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On the Ground: The Oregon Conservation Strategy at Work

  • Wildlife Migration sign
    Enabling wildlife movement is a key issue of the Conservation Strategy.
    - ODFW Photo -
    Click to Enlarge Photo
    Newsletter Archives

January 2011

What’s ahead for conservation in 2011? We checked in with a number of people from around the state who are involved in Strategy-related work to find out what’s on their minds.


Art Martin, ODFW
Bruce Taylor, Oregon Habitat Joint Venture
Chris Orsinger, Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah
Greg Jackle, ODFW
Jan Roofener, Jefferson County Soil & Water Conservation District
Melissa Sandoz, Columbia Slough Watershed Council
Steve Zack, Wildlife Conservation Society
Tom Wolf, Trout Unlimited
One Small Thing


During 2011, as part of a five-year Strategy review, ODFW staff will incorporate climate change as one of the key conservation issues that affect fish, wildlife and habitats statewide.

According to Art Martin, ODFW Interim Conservation Program Manager, the team is looking at climate change by habitat type and habitat-altering processes. “We had a successful workshop with estuary professionals and are evaluating that information now, trying to identify opportunities and strategies for estuaries in response to climate change.”

Future workshops include oak savanna and sagebrush habitats. Information for all 11 Strategy habitats will be covered in the update. Strategy habitats

California Brown Pelican
The California brown pelican can be seen at Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. - USFWS Photo -
Click to Enlarge Photo


Bruce Taylor, Oregon Habitat Joint Venture Executive Director, seemed to be everywhere in 2010. Instrumental in helping to write Measure 76, which Oregonians passed in every county in the state, there is no indication Taylor is going to slow down this year. A few of the things he thinks will be important in 2011:

“On the East Side, the renewable energy and sage-grouse issue will continue to play out. We need to take a more studied approach to siting these energy projects, and I hope we will make some progress on what mitigation looks like. Also the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge conservation planning project is heading into the final stage, and I think we will see some action to get the carp in Malheur Lake under control.”

“In Harney, Lake and Klamath counties, we’ll see a Wetland Reserve Program pilot project to work with ranchers on protecting the wetlands that are so critical to migrating birds while allowing for some agricultural production. We hope the new flexibility will really help bring more people onboard.”

“There are also big things ahead for coastal wetlands. The tidal restoration project at Bandon Marsh should finish up this year, and Joint Venture partners will be doing some acquisitions and restoration up and down the coast.”

Taylor will also be following the Bonneville Power Administration settlement in the Willamette Valley and the work on the Willamette mainstem through the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board’s partnership with the Meyer Memorial Trust which is “coming to fruition,” and … well, for more information, contact Bruce.

Prescribed Burn
Oregon Department of Forestry crews perform a prescribed burn near Mt. Pisgah as part of a prairie restoration project.
- Photo by Chris Orsinger-
Click to Enlarge Photo

Oregon Habitat Joint Venture
Willamette River Restoration
Bandon Marsh Tidal Restoration


Chris Orsinger, Executive Director, Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah, looks forward to working with The Nature Conservancy, ODFW and other partners to develop a management plan for the Willamette Confluence Project, the new 1,270-acre acquisition. Orsinger and the Friends have worked for 20 years to realize this dream.

On a philosophical level, he will continue to focus on getting volunteers involved in restoration work in the Mt. Pisgah area.

“It fosters a culture of stewardship,” he said. “It’s the future—in fact, expanding volunteer involvement in stewarding habitats seem like the only way we will be able to care for Oregon's habitats for recreation and wildlife.”

Since 1989, Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah has raised and invested over $2 million to improve the natural areas and habitats in the Mt. Pisgah area.

Willamette Confluence
Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah

Deer crossing
A deer crosses Hwy. 26 between John Day and Dayville.
- ODFW Photo -
Click to Enlarge Photo
Closely spaced barriers can make wildlife crossing nearly impossible.
- ODFW Photo -
Click to Enlarge Photo


In 2010, Oregon Department of Transportation employees picked up about 150 dead mule deer along a 40 mile stretch of Highway 26 between John Day and Dayville and recorded each with a GPS location.

“It’s great to get this data,” said ODFW wildlife biologist Greg Jackle. “We know there are more deer that are hit and wander off the road and that aren’t recovered, but for the first time, we have some good data.”

Highway 26 runs through the John Day River Valley, which is prime mule deer winter range.

“We see a number of fatalities during annual migrations in the fall when deer come down from the higher elevations and in the summer when they move back up,” he said. “We also see a spike in fatalities in November and December.”

Jackle has a number of theories to explain the increase: It’s breeding season so there is a lot of animal movement, there is more traffic on the road due to hunting seasons and it just gets dark a lot earlier.

Until now, ODFW and ODOT have tried to mitigate the situation with signage, but this year, they are making some new plans. Culverts, box crossings and bridges are being analyzed for potential retrofits during infrastructure upgrades. Barriers such as closely spaced guards and fences on the roadside are noted.

“We’d love to get some of these deer collared so we can track their movements. We know where they die while crossing the road, but it would good to know where they are able to cross successfully,” said Jackle, who is presently looking for funding for GPS collars to aid in the work.

ODOT staff are also recording small mammals that are killed. Future wildlife crossing improvements will benefit any critter that has to cross the road for food, water, habitat or breeding. Barriers to fish and wildlife movement are identified in the Conservation Strategy as a key issue of concern throughout the state.

Contact Greg
ODFW’s Mule Deer Initiative


Irrigation ditch
Open irrigation ditches were surveyed before a piping project was designed and implemented by Jefferson County Soil & Water Conservation District and partners.
- JCSWCD Photo -
Click to Enlarge Photo

Jefferson County Soil & Water Conservation District will focus on water quality and quantity, issues critical to growing Central Oregon communities. In 2011, work continues on an irrigation piping project to conserve water, provide pressure for energy and eliminate excess sediment in Trout Creek, a tributary of the Deschutes River.

“We’ve been working in this area for some time, and this year we should see results of irrigation efficiency on a total of 4,500 acres,” said Jan Roofener, Conservation Planner for the District. “The volcanic soils here are so porous, we loose a lot of water with open ditch irrigation. Through piping, we save water and energy.”

Trout Creek provides critical spawning habitat for summer steelhead and resident redband trout, and according to ODFW fish biologist Tom Nelson, the work should help.

“Hopefully, we’ll see less sedimentation, silting and turbidity in the creek—all of which should lead to more fish,” he said.

Another important part of Trout Creek restoration concerns keeping cattle out of the creek, and a number of private landowners are working with Roofener and Nelson to fence sections of the creek and move livestock to water troughs.
Other partners in the projects include the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, North Unit Irrigation District, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Water Resources, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Reclamation, ODFW and private landowners.

Trout Creek Piping Project, Oregon Conservation Registry
Trout Creek Watershed Council

Canoe trip
Canoe trips are offered as part of the Columbia Slough Watershed Council’s outreach program.
- CSWC Photo -
Click to Enlarge Photo


The Columbia Slough Watershed Council was created to address some seemingly insurmountable problems: contaminated fish and sediment, diminished wildlife habitat and water pollution. They are problems that will find solutions only through the work of many—it is estimated that more than 13.7 million people and 275,000 tons of freight move through the bustling Columbia Slough Watershed every year.

“We have such an urban watershed that to make a difference we have to focus on outreach and education,” said Melissa Sandoz, Outreach Director. “In 2010 we reached over 10,000 people. In 2011, we hope to work with even more.”

Teaching kids about their watershed and how daily activities affect its health is paramount. Fueled by grants, the Council offers Slough School for K-12 students, which consists of classroom activities and field trips that can include water bug discovery, native planting and invasive species removal.

The Council also offers a number of free workshops for adults including Slough 101, Wetlands 101 and Groundwater 101. Other activities open to the public are canoe trips, bicycle tours and bird walks. For people who don’t mind getting their hands dirty, the Council organizes a Stewardship Saturday project once a month.

“We do a number of events every year including Explorando el Columbia Slough which is a bilingual family festival,” said Sandoz who is clearly committed to community involvement. “It’s very important to the Council that we reach out to everyone in the watershed, because everyone in the watershed can make a difference.”

Columbia Slough Watershed Council
Map of the watershed

Steve Zack
Steve Zack, Wildlife Conservation Society.
Click to Enlarge Photo


“This year, I’d like to see us confront the forces of climate change with the tools we have today,” said Steve Zack, Wildlife Conservation Society scientist. “Climate change does not have to be a big black hole of angst. We can make our habitats better with the tools we already have in the conservation toolbox.”

“For example, we can work with prescribed fire in our forests to prevent catastrophic fire due to drought. We can restore riparian areas so they hold more water. We can begin to make the necessary acquisitions so when estuaries move inland, we are prepared.”

Zack will do a lot work outside the state this year in the Arctic and on the Great Plains, but as a board member of The Wildlife Society and a committed contributor to Conservation Strategy planning, Zack will spend plenty of time on state issues.

Contact Steve
Wildlife Conservation Society

Tom Wolf
Tom Wolf, Trout Unlimited.
Click to Enlarge Photo


Trout Unlimited continues its strategic focus on salmon and trout habitat restoration.

“We are in it to make a difference, and we make long-term commitments,” said Tom Wolf, TU Oregon Council Chair.

The organization is involved across the state; currently significant energy is being expended on the North Coast and Upper Deschutes, specifically the Crooked and Metolius drainages. “We discovered that these areas don’t receive as much attention as other river basins.”

It is work that involves working with many private landowners, irrigators and agencies and investing a lot of time and money.

“We find that as Central Oregon grows and people and agriculture need water, fish often get left out of the equation. The challenge is to find the right balance.”

Wolf is also busy with a number of legislative issues this session—banning felt-soled waders from the state’s rivers to help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species is one of them.

Contact Tom
Trout Unlimited Oregon Council
Upper Deschutes Home Rivers Initiative

Thinking green? There’s a smartphone app for that. Check what’s available from your manufacture. There are lots available for the iPhone, including a free Carbon Tracker.

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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