Salem, Ore.—It’s field season for Oregon biologists and habitat workers and, all across the state, landscapes and waters are being restored for the benefit of Oregon’s symbolic species—the western meadowlark, chinook salmon, Oregon swallowtail butterfly and American beaver—funded by grants awarded by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In October 2008, Oregon 150 Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Restoration grants were awarded to 16 organizations for the conservation of the wildlife species in honor of the state’s sesquicentennial. Six of the projects are focused on the western meadowlark; nine will benefit chinook and/or beaver; and one is designed to help the Oregon swallowtail.
“We are pleased with the progress that is being made on all of the projects,” said Michael Pope, ODFW Oregon Conservation Strategy coordinator. “It’s exciting to see how many species are benefiting from these projects.”
“The Oregon 150 Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Restoration grants celebrate the natural heritage of our state by helping to restore the habitats of the state’s symbolic animals for future generations of Oregonians,” said Ken Bierly, OWEB Deputy Director.
The grant program was created by OWEB and ODFW to address the decline in key habitats that support the state’s symbolic species. OWEB dedicated $1 million in Oregon Lottery funds for on-the-ground projects that were selected through a joint review by the agencies. All of the projects are consistent with priorities established in the Oregon Conservation Strategy and are expected to provide significant ecological benefits.
For more information, visit the ODFW website.
Jim Lee, Douglas Soil and Water Conservation District project manager, is quick to list the species that will benefit from restoration work being done on a private ranch outside Oakland—Columbian white-tailed deer, vesper sparrow, western meadowlark, white-breasted nuthatch, raptors, owls and woodpeckers among them. All are species with a preference for historic oak savannas and woodlands.
“The savanna has been overrun with English hawthorn and its friends scotch broom and Himalayan blackberry,” said Lee. “We are in the process of removing the invasive brush species, retaining the large oaks and preparing the land for replanting with native plants.”
“We are trying to recreate the diverse, well vegetated flood plain and in-stream habitat complexity that was here originally to reclaim chinook salmon spawning grounds and juvenile rearing habitat,” said Mark McCollister, wild fish program director for The Freshwater Trust, about the restoration project he is managing on the Middle Fork John Day River. “When the channels have been reshaped and reflooded, native trees and shrubs will be planted and large wood placed in the meanders.”
Near Paisley, the Upper Sycan Watershed Council is using its grant to restore sage steppe habitat on a private ranch. Work involves removing juniper trees that have expanded into the area negatively impacting the environment.
“This area of sage steppe is important to a lot of species—neotropical migrants, mule deer, short-eared owls, pronghorn and bighorn sheep,” said Craig Foster, ODFW wildlife biologist. “This specific project is targeted to improve meadowlark nesting habitat, but it will benefit all these species. The bighorns are really going to like this project.”
The Eugene Delta Ponds occupy what was once a side channel of the Willamette River. Purchased by the City in the 1970s from a sand and gravel operator, the site has been the focus of significant restoration work. Eric Wold, Eugene’s Natural Resources manager, is using his Oregon 150 grant for riparian and wetland restoration and to plant “thousands and thousands” of native trees and shrubs.
“We work with our local ODFW fish and wildlife biologists on monitoring and to make sure we are doing the right thing for our native species,” said Wold. “The grant is for the benefit of chinook and beaver, but a lot of bird, reptile and amphibian species are benefiting. Western pond turtles are being helped through improved nesting and basking habitat.”
“The decline of beaver ponds in this area has reduced that amount and quality of salmonid rearing habitat, especially for coho,” said Wayne Hoffman of the Mid Coast Watershed Council. “The site we chose to rehabilitate is representative of former beaver pond habitats that have not naturally regenerated with the willows and other hardwoods beavers like.”
“There are salmon, steelhead and some native cutthroat trout in (Crabtree) creek,” said Eric Hartstein, South Santiam Watershed Council coordinator. “But, we have to improve the overall health of the creek to maintain populations.”
Later this summer, the large wood that will form habitat structures for the fish will be placed in the stream. Invasive Japanese knotweed will be removed in the fall, and in winter, native vegetation will be planted to restore riparian buffers.
Mark and Jolly Krautmann, co-owners of Heritage Seedlings, are recipients of an Oregon 150 grant for upland prairie restoration to benefit western meadowlarks on their Jefferson Farm property. Last fall they began tackling fields of hay and bentgrass, intent on restoring the land to prairies of native grasses and forbs.
The North Santiam Watershed Council is currently working to restore the lower two-and-a-half miles of Stout Creek before it flows into the North Santiam River. Work funded by the Oregon 150 grant includes bank shaping, vegetated soil lifts, invasive plant removal and native plantings.
“We are working with four landowners now and will be placing some wood in the creek later this summer. We know there is a lot of gravel flowing out of the creek. If we can use large wood to hold it, we can provide gravel for salmon spawning. The wood will also provide cover and additional habitat,” said Liz Redon, North Santiam Watershed Council coordinator.
Beaver Creek was once an ideal habitat to rear and refuge native chinook salmon, but the creek is now overrun with invasive reed canary grass which has formed a thick mat and chocked out native plants and shrubs. Today, SOLV is working in this environmentally important confluence area. The Oregon 150 project involves work in and along the lower creek—invasive species will be removed, an existing alcove will be enhanced and large woody debris placed.
The Columbia and Sandy rivers converge a few miles from the city of Troutdale. The confluence, once a rich river delta, suffers from habitat degradation and infestation of invasive species. Its restoration is a long-term, landscape-scale project.
“The funds have allowed us to control invasive weeds and plant more than 70,000 native trees and shrubs in 70 acres of riparian forest. Over time, we expect to see significant improvement in habitat structure, soil conservation, shade and forage—all critical for fish and wildlife,” said Melissa Rowe Soll, Ash Creek Forest Management program manager.
The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation are working to reclaim a native grassland on the Wanaket Wildlife Area to benefit the area’s breeding population of western meadowlarks, quail and other grassland species. Invasive cheatgrass was removed this spring and a suite of native grass species selected for replanting.
A change in land use and management around in the Upper Joseph Watershed has opened an opportunity to restore riparian areas to benefit steelhead, beaver and other species. Degraded by livestock grazing and elk damage, the creeks are getting new life through a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the Nez Perce Tribe.
This spring about 1400 native trees shrubs including dogwood, cottonwood and several species of willow were planted and caged to prevent browsing by wildlife. Once the plantings are well established, the cages will be removed, inviting the beaver to return.
Mike Omeg is restoring two acres of native grasslands in his orchards to benefit the Oregon swallowtail butterfly and other native insects and wildlife. As part of the project, wildflowers that provide nectar for adult butterflies and wild tarragon, the host plant for swallowtail caterpillars, will be planted. Milkweed, which benefits both Monarch butterflies and Oregon swallowtail, is part of the planting prescription.
A private ranch wildlife restoration project uses beavers to do what they do best—build dams.
"There’s a great role for beaver on Dry Creek which runs through the ranch," said Ron Graves, Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District manager. "Dams built by beavers will saturate the flood plain and later in the summer when things dry out, the cooler, high-quality water will seep back into the stream, helping with stream flow and temperature."
Willamette Valley, multiple locations
The Nature Conservancy is at work at four sites in the Willamette Valley restoring native grasslands and oak savannas to benefit the western meadowlark, a species once plentiful in the valleys of western Oregon but now in dramatic decline due to urban and rural development, land use changes and fire suppression policies.
“With all of the development in the valley, there is still room to make a difference for the meadowlark and other grassland birds,” said Jason Nuckols, Willamette Valley Preserve manager for The Nature Conservancy.
Grant work includes shearing trees and shrubs; mowing and spraying invasive blackberries and Canadian thistle; burning designated areas of prairie and savanna; thinning oak woodlands to savanna conditions; and reseeding acres of land with native grasses and forbs.
Willamette Valley, multiple locations
The Institute for Applied Ecology received an Oregon 150 grant for its work to enhance western meadowlark habitat by linking and restoring Willamette Valley grasslands.
“Wet prairies are among the most endangered habitats in the west,” said Matt Blakeley-Smith, IAE restoration biologist. “The 150 grant will help fund our work on some of the few remaining breeding areas for the western meadowlark in the Valley.”