The tribes of the Columbia River called the full November moon “snowy mountains in the morning moon”—a harbinger of winter’s short days and dark nights. But unlike the days when the world turned on the elements, this season is alight with projects and planning that advance the priorities of the Oregon Conservation Strategy.
WIND AND WILDLIFE
|Wind turbines are a familiar site in the Columbia River Gorge
The language used to describe wind power sites hints at the range of issues that swirl around them. To developers they are parks, to biologists farms. Regulators refer to them as energy; county permitters call them facilities. To technicians they are turbines, to children windmills.
From a distance, a wind tower is a thin column, its grey-white blades turn gracefully against the sky. Up close, it exists in a maze of new roads, embedded in concrete, linked to transmission lines. Without language, a bird, bat, squirrel or deer encounters it as an obstruction on the landscape, a fragmentation of habitat, noise and new energy.
Increasingly part of Oregon’s landscape, wind energy is attracting a lot of attention and debate. So much so that there was a waiting list for the recent Wind Energy and Wildlife Workshop held in The Dalles. Targeted to biologists and wildlife managers, the conference goal was to present the latest information about wildlife-wind energy interactions and to review the new Columbia Plateau Ecoregion Wind Energy Siting and Permitting Guidelines.
Wildlife presentations focused on wind power effects on bat, migratory bird, sage grouse and ground squirrel populations. Industry, technology developments and regulatory discussions rounded out the agenda.
A panel discussion moderated by Rose Owens, ODFW habitat special projects coordinator, talked about the new Oregon Columbia Plateau siting guidelines that were developed by representatives from industry, counties, environmental groups and state and federal resource agencies.
“Development of the guidelines is a step forward and hopefully results in win-win situations,” said Owens. “We believe renewable energy is the future and want to make sure that we are placing wind facilities in places that minimize environmental and wildlife impacts.”
The workshop was co-hosted by the Oregon Chapter of the Wildlife Society and ODFW with sponsorship from USFWS, Horizon Wind Energy, Portland General Electric, Iberdrola Renewables, The Nature Conservancy, Northwest Wildlife Consultants and Tetra Tech.
To read or download a copy of the siting guidelines, visit the Strategy Tools section of the ODFW website.
THE CALL OF THE iPod
Last spring, Mike Baird downloaded the call of a male bobolink onto his iPod, attached it to a speaker and began driving the grasslands and fields of Wallowa Valley. When he found habitat that could possibly support bobolinks or arrived at a site where they had previously been sighted, he stopped every quarter mile and played the bobolink call.
“Male bobolinks are very territorial,” said Baird, an Enterprise High School biology teacher. “We played the call for about five minutes; if birds were present, a male showed up.”
Baird and some of his students are working on a bobolink mapping project in Wallowa County with the aid of an Oregon Conservation Strategy Implementation grant.
|Bobolinks are a Strategy species in the Blue Mountain ecoregion
“The first part of the project was successful in that we identified a number of areas with concentrations of bobolinks. I think we have some good baseline data,” said Baird. “Their habitat preferences are pretty clear—they prefer grasslands and hay fields over wheat and alfalfa fields, for example.”
The data is now being GIS mapped by Baird and students. Next summer, they hope to net and band a number of birds to begin a population study. Mike Hansen, ODFW wildlife biologist in Enterprise, has been working with Baird on the project.
“It’s really important to get a handle on how many birds we have and where they are so we can work to keep the population and habitat healthy,” said Hansen. “Without good data, we can’t plan restoration projects or enlist the aid of landowners who’d like to keep the bobolink on our landscape.”
Bobolinks are a Strategy species in the Blue Mountain ecoregion. To listen to the bobolink’s call, visit WhatBird.com.
Elk and Deer Forage Seeded NEAR DETROIT
It was rainy and windy on the day in November a crew of six volunteers headed out to seed eight miles of skid trail in an old logging site east of Detroit near Big Meadows horse camp. By the end of the day, the crew from The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Oregon Hunters Association and Oregon Back Country Horsemen had put down more than 700 pounds of forage mix.
|Dave Wiley, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, seeds spring and fall range to benefit elk and deer.
According to Rick Breckel, retired USFS Wildlife biologist, who designed the project, “Browse and forage for deer and elk in the Big Meadows area are in critically short supply.”
“Restoring spring and fall range is critical to animals’ survival. Good fall range helps ensure deer and elk will go into winter with enough energy reserves to carry them through the lean months. In spring, new growth is particularly important to females carrying calves,” said Dave Wiley an Elk Foundation volunteer and member of the Conservation Strategy stakeholder group.
The seeding effort is part of a larger 400-acre Forest Service project to increase spring and fall browse and forage for wildlife on the Detroit Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest. The Forest Service work is funded in part by a $10,000 grant from The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Visit the Oregon Chapter Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation website.
New conservation easements protect habitat in Willamette Valley
Two recently acquired conservation easements on properties in the Eola Hills near Salem combine with an exiting easement to protect nearly 2,000 acres of habitat in the Willamette Valley. Funded by the Bonneville Power Administration for partial mitigation of wildlife habitat losses due to construction of the federal hydroelectric facilities on the Willamette River, the two properties include native habitats that are identified as priorities for conservation in the 2004 Willamette Subbasin Plan and the Oregon Conservation Strategy.
The new Eola Hills easements combined with the Zena Timber easement acquired in 2007 add up to one of the largest blocks of protected wildlife habitat in the central Valley. After the easements were completed, Willamette University purchased an adjacent 305 acres. The University will use its property for education and research while continuing to manage the land for conservation values and sustainable forestry.
"The combination of the new properties with the original Zena Timber easement provide an amazing complex of valuable wildlife habitats including oak savannah and woodlands; upland prairie; and conifer and riparian forests,” said Michael Pope, ODFW Oregon Conservation Strategy Coordinator. “It is fortunate that we were able to conserve property with such high wildlife value so close to a major urban area."
Many wildlife species will benefit from the easements including the endangered Fender’s blue butterfly, acorn woodpeckers, purple martins, white-breasted nuthatches, Western bluebirds, Oregon vesper sparrow, Western gray squirrels and black-tailed deer.
For information about BPA’s fish and wildlife mitigation program, visit their website.
Visit Willamette University’s website to learn about their plans for the Zena Forest property they own. Read the newsletter article on the Zena Timber conservation easement.
FIRE RESTORES GRASSLANDS FOR STATE BIRD
|The Nature Conservancy's meadowlark grant helped fund site preparation and weed control, before and after a prescribed burn, to enhance prairie habitat at Buford Park near Eugene. Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah implemented the project with Oregon Dept. of Forestry.
A ten-acre controlled burn in Buford Park which was done in October will benefit oak savanna habitat—a mix of grassland and oak trees—on which many grassland bird species depend.
Oak savanna and upland prairie habitats are identified as priority habitats in the Oregon Conservation Strategy. “Their presence at Buford Park is one reason many biologists consider this park a biological treasure house,” said Chris Orsinger, executive director of Friends of Buford Park.” It is home to over 500 plant species and over 100 bird species.”
According to Orsinger, scientific research indicates these habitats and plants evolved with periodic burns set by Native Americans and caused by lightning.
The prescribed burn was funded by an Oregon 150 grant. Other partners in the project include The Nature Conservancy, Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah, the Oregon Department of Forestry and Lane County Parks Division.
The prairie and oak savanna site is one of four in the southern Willamette Valley being enhanced by The Nature Conservancy and partners to benefit the state bird. Oregon 150 Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Restoration grants are funded by OWEB and were selected through a joint review by ODFW and OWEB.
ONE SMALL THING
Gift a tree through Friends of Trees to honor a friend or family member during the holidays. Join a tree planting group, start a group or plant a tree on your property. The Oregon Department of Forestry has tips on site and species selection. Visit these websites to learn about group tree plantings: Clean Water Services, City of Grants Pass.
ABOUT THE OREGON CONSERVATION STRATEGY
The Oregon Conservation Strategy provides a blueprint and action plan 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.
Oregon Conservation Strategy Communications coordinator
FOR PHOTOS OF THE PROJECTS
Contact Meg Kenagy
For strategy information
Contact Michael Pope
For a copy of the Strategy
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Contact Karen Buell at ODFW.