Moss covered logs and ferns surround a stream at the Headwaters Forest Preserve.
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Headwaters graphic icon Headwaters Research and Monitoring 

Research photo banner, close up of someone holding a salamander, fish biologist monitoring habitat, forest ecologist setting up monitoring plots, research crew measuring redwoods, wildlife biologist surveying plot..

The Headwaters Forest Reserve was established in 1999 to “conserve and study the land, fish, wildlife, and forests.” Since this time, science and research have been a key component of the BLM's management of Headwaters. Research includes long-term monitoring of northern spotted owls and barred owls, marbled murrelets, and fish populations in the area's rivers and streams. Fish species found within Headwaters include coho and chinook salmon, cutthroat trout and steelhead. Headwaters provides excellent habitat for these fish and wildlife species.


Active Science Projects within Headwaters

The Salamander Project

The BLM's has partnered with East High School in Fortuna on a long-term project in Headwaters. This project, called the Salamander Project, uses salamanders and other amphibians as indicators to monitor the health of the redwood forest and the effectiveness of the BLM's restoration efforts. By providing first-hand experiences in Headwaters and authentic opportunities to engage in scientific inquiry, the BLM and East High hope to promote future stewards of the redwood forest ecosystem. Data collected through the project also provides the BLM with quality data that informs management.

Image of a salamander coverboard built by East High School of Fortuna. These coverboards were placed throughout the Headwaters Forest Reserve as part of a long-term monitoring project called the Salamander Project.

Northern Spotted Owls

The northern spotted owl is a federally threatened species that occupies habitat within Headwaters. The BLM's Headwaters wildlife biologist monitors the species. Barred owls, which are closely related to northern spotted owls and are known to displace spotted owls, are also monitored in Headwaters.

A sibling pair of northern spotted owls in Headwaters

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In addition, the BLM has a number of active partnerships with Humboldt State University to conduct research within Headwaters. Many of these partnerships are being used to improve the efficiency and/or effectiveness of the BLM's restoration efforts within Headwaters. Some of these studies are cited below:

  • Modeling Young Stand Development towards the Old-Growth Reference Condition in Evergreen Mixed-Conifer Stands at Headwaters Forest Reserve, California. 2013.  John-Pascal Berrill,  Christopher Beal, David H. LaFever, and Christa M. Dagley. Forests 4(2) 455-470
  • Forest Regeneration on Decommissioned Roads in Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) Forest Ecosystems in the Headwaters Forest Reserve. Dr. Rosemary L. Sherriff, David H. LaFever, Andrew Smith, Alysia Ballinger.
  • Fuel Loading and Availability Following Restoration Thinninig in the Headwaters Forest Reserve. 
  • Pacific Fisher Inventory Within the Headwaters Forest Reserve

Image of a student from Humboldt State University using a rangefinder to measure tree spacing within an old-growth forest in Headwaters.

Image of Students from Humboldt State University measuring the diameter of an old-growth redwood tree in Headwaters

Image of the BLM's fisheries biologist monitoring fish populations in South Fork Elk River within Headwaters