The Carson Slough is the primary drainage in Ash Meadows and is the core of the Ash Meadows ecosystem. This area provides designated critical habitat for seven threatened and endangered plant species, one threatened aquatic insect, and four endangered fish. However past peat mining activities that removed valuable topsoil, and agricultural development that included the installation of levees, ditches, roads, and impoundments, have heavily modified the springs and the natural processes that sustained this important wetland complex. Although historically naturally connected, springs within the Carson Slough have most recently been diverted from natural channels and confined to man-made ditches. These modifications and the eventual establishment of invasive aquatic and plant species threatened the existence of the native endemic spring animal and plant communities. Restoration plans for the Upper Carson Slough aim to preserve these native communities through the restoration of the natural springs and spring outflows, concurrent with invasive species management.
In 2010-2011, OBEC restored Fairbanks and Soda Springs in naturalized spring channels in the Upper Carson Slough to enhance habitat for sensitive native fish and aquatic invertebrates. For Fairbanks, construction crews excavated a naturalized channel, installed a concrete box culvert under one road crossing, installed two concrete fish barriers to block non-native fish passage from Peterson Reservoir, placed channel bed substrate into the new channel, and sloped and graded channel banks for re-vegetation. Native fish were salvaged from the former ditch that held the Fairbanks flows and were placed into the restored channel. Concurrent with the Fairbanks spring channel restoration, Otis Bay crews also restored the Soda Spring channel.
Continued restoration plans for the Upper Carson Slough include the restoration of Longstreet and Cold Springs pools and channels, and the Rogers Spring channel. Hydrologic barriers that include unnecessary sections of roads, berms, and ditches will also be removed.
In addition, OBEC has designed a recreational hiking trail system that includes loop and spur trails, parking areas, overlook areas, and boardwalk designs. This trail system would expand upon the existing recreational trail and boardwalk network in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge to allow visitor access and to protect sensitive spring sites in the Upper Carson Slough.