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On the Ground: The Oregon Conservation Strategy at Work

April 2009

Citizen scientists are important to the successful implementation of the Conservation Strategy. Partnerships between citizen volunteers, biologists and researchers can help answer questions important to the conservation of species and habitats—the power of many can solve problems that a few would dare tackle. This month’s newsletter highlights some ways conservation volunteers make a difference.



Brian Bangs, co-author of a recent amphibian distribution report, is an expert in native frog identification.
- Photo ODFW-

Kim Jones
Kim Jones received a Conservation Strategy Implementation grant to integrate amphibian survey protocols into existing surveys.
- Photo ODFW-


Every summer, ODFW aquatic inventory survey crews splash through streams across the state, surveying fish habitat and vegetation. Although their work is focused on native fish recovery under the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds, over the years several surveyors started recording data on amphibians because, as Kim Jones, ODFW fish researcher explained, “We’re interested in the health of all aquatic life and because amphibian populations are declining and because frogs are fun.”

Intrigued at the potential synergy of habitat, fish and frog surveying, Jones and ODFW colleague Brian Bangs applied for and received an Oregon Conservation Strategy Implementation grant to formally incorporate an amphibian monitoring component into aquatic inventory stream survey protocol. Their first research results were published in March in a report titled, Distribution of amphibians in wadeable streams and ponds in western and southeast Oregon.

In the summer of 2007, surveys were done in eight ecoregions and 15 of the state’s amphibian species were identified, including seven Strategy species. There is also data about the occurrence of invasive bullfrogs.

“Until now, most amphibian data in the state has been site specific,” said Bangs. “This report gives us a much broader look.”

Oregon Plan surveys occur every year and ongoing data collection is planned.

“Amphibians are often difficult to observe, just because we didn’t find them in a place last year, doesn’t mean they aren’t there,” said Bangs.

For a copy of the report, visit the Conservation Strategy Monitoring section of ODFW’s website. Conservation summaries for Strategy species are in Section B of the Strategy.

Contact Brian, e-mail/p>


Singer Joni Mitchell famously lamented, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” in reference to a disappearing natural world. To prevent that from happening in the Portland area, the Metro Council is trying to make sure we know what we’ve got.

Since 2005, Metro staff have inventoried about 80,000 acres within Metro's boundaries identified as significant fish and wildlife habitat—about 28 percent of the total area. They recorded stream reaches, tree cover, riparian areas, uplands, forests and wetlands. Then, they rated the overall health of each of the habitats.

“Once we had the data, we began to see where we could make a difference to fish and wildlife,” said Lori Hennings, Metro senior natural resource scientist. “We have several challenges. We need to restore degraded areas. We need to limit the loss of native habitats of concern. And, we need to make sure that habitats are connected so wildlife can move between them for food, shelter and breeding.”

Challenging work in a growing area that already has a population of 1.4 million—40 percent of the state’s population.

“There is a lot of pressure on fish and wildlife habitat, so we have to focus on wildlife needs as the population expands,” said Hennings. “We have 290 native wildlife species in the Metro area. We have important migratory bird sites. We have peregrine falcons nesting on our bridges—all reasons people love to live here.”

Metro is actively involved in restoration work—about 4,000 of the 12,000 acres under Metro’s care have been restored in the last ten years. But, much more needs to be done at a time when resources are constrained. Volunteers are part of the solution; citizen scientists currently monitor birds and amphibians in restored areas to measure the success of projects.

Hennings uses the Oregon Conservation Strategy as a resource in her work. Currently, she is mapping the area’s sensitive species and focusing work in conservation opportunity areas. “It’s a work in progress,” she said of the work to keep Metro’s habitats healthy. “And, it will always be a work in progress.”

To learn more and find out how to get involved in Metro’s volunteer wildlife monitoring program, visit the volunteer section of Metro’s website.


John Crafton is a man with more ideas than time and as much time spent doing on-the-ground conservation as anyone.

A conversation that started about forage planting on Murderer’s Creek on the South Fork of the John Day River wandered along the river banks, across rangeland and forest, over state, federal and private lands, across grasslands and creeks.

“We’re doing a lot, but there is so much more to do,” Crafton said about the work of a coalition of sports groups in the greater John Day area.

The project that kicked off the discussion, planting native shrubs near Murderer’s Creek to restore winter range for mule deer and elk, is in its tenth year. Each spring, several hundred volunteers meet to help restore low elevation winter range. To date, hundreds of thousands of shrubs including bitterbrush and mahogany have been planted.

wheel lines

OHA bought the wheel lines that irrigate alfalfa fields on Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife Area. Alfalfa helps hold elk on the wildlife area in the winter, preventing damage to adjacent private lands.
- Photo ODFW-

Part of the project is within the ODFW Phillip W. Schneider Wildlife Area. According to area Manager Chuck Moore, “The amount of winter forage has been greatly increased, which helps increase winter survival of deer and elk. We also have antelope and bighorn sheep in here and lots of wild turkey, chukar, mountain quail, grouse, bald eagles, songbirds—when it’s healthy, it is very good habitat.”

“It’s all tied together—new shrubs help hold the soil, decreasing erosion into Murderer’s Creek so habitat and water quality are improved for the creek’s trout and steelhead,” said Crafton, who sees the landscape with the trained eye of a conservationist and a hunter.

A farm boy from Fossil, Crafton grew up in the natural world. A volunteer organizer for the Redmond Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association, he said, “We’re in this for the long-term. All of us are avid hunters, and we believe in giving back more than we receive. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a project take hold.”

And as far as projects go, Crafton is talking about planting more fruit trees on the wildlife area, juniper removal work on native grasslands, restoration of abandoned agricultural lands, knapweed removal, fencing riparian zones, removing old fencing and more. All of which takes fundraising, grant writing and hundreds of people from organizations that include OHA, Central Oregon Quail Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Pheasants Forever. The Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, Oregon State University, ODFW and many other groups and agencies work in the area.

Bitterbrush and mahogany communities are designated as specialized habitats in the Conservation Strategy as important components in the Blue Mountain ecoregion that provide forage, cover and nesting habitat for a variety of wildlife including elk and deer winter range. See the Specialized and Local Habitat section (pdf) of the Strategy.

Contact John Crafton, e-mail
Contact Chuck Moore, e-mail


Hells Canyon

The Nature Conservancy purchased 27 parcels of private land in and around Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, an area identified as a conservation opportunity area in the Strategy.
- Photo ODFW-

Armed with a $7 million grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The Nature Conservancy has embarked on a three-year effort to help turn the promise of state wildlife action plans into reality. Called the Northwest Wildlife Conservation Initiative, the funds will support action plan priorities in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

“We have a number of great projects in the works, but we are still accepting new ideas,” said Catherine Macdonald, The Nature Conservancy‘s director of conservation programs. In our first year of the Initiative, we committed over $2.7 million toward the protection of nearly 55,000 acres and funded 11 projects to build capacity and engage key stakeholders in state wildlife action plan conservation priorities.

Every state has a wildlife action plan—in Oregon it is called the Conservation Strategy. Developed to help conserve wildlife and key natural areas before they become rare and more costly to protect, the action plans serve as a framework for state, regional and national conservation.

Oregon was one of the first recipients of the Duke funds. In 2008, The Nature Conservancy purchased 27 parcels of private land in and around Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, an area identified as a conservation opportunity area in the Strategy. The parcels will protect critical wildlife habitat—14 key fish and wildlife species, including Oregon’s largest Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep herd. The land is slated for eventual transfer to the U.S. Forest Service, which will ensure public access to and effective management of thousands of acres of public land in Hells Canyon.

Thumbing through a dog-eared volume of the Conservation Strategy, Macdonald said, “This grant speaks volumes about the great job ODFW did to create a collaborative, solution-oriented strategy for fish and wildlife conservation in the Northwest. We are pleased to have an opportunity to put it into action.

For more information, visit The Nature Conservancy website. To see map’s of Oregon’s Conservation Opportunity areas, visit the interactive COA Explorer.

A western pond turtle

A western pond turtle basks in the sun in the Willamette Valley.
- Photo by Al St. John-


Compared with iconic species like the bald eagle or the coastal coho salmon, Oregon’s native turtles don’t get much attention. But a group of biologists and conservationists hope to change that. At a native turtle workshop held at the Oregon Zoo in March, they shared research data, talked about current projects and strategized how to get the word out that turtles need help.

“Like many other wetland species, turtles have been evicted from their homes as lands have been converted to human development,” said Jane Hartline, Oregon Zoo marketing director. “It’s not often you get to see them, they are becoming increasingly rare.”

Oregon has two species of native turtles, the western pond and the western painted. Both of them are on the state sensitive species list for a number of reasons including habitat loss and degradation. Additionally, red-eared sliders—aggressive non-native turtles—compete with the natives for critical basking spots, nesting sites and food. And, invasive bullfrogs are notorious devourers of native turtle hatchlings.

“With turtles, we face the basic challenge of keeping common species common. It’s easy to focus attention on species that are already threatened or endangered because of the monumental efforts to recover them. But, it’s much better to invest in keeping our native species and habitats healthy before they reach that point,” said Susan Barnes, ODFW biologist and district Conservation Strategy coordinator.

The problem is, it’s slow, hard, underfunded work, and it’s going to take a lot of people and projects to make a difference.

“Individual Oregonians can really help in this area,” said Hartline.

“First, if you see a turtle on land, leave it alone, it may be looking for a mate or trying to find the right spot to dig its nest and lay its eggs. If you see one on the road and you are afraid it might get run over, pick it up and move it off the road, in the direction it was going.”

Another way people can help is to get non-native turtles out of Oregon’s waters. According to Barnes, this can often be as simple as not buying turtles as pets. All of the destructive red-eared sliders in Oregon’s waters started as unwanted, released pets. “When people buy a little turtle, they don’t realize that if it lives, it is going to grow to the size of a dinner plate,” said Barnes.

Although it is illegal in Oregon to sell or possess red-eared sliders and many other aquatic turtle species, they can be found on the Internet and in some other outlets. If you have a red-eared slider or see one for sale online, at a flea market or in a store, Barnes advises you to contact your local ODFW office.

Tent-shaped moth traps

Tent-shaped moth traps are made of heavy paper and hung in suitable host trees.
- Photo ODA-

Citizen scientists can also help by reporting turtle sighting on the Oregon Native Turtles website by using the online form. For more information on native and non-native turtles, visit the ODFW website.


Calling all citizen scientists: Help protect Oregon's forests from invasive insects. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is looking for citizens to provide permission for insect survey technicians to place traps on their property to survey for gypsy moths, nun moths and Japanese beetles. In the Portland area, contact bhuffman@oda.state.or.us. Please provide the name and address of property that you give permission for ODA trapping. For more information,visit ODA's website or e-mail Bennett Huffman.


On the Ground newsletter archives


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.


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


Contact Meg Kenagy

For strategy information

Contact Michael Pope

For a copy of the Strategy

Contact Karen Buell at ODFW.

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