March marks two years of Oregon Conservation Strategy implementation and outreach providing a chance to look back on the accomplishments of so many as well as to recognize those who are carrying the work forward.
Yellow-legged Frogs vanishING from Valley
To watch herpetologist Chris Rombough plunge into a cold off-channel pool on the Santiam River and come up with a frog in his hand and a grin on his face, is to be a kid again, if only for a moment.
Unfortunately for Rombough and the foothill yellow-legged frog, it is something that didn’t happen often enough. Over the last two summers, Rombough and his team searched 600 miles of river and tributaries in the Santiam basin, surveying remnant frog populations. With the results analyzed, the news is not good.
“The fact is, yellow-legged frogs are disappearing from the Santiam basin. If they were there, we would have found them,” said Rombough. ”Today, they exist in only two locations on the South Santiam.”
Once common throughout much of the Willamette basin, yellow-legged frog populations have dwindled alarmingly. Some of the reasons for the decline are known— the construction of flood control dams, roads, logging practices that result in large amounts of silt in the river and invasive predators such as bass and bullfrogs. Some are suspected—climate change, disease and invasive plants among them.
“The species is adapted to inhabit moving water with seasonally high flow that creates off-channel habitat. There’s not much of that left,” said Rombough. “But,” he is quick to point out, “just because we’ve taken something apart doesn’t mean we should lose the pieces.”
Clearly, for Rombough one of those “pieces” is amphibians. It’s an attitude that keeps him working and talking about frogs, toads and salamanders.
“Hopefully, the lessons learned from this work will help us conserve the species in other parts of Oregon where they are still abundant. I’d like every kid to grow up in a place where there are frogs.”
Can anything be done for the yellow-legged frogs left in the Willamette Valley?
“We have an opportunity to prevent disturbance to the sites where the frogs still occur,” said Rombough. He also encourages those who find yellow-legged frogs to report their sightings to him or ODFW.
Rombough received a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the research project. The yellow-legged frog is a Strategy species.
Although Oregon has nearly 400 miles of coastline, it’s a rare resident or visitor who gets a look at the ocean floor. Which explains why, when ODFW Marine Resources Program staff put underwater video footage and the remotely-operated vehicle it uses for ocean surveys on display at the Water Festival in Port Orford this month, residents and vacationers alike lined up to have a look.
“Most people are fascinated by the undersea world,” said Cristen Don, ODFW Nearshore assistant project leader. “Displaying the ROV and underwater video is a great way to get them interested in ocean habitat and the importance of conserving it. It’s hard to imagine how varied marine landscapes are unless you see them.”
Although for the past two summers ODFW and OSU staff have used the ROV to study the highly-publicized low-oxygen zone off the coast at Cape Perpetua, much of the time the ROV is used to map and study nearshore rocky reef habitats.
“Rocky reef habitat is one of the data gaps identified in the Nearshore Strategy,” said Don. “We are looking at human and natural factors that could have the greatest effect on the habitat and species.”
Rocky sub-tidal habitats are home to a diversity of life including greenlings, lingcod, a number of rockfish species, wolf-eels, the giant Pacific octopus, bull kelp and a host of other nearshore Strategy species.
The Nearshore Strategy is the marine component of the Oregon Conservation Strategy. Cristen Don is one of 12 regional Strategy Coordinators in the state designated to facilitate local involvement in the Conservation and Nearshore Strategies.
The Water Festival was organized by the Port Orford Ocean Resource Team and the Surfrider Foundation to create an awareness of human impact on the environment, to showcase research being conducted in the watershed and ocean and to help create a positive “ocean ethic”.
Valley Ranchers ConserveValuable Native Habitat
The Noble family has raised livestock on its 199-acre ranch, the Lone Star, near Philomath for many years, and it intends to do so for a number more. But, seeing rapid development in the area, the family made a decision that will benefit plants, wildlife and native habitats in the Willamette Valley for a long time to come. They approached the Greenbelt Land Trust about placing a conservation easement on their land.
Fueled by $2.4 million of Bonneville Power Administration Fish and Wildlife mitigation funds, Greenbelt Land Trust purchased the conservation easement. “We are excited to work with the Nobles,” said Karlene McCabe, executive director of the Greenbelt Land Trust. “Their property is a critical link in efforts to conserve upland prairie and oak savannah habitats.”
Under the terms of the agreement—with the exception of a 13.3-acre portion already in use—the Lone Star Ranch can never be developed.
“Conservation easements create win-win situations,” said Michael Pope, ODFW Conservation Strategy coordinator, who worked on the project. “They allow landowners to continue to work on their land but also protect critical habitat for wildlife. They are particularly important in the Valley, where 96 percent of the land is in private ownership.”
The Lone Star property is located in a priority conservation area and fits with the objectives of the Oregon Conservation Strategy for the Valley. Its conservation will enhance habitats important to dozens of wildlife species including the Fender’s blue butterfly which is listed as an endangered species. The property could also provide habitat for migratory and resident bird species, such as the acorn woodpecker, streaked-horned lark and white-breasted nuthatch.
“We are pleased that the habitat value of this site will be protected for the future,” said Greg Delwiche, BPA vice president of Environment, Fish & Wildlife.“This project is a crucialpartof ourongoing regional efforts to be responsible environmental stewards as we mitigatefor habitat impacts from construction of the federalhydroelectric system.”
The Greenbelt Land Trust will work with the Noble family, BPA and ODFW to create a management plan that spells out conservation actions including biological research, control of invasive weeds and enhancement of native oak woodlands and upland prairies.
Shining the Spotlight on Lamprey
Pacific lamprey, a sensitive species in Oregon and a federal species of concern, have kept from being listed under the federal Endangered Species Act by the skin of their teeth—and some impressive teeth they are. Jawless, eel-like fish with sharp, raspy teeth, Pacific lamprey are remnants of the oldest vertebrates in the world. Despite the fact they are important to tribal culture and have been used for food and bait for a long time, they are not well studied or understood.
“We are just beginning to learn about the biology, habitat needs, abundance and even the identification of the various species of lamprey,” said Mike Gray, ODFW District Fish biologist and a coordinator of the Western Oregon Lamprey Workshop that was held last month at the Seven Feathers Hotel and Casino in Canyonville. “To conserve lamprey, we are going to have to know a lot more than we do today.”
The workshop, first proposed by Amy Amoroso, formerly Natural Resource director of the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe, was attended by over 140 tribal members, biologists and representatives from agencies and non-profits to exchange research and monitoring information, increase awareness of the plight of the species in western Oregon and learn about the tribal cultural importance of lamprey.
Audrey Hatch, ODFW Conservation Strategy Monitoring coordinator, who was part of a panel on funding, discussed the Oregon Conservation Strategy and its opportunities. “We recognize that most agency conservation funds go for on-the-ground restoration projects yet, in this case, we clearly need to put money into identifying populations, mapping distribution and understanding habitat requirements.”
Bianca Streif, USFWS Aquatic Projects coordinator and one of the workshop’s coordinators, was delighted with the results of the day. “It started out as a way to share information and became something bigger,” she said. “The quality of the presentations, the level of participation by the tribes and the interest in conserving the lamprey exceeded our expectations.”
“Feedback from workshop attendees was great. We may have generated more questions than answers, but a number of people are interested in getting started with habitat work based on what we do know,” said Gray. “We are going to have to take an adaptive approach to projects, incorporating new information as we get it.”
Materials from the workshop will soon be available on the USFWS’ website, in the Pacific Region Lamprey section.
Oregon’s Most Unwelcome
“We focus on new invasive plants and those that aren’t well established yet—the ones we hope to defeat,” said Vern Holm, Northwest Weed Management Partnership coordinator, while showing off the organization’s new website. Dubbed WIN for Western Invasives Network, it went online this month.
Created by NWMP, a network of groups concerned with invasive weed issues in northwestern Oregon and southwestern Washington, the site provides a forum for network partners to quickly communicate weed management issues of concern in their area.
“Early detection and rapid response to invasive plants are necessary to prevent their spread and impact on native species,” said Holm who hopes the new site will become a meeting place for weed management professionals and volunteers to share information. ”The forum section is especially helpful. Partners can quickly communicate local weed management issues and discuss problems and solutions.”
Tania Siemens, EDRR program coordinator for The Nature Conservancy, helped create content for the new site.
“The WIN site is unique in a number of ways,” she said. “It provides a venue for partners in Cooperative Weed Management Areas to list the species they have targeted within their boundaries. CWMA alert species can be different from Oregon Department of Agriculture noxious weed lists, although there is definitely some overlap. The CWMA lists are specific to a smaller geographic boundary and include species that local land managers are concerned about but have may not have been added to state lists.”
“This is a great example of a tool that helps people in their every day conservation efforts,” said Jim Gores, ODFW Invasive Species coordinator. “Vern Holm and his team are great Strategy partners, really aware of the big picture while taking local action.”
ELK FOUNDATION RECOGNIZES OREGON WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST
Don’t expect Jeff Bohler to take a break after being recognized last month by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation with a national award for leadership in enhancing habitat for elk and other wildlife.
“I feel like we’re just hitting our stride,” said Bohler, a wildlife biologist for the Diamond Lake Ranger District, Umpqua National Forest. “We plan to work on 400 to 500 acres of shrubland habitat this year.”
In presenting the award, Tom Toman of the Elk Foundation said, “Jeff spent many hours of his own time attending evening meetings with a variety of conservation groups and working weekends side-by-side with Elk Foundation volunteers cutting brush, seeding forage, pulling weeds. He literally walks the talk. “
“Jeff is a strategic thinker when it comes to conservation,” said Dave Budeau, ODFW Upland Game Bird coordinator, whose Upland Bird Stamp Program helped fund a recently completed shrubland restoration project. “The work he does not only benefits elk, deer and black bear, it benefits mountain quail, ruffed grouse, songbirds, hummingbirds and other species.”
Bohler, who uses the Conservation Strategy as a resource, has worked for the U.S. Forest Service for the past 20 years and has been with the Umpqua National Forest since 1999. He works with a long list of partners including Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Oregon Hunter’s Association, ODFW, the Student Conservation Association and the Umpqua Valley Audubon Society whose members have been conducting long-term population monitoring within shrubland habitats.
Read a 2006 newsletter article about his work on the Fish Creek Shrubland Rejuvenation Project.
ABOUT THE OREGON CONSERVATION STRATEGY
The Oregon Conservation Strategy offers a blueprint for the long-term conservation of Oregon’s native fish and wildlife and their habitats through a non-regulatory, statewide approach to conservation. It was developed by ODFW with the help of a diverse coalition of Oregonians including scientists, conservation groups, landowners, extension services, anglers, hunters, and representatives from agriculture, forestry and rangelands. See past issues of the Strategy newsletter on the ODFW website.
For strategy information
Contact Michael Pope
For a copy of the Strategy
Contact Karen Buell at ODFW.
EDITOR Contact Information
Oregon Conservation Strategy Communications coordinator
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