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The South-Central California Steelhead population is currently experiencing a rapid decline. This freshwater fish species migrates upstream to San Luis Obispo Creek for spawning, making the stream a vital part of the reproduction process. Our local steelhead are threatened by human activity, climate change, and in the case of Lower San Luis Obispo Creek, invasive species. It is believed that the entire population of steelhead trout will be extinct within 50 years if nothing is done.

In order to protect this endangered species, the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County led a volunteer-based effort to restore nearly 1.5 miles of prime steelhead habitat along Lower San Luis Obispo Creek in Avila Valley.

The projected emphasized major involvement of community volunteers in the removal of invasive Cape ivy (Delairea odorata) and the re-vegetation of the stream banks with native plans. Cape ivy is a perennial vine that climbs over most other vegetation, blocking incoming sunlight and smothering native vegetation. Ivy mass can cause trees to topple, contribute to soil erosion, and destroy habitat for both plants and animals. Land Conservancy staff, volunteers, and even goats successfully removed Cape ivy from 9.5 acres along the creek. After ripping out the ivy, the area was re-vegetated with thousands of native plants. The project enjoyed tremendous community support from 1,147 Land Conservancy volunteers who contributed a total of 3,476 hours.

The creek restoration work that volunteers completed will provide for future nature education activities at our Lower SLO Creek Floodplain Preserve, as well as affect the community users of the proposed Bob Jones Bike Trail extension that will one day pass by this property.

This winter adult steelhead trout were observed spawning in this stretch of San Luis Obispo Creek. Regional efforts are underway to coordinate steelhead population surveys to better track the species’ recovery.

Project Funding Partners

  • FishAmerica Foundation
  • National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration

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