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Native fish, wildlife and their habitat

On the Ground: The Oregon Conservation Strategy at Work

January 2009

The New Year brings new challenges on many fronts, limiting resources and inviting us to find new ways to implement conservation actions. Fortunately, the people who do this work come from all areas of the state, from all age groups, from all political persuasions and from all professions—united in their commitment to healthy fish, wildlife and habitats, the work continues.



Male sage grouse
Male sage grouse struts on lek in Baker County. Wallowa Mountains are on the horizon.

Cattle watering troughs can be dangerous to wildlife. Seeking water, many birds and small mammals fall into the troughs and drown.

Exact mortality rates aren’t available, but in Baker County, where sage-grouse populations are vulnerable and every bird is important, Bureau of Land Management and ODFW biologists aren’t waiting for death counts.

“We’ve come up with a relatively simple solution,” said Jamie Nelson, district wildlife technician in the ODFW Baker City office. “We worked with a local business to design and build metal ramps that allow sage-grouse and other wildlife to get out of water troughs.”

Ramps will be installed by ranchers who graze cattle on public land allotments that have known sage-grouse populations. Installations will begin this spring when cattle return to the rangeland.

Installation of the ramps was identified as a priority by the Baker County Sage-grouse Working Group. BLM and ODFW Upland Game Bird Stamp funds were used to build 120 water trough escapement ramps.  Wildlife entrapment in water troughs is identified in the Strategy as a factor affecting populations in the Blue Mountains ecoregion.  Contact Jamie, Jamie.Nelson@odfw.oregon.gov


Rick Boatner, ODFW invasive species wildlife integrity coordinator, has only been on the job for three months and he’s already thinking about his legacy—although he wouldn’t put it that way.

“I’d like to see feral swine eradicated from Oregon,” said Boatner. “It’s possible if people are willing to work together to make it happen. We have to stop seeing problems with invasives as someone else’s issue and realize they will eventually affect all Oregonians. Right now, feral swine are wrecking havoc in a number of agricultural fields in the central part of the state. If we don’t stop them, they have the potential to overrun the state.”

Rick Boatner
Rick Boatner returns a native western painted turtle that had been held in captivity to the wild.

Boatner, an 18-year ODFW veteran, has spent a lot of time in the field as a fish and wildlife biologist and has witnessed the damage invasive animals do to the environment and our native species.

“We have to do a better job educating people about why a cute little critter like a red-eared slider or a beauty like a mute swan can be destructive,” said Boatner. “If I could, I’d put black hats on all the bad guys like they did in old westerns, but it’s not that easy.”

Looking at the year ahead, Boatner plans to focus on education. Projects include pet store visits, outreach to schools regarding proper disposal of animals used for science projects, field work with landowners, encouraging people to make responsible choices in pets and helping Oregonians understand the economic cost of invasive plants and animals.

“Working with our partners and organizations committed to invasive species eradication is very important,” said Boatner, who, fortunately, seems comfortable in multi-tasking.

To learn about Oregon’s Most Unwanted Invaders, visit the ODFW website. Contact Rick, rick.j.boatner@odfw.oregon.gov  


The Institute for Applied Ecology
The Institute for Applied Ecology is working on 12 wetland restoration sites in the Willamette Valley. This one in Polk County has been planted with native popcorn flower.

How long does it take to restore fallow agricultural land to native wetland? “Five years, sometimes longer,” said Matt Blakeley-Smith, a habitat restorationist with the Institute for Applied Ecology, which is currently working on 12 wetland projects in the Willamette Valley.

“Work can be slow and costly, but the reward of discovering a new breeding pair of black-necked stilts or self-sustaining Willamette daisy populations helps us measure success.”

In support of its work, the Institute was awarded an Oregon 150 Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Restoration grant in 2008. The grant will fund work on 1,500 acres in one of the few remaining breeding areas for the western meadowlark in the Valley.

“We have three wetlands—one south of Corvallis and two near Junction City—that are ready to be planted and enhanced for meadowlarks. Native wildflower density will be increased to attract the meadowlark’s prey base and meadows will be “structured” with the native grasses the bird prefers,” explained Blakeley-Smith.

Matt Blakeley-Smith

Matt Blakeley-Smith plants endangered Nelson’s checkermallow—a native of the wet prairies of the Willamette

“We are also removing tree rows which act as barriers to meadowlark movement. The birds prefer grasslands that are 50 acres or larger, so we are piecing together smaller prairies by removing tree rows to create large continuous meadows.”

Wetlands, among the most endangered habitats in the west, are a Strategy habitat. Learn more about their distribution and characteristics in the Willamette Valley ecoregion section of the Strategy.

Blakeley-Smith, who has worked for Institute for Applied Ecology since 2002, specializes in large-scale habitat restoration and is the Corvallis chapter president of the Native Plant Society of Oregon. The Oregon 150 Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Restoration Grants are funded by OWEB with Oregon Lottery funds; projects were selected through a joint review by ODFW and OWEB.


Members of the Josephine County Chapter Oregon Hunters Association spent a cold Saturday in January cutting and clearing brush and trees from meadow habitat in the Siskiyou National Forest near Selma to improve forage for big game and other wildlife species.

Healthy meadow habitat, so important to wildlife, is disappearing as land uses change and trees and shrubs encroach on meadows and choke out grasslands. "Open meadows make up only about one percent of the forest, but they get very heavy use by deer, elk, wild turkey, grouse and other wildlife species," said David Austin, supervisory wildlife biologist for the Wild River and Siskiyou Mountains ranger districts of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Partners in the multi-year effort habitat enhancement projects are OHA, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, ODFW and USFS.


Oregon Public Broadcasting picked up a prestigious duPont-Columbia award for excellence in broadcast journalism on Jan. 12 for its documentary The Silent Invasion: An Oregon Field Guide Special. Produced by Ed Jahn, the hour-long show illustrates how invasive species are changing the environment in Oregon, and focuses on ways people can work together to make a difference to native fish and wildlife resources and Oregon's economy. If you missed the broadcast, you can watch it online at OPB.


In an effort to get a piece of the federal economic stimulus pie, Teaming With Wildlife staff pulled together a proposal requesting $150 million in additional State Wildlife Grants funding to support "shovel-ready" projects that support implementation of State Wildlife Action Plans—in Oregon’s case, the Conservation Strategy.

Director Mark Humpert reports this week, “Unfortunately, State Wildlife Grants have been left out of both House and Senate bills for now, but we are working to gain support in the Senate.” 

Oregon’s projects would support community-based conservation to protect riparian habitat and control invasive species; juniper control in sage brush-steppe habitats; and feral swine removal.

Visit the Teaming With Wildlife website.


Anglers: Trade in your felt-soled waders for a pair of new eco-friendly boots. As it turns out, felt is a perfect host for carrying whirling disease, didymo and invasive mud snails between streams. New Zealand banned felt soles in trout streams in 2008 because invasives have badly degraded its fisheries. Visit The Daily Gazette website to learn about some of the alternatives.


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. See past issues of the Strategy newsletter on the ODFW website.

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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