Like Speaking a Second Language, Corpsmembers Fluent in Using Logs To Restore Salmon Habitat

Ukiah Corpsmembers Alex Panarra, left, and Paulette Esquivel, right, work together to reposition gripping equipment to help guide a log into Bear Haven Creek to make salmon habitat in Mendocino County.

Finding fun and meaning from a difficult task. It’s what young adults in the California Conservation Corps do every day. Along the North Coast though, they take the work—and the impact—to a different level.

“I’m out in the middle of the woods doing stuff that most people don’t get to do, saving fish,” said Corpsmember Alexandra Panarra. “It’s different. It’s unique. Nobody else does it.”

Alex and her crew spent weeks at a time camping deep in the forests of Mendocino County shouting out terms like grip, slack, choke, sling, and more. It’s all in the name of saving endangered and threatened Coho Salmon. And the Corpsmembers do it, by placing thousand-pound logs in local creeks and rivers.


“Figuring out how to get the logs into position is the hardest thing,” said Corpsmember Sebastian Benitez. Corpsmember Gianfranco Gamboa added: “Usually, they take four days or a little longer to move into place.”

Corpsmembers learn hands-on the intricacies of using specialized equipment, while challenging their minds and bodies to stay patient through the process. The end result, after water levels rise and recede, will be safe pools of water for the fish to rest and spawn. Salmon Restoration Projects like this, with no machinery involved, are unique to the CCC.

“Sometimes it’s hard, but honestly, it’s really nice,” Alex says of her experience. “You realize how special all of this is, to be a part of helping a species you know is endangered.”

A Corpsmember pins the top of a log into place.

After moving logs into the creek, Corpsmembers use rebar to pin them in place. This last step prevents the logs from floating away once the stream rises during the wet season.