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Summer Lake Snow Geese

Snow geese swirl across the skies of Summer Lake Wildlife Area. Spring 2011
- Video by Dave Budeau-

On the Ground: The Oregon Conservation Strategy at Work

February 2011

Snow geese, meadowlarks and treefrogs herald spring in Oregon. Conservation stories this month include work in estuaries, grasslands and wetlands—all imperiled habitats.  


Tidal Spruce Wetlands Restored
Pacific Treefrogs Chorus in Spring
A Closer Look at Meadowlark Habitat
Join Oregon Wildlife Viewing on Facebook
NW Steelheaders Prepare for Conservation Fundraiser
Estuaries and Climate Change: Workshop Materials Available to Download
One Small Thing

Miami River
Post-construction: Highway 101 crosses the Miami River as it meets Tillamook Bay. Channel work is visible on the east side of the highway.
- TEP Photo -
Click Photo to Enlarge
Almost 3,000 feet of meandering tidal channels were excavated.
- TEP Photo -
Click Photo to Enlarge


The Miami River enters Tillamook Bay just east of Garibaldi, the environmentally degraded wetlands at its mouth, once a rich estuarial broth that provided critical rearing habitat for salmon, showing new life.

“Historically this was tidal spruce swamp,” said Rachel Hagerty, Habitat Restoration Manager for Tillamook Estuaries Partnership. “It’s a rare habitat today, which is why it’s so important to save it.”

It’s been a long road since 2004 when a private landowner contacted Tillamook Estuaries Partnership about the possibility of restoring the lower river which had been environmentally damaged by decades of development and unsustainable logging and agriculture practices. In fact, it took six years of grant writing, partnership building, surveying, engineering design, water level monitoring, permitting and planning before restoration work on the 44-acre wetland began.

“The project is finally fully funded,” said Hagerty. “Last summer we did most of the major construction including ditch filling and tidal channel excavation, and we are planting now.”

“We completely expect those channels to load up with juvenile coho, chum, cutthroat and chinook,” said Chris Knutsen, ODFW fish biologist. “We know there were some salmonids there before and with the order of magnitude improvement in habitat, the fish are going to use it—and in a big way.”

Hagerty expects on-the-ground work to be complete in the spring of 2012. Five years of post-restoration monitoring are already funded. “It’s very exciting,” said Hagerty. “The list of species that will benefit from this work covers six pages.”

In addition to TEP, Oregon Department of Transportation, ODFW, and two private landowners, partners include Vigil-Agrimis, Inc., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, North Coast Salmon and Steelhead Enhancement Fund, Pacific Coast Joint Venture, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Greenpoint Consulting, Stimson Lumber, Tillamook People’s Utility District, Parametrix, American Reinvestment and Recovery Fund, Central Coast Land Conservancy, Charter, CenturyLink, City of Garibaldi Public Works, Tillamook Native Plant Cooperative and Tillamook School District.

For more information on the Miami Wetlands Restoration Project, visit the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership’s website.

Pacific Tree Frog
Pacific treefrog.
- Kelly McAllister photo -
Click Photo to Enlarge


Pacific treefrogs are the smallest and most commonly seen and heard frogs in Oregon and, at this time of year, the males can be especially raucous. Their call, a loud, two-part kreck-ek or reb-it, is repeated in an effort to attract females, which then stimulates other males to join in, creating the chorus that signals the start of spring in many places.

Pacific treefrogs are found in all eight ecoregions and are a fabulous example of what the Oregon Conservation Strategy hopes to accomplish for all our common native species—that is, keep them common.

Learn more about the species in a new fact sheet on ODFW’s website that provides information on treefrogs, how to avoid conflicts, how to attract them to your property and relevant wildlife laws. Pacific treefrog fact sheet.


Meadowlark habitat
Biologists studied known meadowlark breeding habitat to inform new restoration projects.
- IAE photo -
Click Photo to Enlarge

“We use a custom habitat restoration recipe to create meadowlark habitat,” said Matt Blakeley-Smith, Institute for Applied Ecology restoration biologist. “The question becomes, after mowing, fire, weed control and seeding with native grasses and wildflowers, are meadowlarks using the habitat, or is something missing?”

By way of example, Blakeley-Smith points to a 2010 prairie restoration in the Willamette Valley where, in what seems to be good habitat, meadowlarks have been detected, but there is no nesting activity.

“Meadowlarks are landscape birds, a single breeding pair needs at least 20 acres, but a functional population requires hundreds of acres. We realized we had to look both at the fine-scale features of the individual nest areas as well as the larger landscape requirements of the population.”

So in an exacting study, IAE and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff researched known meadowlark breeding habitat at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge in Corvallis to see just what the birds found compelling about that place.

“We found more annual species than we expected and more structural diversity,” he said. “We found, not just native grasses and wildflowers, but moss, thatch and bare ground. We even noticed the resident elk herd may have improved the habitat by creating microhabitats in the grasslands as they moved through the area—one meadowlark pair built their nest in the depression left by elk track.”

western meadowlark
The western meadowlark is in decline in the Valley.
- Dave Budeau photo -

As a result of the study, Blakeley-Smith has confidence that they can more successfully create meadowlark habitat. The information is being used to create new habitat on private properties with conservation easements.
Bob Altman was the ornithologist on the project. ODFW biologists Ann Kreager and Kate Halstead partnered with IAE on the field work and data assessment. Funding came in part from ODFW, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service and private landowners. ODFW’s report, Declining and State Sensitive Bird Species Breeding in Willamette Valley Grasslands: 2008/09 Status Update is available on ODFW’s website.


Visit Oregon Wildlife Viewing, ODFW’s Facebook page about native wildlife species and where to see them. This week, Biologist Dave Budeau shared his video of migrating snow geese.


On April 23, conservation-minded anglers will pay $250 to participate in a day of guided tournament fishing in the Willamette River—and happily so.

Bob Toman, shown with his son and grandson, volunteers as a guide every year at SalmonQuest.
- Bob Toman photo -

“SalmonQuest is a really popular event,” said Norm Ritchie, secretary of the Northwest Steelheaders, which sponsors the fundraiser. “It brings a lot of us together for a day of fishing and allows us to contribute to conservation of species and habitats.”

Money raised will be used for habitat restoration projects in the Willamette and Sandy basins. In Oregon, the Steelheaders take a leadership role in environmental conservation, advocating for clean water and fish and wildlife conservation. As the Oregon affiliate for the National Wildlife Federation, they keep tabs on conservation policy. 

This is the first year the sportfishing organization is sponsoring SalmonQuest. Previously, it was hosted by the Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation.

Fishing is expected to be good in April, with a good run of spring chinook and some steelhead in the mix. A banquet follows at the Holiday Inn, Portland Airport. To learn more and register for the event, visit the Steelheaders’ website.  Contact Norm.


In an effort to understand the effect of climate change on the state’s estuaries, ODFW and partners met in Newport to learn about recent climate change research and discuss how to better link research with management efforts; identify and prioritize adaptation strategies for estuaries; and describe the steps needed to implement these strategies.

A workshop summary and expert presentations are available for download from ODFW’s website.

“Because of the diversity of participants which included land managers, agency staff, climate modelers, and private landowners, we came up with a good cross-section of ideas about how to better manage our estuaries under changing climate conditions,” said Sara O’Brian, Defenders of Wildlife, workshop organizer.  

The workshop is the first in a series that will culminate in incorporation of climate change information into the Oregon Conservation Strategy. Future workshops will address adaptation in oak woodland and sagebrush habitats as outlined in the Oregon Conservation Strategy.

Download presentations: Workshop on Estuaries, Climate Change, and Conservation Planning  


Go native when you plant this year. The Native Plant Society of Oregon has lots of resources on its website. They also list statewide events. Clean Water Services offers a native plant finder on its website and a free native plant poster is yours for the asking.

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

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