HEPPNER, Ore. — A former ranch along the John Day River is on track for extensive habitat restoration with the most recent project just completed on one of the river’s tributaries.
|Native trees were planted along Hay Creek in March 2010 as part of the habitat restoration project.
-Photo by Jenny DuVander, Western Rivers Conservancy -
The restoration project was funded in part by a $25,200 grant from the ODFW’s Access and Habitat Program. The restoration will benefit upland species (pheasant, wild turkey, chukar, quail) plus deer and elk. The property is open to hunting and offers opportunities for deer, elk, bighorn sheep, pheasant, wild turkey, chukar and quail.
The Portland-based Western Rivers Conservancy purchased the 8,114-acre former Murtha Ranch in Gilliam County in 2008 and has been working to restore its riparian and upland habitat for the benefit of fish and wildlife. ODFW has been a major partner in this ongoing effort.
In mid-March, the Conservancy planted about 4,000 native trees along Hay Creek with help from Arlington High School students and a private contractor.
“Hay Creek is a special place,” said Alan Christensen, senior project manager for the Conservancy. “It’s an important summer steelhead spawning stream, and the main river is extremely valuable for a variety of fish and wildlife.”
Last fall, ODFW assisted the Conservancy in weed eradication and provided bitterbrush and mock orange seeds for planting. In early March, Pheasants Forever helped plant native grasses on 70 acres of the property through the Columbia Plateau Upland Initiative, a program funded by the A&H Program to encourage upland game bird habitat improvement on private lands in Morrow and Gilliam counties.
“We’ve had a great partnership with ODFW,” said Christensen.
Oregon’s Conservation Strategy identifies restoring riparian and shrub steppe habitats as important conservation actions for the Columbia Plateau Ecoregion. This restoration work will also benefit key non-game wildlife species such as Brewer’s sparrow, sage sparrow, western burrowing owl and Ferruginous and Swainson’s hawks.
The Western Rivers Conservancy will continue to improve and restore these habitats on the property over the next several years.
The Access and Habitat Program is funded by a $4 surcharge on hunting licenses and by deer and elk auction proceeds. Funds raised by the program are distributed through grants to individual and corporate landowners, conservation organizations, and others for cooperative wildlife habitat improvement and hunter access projects throughout the state.
For information on the A&H Program call program coordinator Matt Keenan at 503-947-6087 or visit the Web site at www.dfw.state.or.us/AH/.