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On the Ground: The Oregon Conservation Strategy at Work

May 2008

The migratory birds sweeping across the state in May strengthen the resolve of Oregonians to ensure our habitats remain healthy and wildlife-welcome—the work of many help keep the bubbly call of the bobolink, the yellow and red flash of the western tanager and the beauty of sandhill cranes in flight on our landscapes.



In the spring of 2005, ODFW biologist Marnie Allbritten banded a fourteen-day old purple martin in Douglas County and returned it to its nest.

Three years later, in January, refinery workers on the east coast of Brazil found an injured bird and brought it back to work. They returned the thin band on its leg to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“What an amazing bird,” said Allbritten when she learned it was the bird she had banded. “It was found 6,250 miles from where it fledged. This is a bird that loves to fly, but to think it made that trip twice a year for three years is amazing.”

Allbriten’s study is pretty amazing, too. She is trying to find out if purple martins accustomed to living in man-made nesting structures will return to nesting in snags if snags are available. Important work, as research done on the east coast shows that martins that nest in boxes have less genetic diversity than birds nesting in the wild.

“We’d like to maintain enough habitat here so birds can nest in as natural an environment as possible,” said Allbritten. “In this case, we are concerned with habitat loss and structure loss. People in both industrial and residential areas remove dead trees and snags for visual and safety reasons, reducing opportunities for cavity nesters.”

The purple martin is North America’s largest swallow. It has a shiny purple-blue body, forked tail and black bill, feet and legs. Habitat preferences in Oregon include open water, grassy fields and burns. Many martins nest over water, all in proximity to a river, lake or estuary. In addition to nest boxes, martins use snags, pilings and building crevices.

Purple martins are a Strategy species. Conservation actions that will help martins in the Klamath Mountain ecoregion include: maintain and restore healthy ponds, lakes and rivers; maintain or create snags; and maintain diverse landscapes.

To see illustrations and listen to the bird’s call, visit

Read the Klamath ecoregion section (pdf) of the Strategy, on ODFW’s website.


In celebration of Oregon’s upcoming 150th birthday, ODFW and OWEB awarded five grants for the conservation of three of the state’s symbolic species—the Western meadowlark, beaver and chinook salmon. A second round of funding is available.

Grant winners are: City of Eugene, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Heritage Seedlings, Inc., Nez Perce Tribe and The Nature Conservancy.

Jenny Barnett, biologist for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, will use her grant to create a strong stand of native grasslands on the Wanaket Wildlife Area to benefit the area’s breeding population of western meadowlarks, quail and other grassland species.

“Part of the project involves removal of the cheatgrass that has overwhelmed the native grasses and forbs,” said Barnett. “It’s important to provide a natural grassland oasis for birds in the midst of surrounding agricultural lands.”

Wanaket is one of three wildlife areas managed by the tribes under the Bonneville Power Administration wildlife mitigation program. The area includes over 2,700 acres of upland, wetland and aquatic habitats including many important natural and cultural resources. For information on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, visit their website.

Applications for the new round of funding are due July 25, 2008. Proposed projects must focus on actions that address conservation of the four state species under priorities identified in the Conservation Strategy. Application materials and additional information are available on ODFW’s website.


To find out why a herpetologist is teaching an advanced college class in agricultural ecosystems, we talked to Tiffany Garcia, assistant professor of Wildlife Ecology, Oregon State University.

“To save our native wildlife species, we have to understand ecosystem stressors across habitats,” said Garcia. “The Willamette Valley includes a significant amount of agricultural land. Riparian, wetland and oak-savannah habitats are disappearing at an alarming rate. Integrating these natural areas into agricultural land is one way of increasing biodiversity while supplying ecosystem services to area farmers.”

Garcia’s custom-designed senior- and graduate-level class, Wildlife in Agricultural Ecosystems, consists of lectures and field work—a component of which includes working on a project in collaboration with a farmer.

Student Caryn Meinicke, who worked with a landowner to create a wildlife corridor, was excited about the field work. “The real-world experience was the best part of the class. We were able to put a concept we talked about in class to use,” she said.

“We have had very positive experiences with the farmers we work with,” said Garcia. “We help them create management plans for their land that maintain or improve productivity while enhancing the health and biodiversity of the ecosystem.”

Some of the plans include ways to reduce erosion, increase riparian zones, get rid of invasive species and propagate native plants. And all of the plans include a list of financial assistance resources.

Garcia was only on the job at OSU for a couple of weeks when Dan Edge, Department Head of the OSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and a Fish and Wildlife Commissioner, introduced her to the Strategy through an ODFW workshop.

“I knew immediately what a good resource the Strategy was,” said Garcia. “Landowners need to know what species and habitats on their property are important to focus on. Every student uses the Strategy for their projects.”

Garcia is interested in working with farmers in Lane, Linn, Benton, Polk and Marion Counties, although she encourages students to work with landowners from across the state. Contact her at

For information about the OSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, visit OSU’s website.


In keeping with his mission to keep it simple, Clair Klock, berry farmer and senior conservationist with the Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District, dubbed his June workshop Farms for Wildlife.

The free two-hour workshop, which will be held Monday, June 2 at 6:30 p.m., is for farmers in Clackamas and Multnomah Counties who want to set aside all or part of their farms for wildlife habitat, making them eligible for a tax incentive program as defined in the Oregon Wildlife Habitat Conservation and Management Program.

The hands-on workshop will show attendees how to enroll in the program, how to determine the conservation value of their land and what is involved in developing a wildlife habitat conservation plan.

“We have created a template that allows farmers to work through the enrollment process, a step at a time,” said Klock. “This is something they can do themselves or contract with a biologist to do.”

ODFW biologists Susan Barnes and Mischa Connine will talk about habitat types, priority wildlife species and the importance of connectivity corridors for wildlife.

“To help farmers understand what is important on their property, we use Conservation Strategy priorities,” said Barnes. “The Strategy drives the template we work with—what Strategy habitats and species do you have on your farm? Where are the closest conservation opportunity areas? What actions can be taken to benefit those habitats and species and provide connections between key habitats?"

Interested farmers and professional wildlife consultants are welcome to attend the free workshop which will be held at the Menucha Retreat Center in Corbett. To register, contact Clair at (503) 695-5882 or by e-mail,

For more information on the Wildlife Habitat Conservation and Management Program, visit ODFW’s website.


ODFW and Blue Mountain Community College invite farmers, ranchers and private landowners interested in maintaining and enhancing production of their land while improving habitats for healthy native fish, plant and wildlife populations to a free workshop and lunch on Saturday, June 21 in Pendleton.

For more information, visit ODFW’s website (pdf) or contact Mary VanEtta, (541) 278-5404, or Karen Buell, (503) 947-6306,


If you are concerned about the health of migratory bird populations, buy shade-grown coffee. Plantations that grow coffee the traditional way, in the shade of larger trees, provide habitat for over 150 species of birds according to research done by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. Do it for yourself. Do it for the birds.

Read the Why Migratory Birds are Crazy for Coffee fact sheet.

To learn what species benefit from shade-gown coffee, visit the Audubon website.


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
Meg Kenagy
Oregon Conservation Strategy Communications coordinator
(503) 947-6021

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