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On the Ground: The Oregon Conservation Strategy at Work

October 2008

Darker days are coming with the end of daylight savings time, but throughout our communities there are innumerable bright spots as a diverse group of Oregonians take action to conserve our native habitats.



Photo by Lisa Nead

By celebrating Oregon's 150th birthday with a package of grants to benefit our state's symbolic species, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and ODFW think Oregonians can have their cake and eat it too.

“There is no better gift to Oregon than to celebrate and conserve our natural heritage,” said Ken Bierly, OWEB Deputy Director. “The grants will help improve habitat important for the long-term health of our state species.”

Oregon's symbolic species—the western meadowlark, chinook salmon, Oregon swallowtail butterfly and American beaver—will benefit from 16 on-the-ground projects, some of which have already begun. To be accepted, all projects had to be consistent with the priorities established in the Oregon Conservation Strategy and provide significant benefits to one or more of the species. To fund the grants, OWEB dedicated $1 million in Oregon Lottery funds.

Grant were awarded to: Ash Creek Forest Management, City of Eugene, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Douglas Soil and Water Conservation District, Heritage Seedlings, Inc., Institute for Applied Ecology, Mid-Coast Watershed Council, Nez Perce Tribe, North Santiam Watershed Council, Oregon Trout, SOLV, South Santiam Watershed Council, The Nature Conservancy, Upper Sycan Watershed Council and the Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District (two grants).

These projects will also benefit the conservation objectives of local and regional plans including the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds. See project summaries and photos on the ODFW website.


Orchardist Mike Omeg has long practiced sustainable agriculture, but with the support of Ron Graves of Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District, he's taking it to a whole new level. Already a leader in pesticide reduction through integrated pest management, Omeg is undertaking habitat restoration work on his agricultural land to benefit the Oregon swallowtail butterfly and other native insects and wildlife.

With funds from an Oregon 150 Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Restoration grant, he will recreate native habitat by clearing two acres of grassland and replanting it with native bunchgrasses. Wildflowers to provide nectar for adult butterflies and wild tarragon, the host plant for Oregon swallowtail caterpillars, will also be planted.

“Native insects are incredibly important to agriculture as pollinators and in pest control,” said Graves, who holds the grant. “The great part about working with Mike is that he is willing to share his experience and knowledge with other landowners. When this project is done, the Omegs are willing to host field trips to demonstrate the value of maintaining native habitats in agricultural areas.”

The Omeg family cherry orchards are located just south of The Dalles, in the historic range of the Oregon swallowtail. While resources for the butterfly have been limited by conversion of land to residential and orchard use, habitat improvements will attract the swallowtails which inhabit the area.

Scott Black, executive director of Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, said his group will share their expertise on plant choice and pollinator conservation as part of the project.

“It's great to be involved in a project for the Oregon swallowtail,” said Black. “It's such a big beautiful butterfly; it makes a great ambassador for invertebrates.”

Michael Pope, ODFW Oregon Conservation Strategy coordinator, said ODFW and OWEB are pleased to fund a project that integrates wildlife habitat into a working agricultural landscape.

The Oregon 150 Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Restoration grant program was implemented in preparation for Oregon's 150th birthday celebration by OWEB and ODFW.

For more information, Omeg Orchards, Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District, The Xerces Society, Oregon Swallowtail, Oregon 150 Grants


Susan Barnes and Doug Kitchen
Susan Barnes and Doug Kitchen led a native planting project at ODFW Clackamas office.

Consumed with the day-to-day demands of their jobs, ODFW employees in the northwest regional office found it easy to overlook the English ivy and Himalayan blackberries that had so long been a part of the Clackamas campus. Then, one day last spring, it just got too much for Doug Kitchen, facilities maintenance manager.

“Here we were helping people get rid of invasive species on their property, and we had all this ivy growing in our front yard,” said Kitchen.

Convinced reestablishing native vegetation was possible, Kitchen led a team of employees and volunteers in pulling large infestations of English ivy and Himalayan blackberries, both non-native plants that take over landscapes and provide little value to wildlife.

Susan Barnes, ODFW nongame wildlife biologist and regional Conservation Strategy coordinator, recommended replanting cleared areas with native species, including huckleberry, red flowering currant, salmonberry, wood strawberry, Oregon grape, Oregon white oak, vine maple, snowberry, sword fern and Nootka rose.

“These plants are already adapted to this area,” Kitchen explained. “They're low maintenance, don't need a lot of water and provide food and cover for birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians.”

To help with the project, Kitchen enlisted Russell Hall and his nonprofit group, Wilderness International, Inc., which supervised teams of youths from the Clackamas County Juvenile Department and Parrot Creek Youth Center. Hall estimated that 40 youths spent a total of 300 hours on the project; most of them really enjoyed working outdoors and being able to see the results of their work.

Employees are also enjoying the transformation of the Clackamas campus, and visitors to the ODFW Clackamas office will be now be greeted with a landscape of native plants.

The ODFW Clackamas office is located at 17330 S.E. Evelyn Street. For information on native plants and shrubs, visit the Oregon State University and Native Plant Society of Oregon websites.

Invasive species removal: Before and after photos.


December 3 is the deadline for the Oregon State Weed Board's current grant cycle.

“We are hoping the statewide media focus on invasive species this year will encourage more people to get involved in controlling noxious weeds,“ said Shannon Brubaker, Grant Administrative Analyst for the Noxious Weed Control Program. “It's hard to overstate how much native habitat is destroyed by invasive weeds.”

Brubaker and team use a number of criteria in choosing which projects to fund, including the Conservation Opportunity Areas as designated in the Strategy. Opportunity Areas are unique landscapes where conservation work benefits a variety of fish and wildlife. A map of Conservation Opportunity Areas is available on the ODFW website.

For grant information, visit the Oregon Department of Agriculture's Noxious Weed Control Program website.


The statistics are grim. It is estimated more than 2,000 deer and elk are killed on Oregon's highways every year—not to mention owls, frogs, coyotes and turtles, all of which, at some point, cross a road in search of water, forage, nest sites or mates.

That many people are concerned about animal populations and human safety in relation to wildlife-vehicle collisions was visible at the recent Pacific Northwest Wildlife Connections conference at the Oregon Zoo. The capacity crowd of biologists, transportation planners, designers and conservationists spent four days discussing the wildlife linkage issues and sharing ideas. The conference included a symposium, a road design workshop and a transportation planning workshop.

Mindy Trask, ODOT co-chair for the Oregon Wildlife Movement Strategy, thought the conference highlighted the major concerns of transportation planners when it comes to addressing wildlife passage—priority wildlife movement corridors, common types of barriers encountered by animals as they attempt to cross highways, and design solutions that work, don't work or need more analysis.

“The new wildlife linkages and wildlife collision hot spot data for Oregon highways is a good place to start, but, right now, wildlife passage improvements are neither regulated nor adequately funded,” said Trask. “To be effective, we are going to have to work with land management agencies; cities and towns; non-profit conservation groups; watershed councils; sporting groups and others who are interested in solving the problems.”

“The good news is, this conference is only the beginning,” said Audrey Hatch, ODFW technical coordinator for the Oregon Conservation Strategy. “With transportation planners and wildlife biologists working together, we are in an excellent position to take action to benefit fish and wildlife over the long-term.”

The conference was presented by the Oregon Zoo, ODOT, Washington State Department of Transportation, ODFW, USDA Forest Service, Federal Highway Administration and Portland Metro. E-mail Audrey or Mindy.


Turtle-friendly pond, Irrigon Wildlife Area.
Turtle-friendly pond, Irrigon Wildlife Area.

Before the heavy equipment rolled at Irrigon Wildlife Area, ODFW wildlife biologist Mark Kirsch had a few things to take care of.

“We were planning to deepen and restructure a series of small ponds that had become overgrown with vegetation,” he explained. “But I had a feeling we had a few western painted turtles in there.”

To be sure, he and volunteer Lydia Kapsenberg set out traps.

“I was hoping we'd get six,” said Kirsch. “The painted turtle is not doing well in Oregon, so it's important to keep what we have.”

At the end of the day, they had 33—20 males and 13 females.

“Fortunately, we found a nearby pond to hold them until restoration was complete. When the ponds on the wildlife area had recovered enough to support them, our technician Andrew Rosenberg went back to the holding pond and fished out the same number we originally put in.”

The Irrigon Wildlife Area in Pendleton, a popular area for hikers, hunters, historians, birdwatchers and dog walkers, is actively managed by ODFW as winter habitat for migrating waterfowl. Previous habitat improvements have helped the area's birds, mammals and amphibians.

“These ponds are a lot more turtle-friendly than they were,” said Kirsch. “There is more open water with submerged vegetation and insect life is better. We also hope we lost a lot of the invasive bullfrogs that prey on juvenile turtles.”

Irrigon Wildlife Area sits on the Columbia River, bordered on the east by the town of Irrigon and on the west by the Umatilla River. For directions, see the ODFW Visitor's Guide. To learn more about the western painted turtle, visit the ODFW website.

E-mail Mark


The 2008 Interagency Noxious Weed Symposium will be held December 2, 3, 4 at The LaSells Stewart Center in Corvallis. For a copy of the agenda, visit the Oregon Department of Agriculture website.


The Oregon Conservation Strategy provides a blueprint and an 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.

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


Contact Meg Kenagy

Contact Michael Pope

Contact Karen Buell at ODFW.

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