by First Nation peoples of the area as an important link between the ocean and the land. For the First Nation peoples, salmon are a significant spiritual and ceremonial component of their societies. Fresh and dried salmon was also an important source of food.

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Defining the Problem

Timber harvesting practices from the 1950s to the late 1980s left the stream and forest ecosystem of the lower Kennedy Flats watershed in a severely degraded condition. As a result, the number of salmon and steelhead returning to spawn had been significantly reduced. Logging waste had clogged many streams, and caused debris jams up to 1.5 km in length, impeding the passage of fish.

Sub-standard logging roads had been built on steep slopes and sensitive floodplains, resulting in degraded fish spawning habitat. Sediment and woody debris flowed into the streams from road surfaces and landslides caused by destabilized slopes. In steep areas, torrents of debris had swept away pools, riffles and other features necessary for good spawning habitat. Collapsing log culverts, poorly located culverts, and roads built in floodplain areas had resulted in partial stream blockage and diverted stream segments.

Former logging practices had allowed the forest to be cut right up to the stream banks, resulting in loss of riparian habitat. While in many cases smaller alder and brush had taken over cut areas, the cover they provided for the streams was inadequate. In-stream cover from large trees was needed to provide young and adult fish with shade and protection from predators.

Forestry practices from the 1950s to the mid-1970s also permitted gravel to be removed from the area’s streams for construction of logging roads. This gravel was essential to salmon for spawning. Loss of the gravel meant that fewer suitable fish spawning areas were available.

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Goals and Objectives

A comprehensive watershed-based restoration plan was prepared, which assessed the requirements to repair damage to the major streams of the area. It also addressed the restoration of inactive logging roads. The restoration plan covered the whole Kennedy Flats area, which includes 18 sub-basins. Planning and goal-setting was aided by the Environmental Assessment (EA) process. An EA was completed for each year that restoration activities were conducted.

Restoration of impacted coastal streams required a top-down approach to address sediment sources and to ensure the effectiveness of in-stream restoration efforts. The project therefore focused on three main areas: up-slope (the hillsides surrounding the streams), in-stream, and riparian habitats.

The goal for the up-slope restoration program was to stabilize abandoned hillside logging roads and bridges. Logging roads, unused or otherwise, are the point of origin of most slope failures on the west coast. These slope failures often create debris torrents of water, soil, rock and woody debris that end up in fish-bearing streams, causing significant environmental impacts including the destruction of fish habitat.

In-stream restoration objectives focused on removing excess small woody debris, some large woody debris, and repositioning other large logs and root wads to armour stream banks and provide habitat for stream life. Once the excess debris was removed or anchored, spawning habitat in the streams needed to be improved through the addition of clean spawning gravel in strategic areas.

Riparian restoration focused on accelerating the recovery process and improving habitat along the stream edges.

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Project Activities

Effective in restoring and maintaining ecological integrity
Up-slope logging roads showing landslide areas Up-slope logging roads showing landslide areas
© Central Westcoast Forest Society

To restore logging roads and up-slope areas where there had been landslide activity, the open slopes were seeded with a mixture of grass seed (native seed when available), slow release fertilizer and mulch. Grass seeding and other techniques were effective in preventing fine sediment from leaching from the slides into the creeks below.



Creek before clean-up of debris Creek before clean-up of debris
© Central Westcoast Forest Society

In-stream restoration began with the clearing of excess small woody debris. To reduce impacts to the site, helicopters were often used to lift out slings full of debris.



Creek after clean-up and placement of large woody debris Creek after clean-up and placement of large woody debris
© Central Westcoast Forest Society

To restore the natural flow pattern of the streams, large woody debris was sometimes retained in-stream or flown in by helicopter and anchored in the stream banks.



Spawning coho salmon in restored stream Spawning coho salmon in restored stream
© Parks Canada / B. Redhead

Once the stream’s flow pattern had been restored, spawning gravel was added. The size and mixture of rock was carefully chosen to provide the best possible substrate for creating spawning habitat and for stabilizing the bottom.



Restoration of stream banks and riparian areas Restoration of stream banks and riparian areas
© Central Westcoast Forest Society

One technique used in the riparian (stream bank) restoration involved the removal of competing plants such as willow and alder around young Sitka spruce, western hemlock and other desirable conifer tree species. The original riparian vegetation was determined with the use of 1937 aerial photographs from which researchers were able to determine the species composition of the area in question.



Efficient in using practical and economic methods to achieve functional success
Up-slope deactivation and stabilization of former logging roads Up-slope deactivation and stabilization of former logging roads
© Central Westcoast Forest Society

Up-slope restoration programs were vital to ensure the success of in-stream restoration efforts. Techniques included hydro-seeding and “bio-engineering” (the use of living and non-living plant materials). Only when the high-risk up-slope areas had been addressed could the in-stream restoration work proceed.



In streams, larger logs and root wads were left in place and anchored with steel cables and rocks. These improved fish habitat by providing cover and enhancing the natural stream flow. Large logs also protected the banks from erosion where old-growth riparian vegetation had been removed and replaced by less desirable vegetation.

Eroded stream banks as a result of loss of riparian vegetation Eroded stream banks as a result of loss of riparian vegetation
© Parks Canada / B. Redhead
Stream bank stabilized with large woody debris Stream bank stabilized with large woody debris
© Parks Canada / B. Redhead


Stream section after restoration Stream section after restoration
© Central Westcoast Forest Society

Given the sheer volume of degraded stream length within the Kennedy Flats area, a method of prioritization was developed to objectively evaluate and summarize priorities for stream treatment. The restoration plan determined both effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of all roads, stream treatments and riparian treatments for planning priority.



Engaging through implementing inclusive processes and by recognizing and embracing interrelationships between culture and nature
People from First Nations' communities participated in the planning and restoration work People from First Nations' communities participated in the planning and restoration work
© Central Westcoast Forest Society

The Ucluelet and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations were both involved in the initial restoration planning. Restoration efforts in the Kennedy Lake Watershed have focused on restoring the ecological systems of the area that contribute significantly to the First Nations cultural and spiritual connections to the landscape. For example, salmon is a significant spiritual and ceremonial component of First Nations’ societies.



CWFS work crew CWFS work crew
© Central Westcoast Forest Society

The local community has benefited from the employment and training provided by these restoration efforts. Partnerships have been encouraged between various community and stakeholder groups to the benefit of all.



The Return of the Salmon Festival was organized by the CWFS and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to celebrate the return of the salmon and the successes of the restoration work. The public was invited to the festival in the park to see wild salmon returning to spawn, and to share in a fun and informative event.

Learning activities at the Salmon Festival Learning activities at the Salmon Festival
© Central Westcoast Forest Society
Kennedy Watershed booth at the Salmon Festival Kennedy Watershed booth at the Salmon Festival
© Central Westcoast Forest Society


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Monitoring

Monitoring is a key component of stream restoration to ensure the effectiveness of in-stream structures and to note changes or problems arising from winter floods. Routine monitoring occurs each year for the first three years following restoration of a stream segment, then every five years until it is deemed no longer necessary to continue. Compliance and inspection monitoring is also augmented with effectiveness monitoring to ensure that restoration efforts result in improved ecological integrity over the long term.

Results indicate increases in stream and riparian area health and a corresponding increase in ecological integrity.A minimum five-fold increase in the numbers of salmon returning to spawn was monitored in one of the six major streams that have been restored in the area. Monitoring results also indicated high use of recently added spawning gravel in the area, as well as very high alevin (small larval fish) survival in spawning gravel replacement sites.

In Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, active stream restoration projects both in the park and in the immediate vicinity have had positive effects on stream connectivity.

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Lessons Learned

  • Promotion of local stewardship values is essential for the long-term success of any restoration project of this nature. Ecological issues including restoration must be communicated to all groups in a language they can understand.
  • Restoration of ecosystems must be viewed as a communal effort and should not be constrained by artificial boundaries.
  • Restoration of impacted coastal streams required a top-down approach (i.e., upstream to downstream) to address sediment sources and ensure the effectiveness of in-stream restoration efforts.
  • Judicious replacement of spawning gravel, wherever possible, helped enhance the spawning success of returning salmon and increase populations of native species.
  • This project demonstrated that with proper long-term planning and commitment, damaged watersheds can be effectively restored. A lot was accomplished, and the longevity of the project is a testament to the number of dedicated groups within the partnership.

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What’s Next?

The highest risk and most cost-effective areas were addressed first. Long-term maintenance and monitoring still need to continue, and a substantial amount of riparian restoration still needs to be done. Restoration work on a few of the sub-watersheds has just begun.

Parks Canada has signed a five-year contribution agreement with the CWFS for continued restoration of Lostshoe Creek, which is partially within the park. In addition, Parks staff will be undertaking baseline audience awareness surveys, school outreach and education, festivals and events, as well as creating website and newspaper articles, interpretive trail signs, park interpretation and an interpretive centre exhibit about the restoration.

Present-day forestry in most of the Kennedy Flats area follows the Clayoquot Sound Scientific Panel Recommendations, which are consistent with ecosystem-based management practices. These practices include additional protective measures like larger reserves of riparian areas (especially on sensitive streams), old growth representation, reserve network plans, and protection for listed species and plant communities.

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For More Information

These case studies are intended to provide general information about ecological restoration projects in Canada’s protected natural areas. For more detailed or technical information about this project, please consult the following sources or the contacts provided below.

The Kennedy Flats restoration work has been documented in year-end reports prepared by supervising biologists. The reports describe work completed, objectives, restoration prescriptions, before and after comparisons, and some monitoring of results. The information is available from CWFS or Pacific Rim National Park’s Resource Conservation Office.

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Contacts

For more detailed or technical information about this restoration project, please contact:

Bob Redhead
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
P.O. Box 280
Ucluelet, BC
V0R 3A0
Tel: 250-726-7165 ext. 235
bob.redhead@pc.gc.ca

Dave Clough, R.P.Bio
D.R. Clough Consulting
6966 Leland Road
Lantzville, BC
V0R 2H0
Tel: (250) 390-2901
drclough@shaw.ca

Warren Warttig, R.P.Bio
International Forest Products
311–1180 Ironwood Road
Campbell River, BC
V9W 5P7
Tel: (250) 286-5168
warren.warttig@interfor.com

Jessica Hutchinson
General Manager
Central Westcoast Forest Society
P.O. Box 405
Ucluelet, B.C.
V0R 3A0
Tel: (250) 266-0113 (cell)
jessicajhutchinson@gmail.com

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Key Partners

  • Ahousaht First Nations
  • Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District
  • BC Parks
  • BC Ministry of Environment
  • BC Ministry of Forests and Range
  • Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • District of Tofino
  • District of Ucluelet
  • DR Clough
  • Hesquiat First Nations
  • Iisaak Forest Products
  • International Forest Products Limited (Interfor)
  • IWA Canada
  • Looker Industries
  • MacMillan Bloedel
  • Northwest Ecosystem Institute
  • Steelhead Society
  • Thornton Creek Salmon Enhancement Society
  • Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations
  • Tofino Salmon Enhancement Society
  • Toquaht First Nations Ucluelet First Nations
  • Weyerhaeuser
  • Wickaninnish Inn-Point Restaurant

If you wish to comment on this case study, please contact Parks Canada at restauration.restoration@pc.gc.ca