Cerro Gordo Protected

531 acres of prairie, fir and hardwood forest, and a prominent rocky butte outside Cottage Grove are permanently protected in the Cerro Gordo Conservation Easement. Photo by Eric Alan.

“Do what’s right for the land.” It’s an ethos that the people who have lived at Cerro Gordo have taken to heart. Today, thanks to their foresight and dedication, glimmering Willamette Valley prairie, healthy oak and conifer forest, and a prominent rocky butte near Cottage Grove are all protected for conservation. However, it hasn’t been an easy or straightforward path.

In 1974 a visionary group of people led by the late Chris Canfield bought 1,165 acres of forests and meadows above Dorena Lake with the goal of creating a village in harmony with nature. While the original plan never fully materialized, a dedicated core remained committed to conserving this special place.

The Cerro Gordo Land Conservancy, led by board members Jim Stevenson (president), Don Nordin, Eric Alan, and Suzanne Huebner-Sannes, is now proud to celebrate a conservation easement in partnership with the McKenzie River Trust on 531 acres of this land adjacent to Dorena Lake.

Cerro Gordo as seen from across Dorena Lake near Cottage Grove. The prominent rocky butte is now permanently protected for conservation. Photo by MRT staff.

A Different Tool

“We see land conservation and restoration as the primary goal,” says Eric Alan, resident and Conservancy board member. “This easement keeps with the initial vision of Cerro Gordo, and yet it’s a completely different tool than was envisioned in the beginning.”

Cerro Gordo boasts a stunning diversity of habitat types and plant communities throughout its landscape. The property has exceptional native grass diversity and several notable populations of rare and threatened plants, including shaggy horkelia, timwort, tall bugbane, Roemer’s fescue and yellow monkeyflower.

“Every acre is really different,” says Scott Ferguson of Trout Mountain Forestry, who has been working with the people of Cerro Gordo to manage the working forests since 1986. “The quality of the prairies is significant and the conifer habitat is really diverse, too.”

In 2012 a Healthy Forests Reserve Program conservation easement was secured on another 447 acres of Cerro Gordo forestland through the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Together, these easements comprise nearly 1,000 acres of contiguous, protected habitat. “It’s a pretty substantial bit of conservation in a key part of the southern Willamette Valley,” Alan says.

Cerro Gordo Land Conservancy members Mary Addams, Shirley Froyd, Suzanne Huebner-Sannes, Charlie Sannes, Eric Alan, Jim Stevenson, Greta Loeffelbein, and Don Nordin. Photo by Eric Alan.

Unique People and a Unique Place

“The property is amazing, but the human element is probably the most unique part of this project. Cerro Gordo Land Conservancy members are on-site stewards,” says Ferguson. “In my work I haven’t met anyone with a more profound connection to place than the people behind Cerro Gordo.”

The Cerro Gordo Land Conservancy looks forward to engaging the community on this special land in the future. They can be reached at P.O. Box 192, Cottage Grove, OR 97424.

This project was funded in part by a grant from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Bonneville Power Administration’s Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program. Key partners in this conservation success include Cerro Gordo Land Conservancy, the Cerro Gordo landowners, Trout Mountain Forestry and McKenzie River Trust.

Sharing Finn Rock Reach

Exploring New Opportunities for Recreation

The Finn Rock Boat Landing hosts hundreds of people a day in the summer months. With your help, we’re looking at adding a hiking trail and wildlife viewing areas, while protecting the river. Photo by Liz Lawrence.

In addition to rare species like turtles and salmon, Finn Rock Reach includes the popular Finn Rock Boat Landing. Throughout our first year of ownership and management of this unique place, resplendent with enormous cottonwoods and maples, spawning Chinook salmon, and habitat restoration opportunities galore, we’ve heard the question many times: Will you keep the Boat Landing?

For us there was no question: the Finn Rock Boat Landing is a key recreational asset that must be preserved. We’ll keep it open, largely thanks to the enthusiastic and immediate offers of volunteer help and financial support from the McKenzie Guides Association, McKenzie Masters, and other river users.

Now, with your encouragement we’re exploring more possibilities for public access at Finn Rock Reach, including hiking trails and wildlife viewing areas.

Walk a New Trail through an Old Logging Camp

Huckleberry Lane leads past the area that used to be home to the Finn Rock Logging Camp. Photo by Harper Johnson.
Upriver from the boat landing, Huckleberry Lane leads into the forest. This road was once the main street for Finn Rock Logging Camp, the ‘company town’ for Rosboro lumber. Walk down the old road, and imagine it lined with 25 wooden houses, a church, and a baseball field. At the end of the road, a newly installed trail takes you just over a mile into riparian forest. This out-and-back path offers beautiful views of the McKenzie River and is open this season as a trial run. If you visit, let us know what you think!

New Possibilities

Several challenges remain for broader public access at Finn Rock Reach. Opening the property would require thoughtful planning and maintenance to accommodate visitors while still preserving ecological integrity.

“Public access has to be able to adapt to a living river,” notes MRT associate director for conservation Daniel Dietz. “Any infrastructure has to be compatible with this river dynamism.”

On the other side of the river, the salmon spawning grounds in Elk Creek are incredibly sensitive. Opening up this part of the property to public access would require thoughtful planning. Photo by Tim Giraudier / Beautiful Oregon.
The Friends of Finn Rock group is helping us consider our options. This volunteer corps made up of interested community members has met several times and will tour the property this fall.

“Finn Rock has a significant amount of the Chinook salmon spawning grounds in the McKenzie, which is amazing,” adds Dietz. “The property has been a community resource for many years. We’re excited to now be helping to care for the land and bringing together more people to be stewards of this resource.”

What You Can Do

  • Share your feedback! What do you value about outdoor recreation along the McKenzie River? Completing our Finn Rock Boat Landing Recreation Survey will help us plan for the future of the site. Click here for the survey.
  • Join the Friends of Finn Rock! This volunteer group helps guide management decisions and care for Finn Rock Reach. To learn more and join the mailing list, contact volunteer coordinator Elizabeth Goward: elizabeth [at] mckenzieriver [dot] org or 541-345-2799 x109.

About the author

Harper Johnson is an outreach intern with McKenzie River Trust. Harper is a junior at Williams College in Massachusetts, double majoring in Psychology and Economics. She grew up in Eugene and spent many summers enjoying the McKenzie River and other wild areas throughout Oregon. She most recently did research on the Colorado River Delta as an intern at an organization dedicated to protecting special places in Baja California and is excited for the opportunity to work at a similar organization in her hometown. She is interested in outreach and communications and is excited to have the chance to explore this at a land trust and gain valuable experience throughout the summer.

Green Island: A Floodplain In Restoration

A pond restoration project on Green Island brought heavy equipment to re-contour a pond on site this summer. Photo by Christer LaBrecque.
It was nearly impossible to have a conversation over the noise of the bulldozers, excavators and dump trucks. Earlier this month on Green Island, where the Willamette and McKenzie Rivers come together, over twelve thousand cubic yards of soil were being transported.

The McKenzie River Trust acquired 865 acres of Green Island in 2003, recognizing that such extensive acreage, river channels, and off-channel areas provided tremendous opportunities to implement conservation strategies that had been developed by many partner organizations working in the Upper Willamette Basin.

An aerial view of dozens of logs and pieces of large wood used to harden the outlet of a pond that has now become an alcove on Green Island. Alcoves like this are more friendly to native fish and the other floodplain species that rely on them. Photo by Christer LaBrecque.
As MRT and our partners have gotten to know the area better over the last 14 years of management and restoration efforts, the foresight of that initial acquisition and subsequent additions to the property has become increasingly apparent. The Green Island project, presently about 1,100 acres in size, gives us the chance to move beyond talking, and walk the talk of large-scale floodplain restoration.

Transforming a pond, restoring a river

With the support of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Bonneville Power Administration, and a Pacific General Electric Habitat Support grant administered through The Nature Conservancy, we took one more step this summer to increase river-floodplain hydrologic connection and improve habitat quality.

Contractors used heavy equipment to remove a 350 foot by 150 foot levee, originally constructed to make the land more suitable to farming. An existing pond wall was opened, transforming the pond into an alcove that should connect to the floodplain in high water, spreading the river over about 3 acres that was previously inaccessible.

The next step will be to stabilize the site with native grass seedlings. Later this winter, we’ll plant cottonwoods and willows to restore the site.

As the noise of the bulldozers fade, and the calls of birds can be heard again, a conversation will continue: a conversation between the land and the rivers that cradle it.

Come see it for yourself

Want to learn more about restoration efforts on Green Island? Join us for the upcoming tour on August 26th with Christer LaBrecque, MRT’s Restoration Projects Manager, to see first-hand how Green Island is being restored! Register HERE.

To see the floodplain restoration happening across 1,100 acres on Green Island, join us for a free tour on Saturday, August 26. Learn more and register here. Photo by Christer LaBrecque.

Double Your Gift

Join or Renew: Donate Now!

Every gift in March will go twice as far thanks to our friends at Mountain Rose Herbs who are offering a $10,000 Match Gift Challenge. Update, March 28: We met the match! Now help us reach our stretch goal of $15,000.

Our Goal: 1,000 Members in 2017

In 2017 we’re aiming to grow our membership to over 1,000. Will you help us reach that goal by joining as a member today or renewing your membership?

Membership support is the lifeblood of the McKenzie River Trust. Your contributions give us the legs we need to get out and work with landowners. You help pull scot’s broom from the ground and replace it with big leaf maple, red osier dogwood, and ocean spray. Members both lead and join in our naturalist walks across fields, through forests, and over gravel bars. Perhaps most importantly, membership is a way to gather with others who share a love for the lands and rivers that stitch together the communities of western Oregon.

$10,000 Match Gift Challenge

Mountain Rose Herbs is challenging our members and those considering joining us by putting up $10,000 in matching funds for all membership gifts in March 2017. Give now, and your donation will be DOUBLED for land conservation in western Oregon!

Update, March 28: We met the match! Now help us reach our stretch goal of $15,000. Less than $4,000 to go.

For more information about the Match Gift Challenge, please contact Julia Sherwood, Membership Coordinator, at 541-345-2799 x107 or julia@mckenzieriver.org.

Scholfield Creek Wetlands Conservation Area

Public Meeting: Scholfield Creek Wetlands Conservation Area

Tuesday, May 26th at 6pm
Reedsport City Hall, 451 Winchester Ave in Reedsport

Summary: Please join us to learn more about a proposed land conservation project along Scholfield Creek near the city of Reedsport. The project will provide public conservation and recreation benefits to people in and around the area. Snacks will be provided.

   
You’re invited to learn about and comment on a proposed project just outside of Reedsport in the Umpqua estuary.

The goal of the Scholfield Creek Wetlands project is to ensure that the unique estuary wetlands just outside the City of Reedsport will provide conservation and recreation benefits for the public, on into the future.

The McKenzie River Trust, a nonprofit, non-governmental land trust, seeks to purchase +/- 215 acres of wetlands in Scholfield Creek. The wetlands are currently owned by the City of Reedsport, Douglas County, and Roseburg Resources, a subsidiary of Roseburg Forest Products.

The purchase would be funded by a state grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and a federal grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation program. Partnership for the Umpqua Rivers (PUR), a Roseburg-based non-profit, non-regulatory watershed council, would be responsible for habitat improvements and restoration.

We want to hear your thoughts and questions about the Scholfield Creek Wetlands project. Please join us for this Public Meeting!

Questions? Please contact us.

Alayna DuPont
Land Protection Manager, McKenzie River Trust
(541) 345-2799 or alayna@mckenzieriver.org

Matt Ruwaldt
Estuary Biologist, Partnership for the Umpqua Rivers
(541) 662-0049 or mruwaldt@gmail.com

Scholfield Creek Wetlands FAQ

What are the goals for this project?

McKenzie River Trust seeks to purchase the Scholfield Creek wetlands to protect an important community area for its fish and wildlife habitat, open space, and recreational values. Our long term vision is that the unique wetlands of Scholfield Creek that you value today will be there for your grandchildren’s grandchildren.

What public benefits will the project provide?

This project will provide conservation benefits, recreational benefits, and community benefits. By protecting the wetlands today, Reedsport residents and visitors will be able to enjoy and appreciate this area now and on into the future.

The Scholfield Creek wetlands are the nurseries for healthy fish in the Umpqua River. Coho and Chinook salmon and sea run cutthroat trout rely on the rich estuary habitat of Scholfield Creek for summer rearing and winter refuge. Clean water also comes from healthy wetlands. Like sponges, the wetlands absorb, store, and release water. They provide a buffer against flooding by absorbing and retaining high water levels.

The Scholfield Creek wetlands provide Reedsport residents and visitors with dozens of recreational opportunities, from duck hunting to bird watching, photography, and kayaking. Scholfield Creek is open for cutthroat trout fishing, and because other valuable fish like Chinook and coho use these areas, the wetlands are also beneficial to recreational and commercial fishing in the surrounding areas. Healthy fisheries that are supported by the wetlands provide benefits to local fishing businesses.

Why is now a good time to make this project happen?

The project fits with the City of Reedsport’s vision for recreation and conservation surrounding the city. Planning efforts for the Reedsport Levee Loop Trail and Water Trail show that there is a lot of interest in increasing recreational opportunities for residents and visitors. The opportunity for a project like this that advances a community vision for conservation of an important area for fish, wildlife, and recreation does not happen every day.

Who will benefit from this project? How?

Across Oregon, the angling community, including commercial fisheries, increasingly recognizes the value of estuary lands for the health of fisheries. Maintaining healthy estuaries benefits both commercial and recreational anglers, because wetlands are the nurseries of strong fish populations. Local businesses also benefit from these activities: examples include fishing boats along the Oregon coast, the local port, Reedsport river guides and outfitters, upstream recreational guides on the Umpqua River, and more.

Beyond anglers, MRT is committed to working with the City, neighbors, and the entire Reedsport community to explore development of the Water Trail and other recreational opportunities that are appropriate. We are committed to working with the City to maintain a healthy wetlands that can be enjoyed and appreciated by everyone.

Where does the money come from for this project?

McKenzie River Trust and the Partnership for the Umpqua Rivers have secured funding for this project through two competitive grant applications. A grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) will be applied towards the land purchase. OWEB is a state agency that provides grants to help Oregonians take care of local streams, rivers, wetlands and natural areas. OWEB grants are funded from the Oregon Lottery, federal dollars, and salmon license plate revenue. We have also been awarded a federal grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Program. After a national competition, 25 wetlands projects were awarded funding in 2015, including the Scholfield Creek Wetlands project. The Coastal Wetlands grant funds come from taxes paid on equipment and fuel purchases by recreational anglers and boaters nationwide.

Some of the land that is proposed to be sold is publicly owned right now. Why should a private land trust own that land?

The McKenzie River Trust’s mission is to help people protect and care for the lands and rivers they cherish in western Oregon. As an independent, community-based nonprofit 501c3 organization operated for the public benefit, we will ensure that this land is owned and managed for conservation, no matter what changes in the future. We are in it for the long run.

The McKenzie River Trust was founded in 1989 and has completed conservation projects on over 4,000 acres of land from the Cascades to the coast. MRT is an Accredited Land Trust. Independent accreditation ensures all our lands will be protected forever.

Why are the City of Reedsport, Douglas County, and Roseburg Resources considering selling this land?

Roseburg Resources originally approached MRT, because they consider the wetlands to be unproductive timberland. They realized that this unique part of Scholfield Creek could be better stewarded by a different owner, one with a conservation mission, like MRT. The City of Reedsport and Douglas County became interested in the project because they saw the potential for this kind of a project and partnership to bring more resources to their communities. This transaction is also a way for the City and County to ensure that the wetlands are cared for in line with the community’s interests without having to be responsible for the long term management of the land. All three sellers will be paid for the land they sell.

What will happen to the land once it is sold to the McKenzie River Trust?

MRT will work with the Reedsport community to ensure that the land will be managed for its long term conservation and recreation benefits. In the coming years, the Partnership for the Umpqua Rivers will also enhance the health of the wetlands through on-the-ground projects.

What kind of work is the Partnership for the Umpqua Rivers proposing to do in the wetlands?

PUR is working with estuary science experts to develop a plan to ensure that the Scholfield Creek wetlands ecosystem is as productive and healthy as possible. After assessing the needs of the wetlands, PUR will begin taking actions to enhance the habitat of the land by increasing estuary complexity. Estuary complexity is very important for wetlands. For example, historically, there would have likely been more woody debris in the Scholfield wetlands than there is today. Enhancement work that adds more woody debris now can provide overhead cover for native fish that use the wetlands. Woody debris also makes the tidal channels more complex, provides habitat for bugs and other macroinvertebrates that contribute to wetland health, and offers nurse logs for spruce trees and native shrubs to grow. Habitat enhancements like these can make the area a more appealing place for native birds, insects, fish, beavers, and more.

Who is part of the project team? What experience do they bring to the project? Do they have any connection to the local area?

The McKenzie River Trust team includes Alayna DuPont, Land Protection Manager, and Joe Moll, Executive Director. Alayna and Joe both bring many years of experience in conservation land transactions, including large-scale, complex transactions with multiple owners. Alayna has been with MRT since January 2015, and Joe has been with the organization since 2005. Both are trail runners and avid outdoors-people. Although this is MRT’s first project in the Reedsport area, we do have other projects on the coast near Mapleton and Yachats.

The Partnership for the Umpqua Rivers team includes Matt Ruwaldt, Estuary Biologist, and Eric Riley, Executive Director. Matt and Eric have over 25 years combined experience in science-based conservation in communities in Oregon and beyond. Matt has been with PUR since 2009, and Eric has been with the organization since 2007. Matt and his family are Florence residents and Eric lives in Roseburg.

I have more questions about this project. Who should I call?

  • Alayna DuPont Land Protection Manager, McKenzie River Trust: (541) 345-2799 or alayna@mckenzieriver.org
  • Matt Ruwaldt Estuary Biologist, Partnership for the Umpqua Rivers: (541) 662-0049 or mruwaldt@gmail.com

   

#GivingTuesday Resources

#GivingTuesday downloads

Want to help spread the word on #GivingTuesday? Here are some graphics you can share on social media and email to your friends.

Click here to read the story of Julia and Hugo.

 

 

 

#GivingTuesday

Julia looked around cautiously.

The sun gleamed over the hilltop above the Coyote Spencer Wetlands. It looked safe. But Julia was wary; she knew there were people nearby.

Julia reared up and sniffed the air, balancing her 170 pounds of flesh and fur carefully atop her muscular hind legs. She dug her claws into the dirt, and slowly turned east, then west. She tilted her ears to the wind, listening for anything that might seem out of place. A red-tailed hawk circled above, calling kee-eeee-ar! A song sparrow flitted from an ash tree to a snowberry bush.

With a quiet grunt and a determined look, Julia signaled to Hugo. It was okay to come out of the woods now. The grove of oak and ash trees had been a great place for them to spend the last few hours, the warmest part of the day. In the shade of the big trees, in the grass, mama bear and her cub, taking a nap. This was a place they came back to, just about every day.

Hugo careened out of the woods. He was too little to understand the danger. Julia knew she would have to watch him closely. A little bear like Hugo could get into a lot of trouble. But luckily, they had found a terrific place to spend the fall.

This #GivingTuesday, you can protect their home…

In the photos up above, you can see just who we’ve been talking about: two bears, a mama and baby who we’re calling Julia and Hugo. They were caught on one of our wildlife cams this fall.

Thanks to people like you, the place that Julia and Hugo found is protected.

With the support of our generous members, we bought it two years ago and have been protecting it for the bears, the hawks, the sparrows, oak trees, praying mantises, and so much more.

Without people like you – people who care about these incredible wetlands – places like these and the refuge they provide will be less and less common each year.

You are the reason Julia and Hugo can find food and shelter on the Coyote Spencer Wetlands, a preserve just five miles from Eugene!

What will your #GivingTuesday donation do?

With your gift today to the McKenzie River Trust, you help us provide a home for Julia and Hugo on this protected land.

And you help us get out there to protect the next one.

Will you give $50 now to offer Julia and Hugo a place to rest, to grow, and to thrive?

You can also call our office to give over the phone: 541-345-2799.

Your $50 gift today will leverage over $1 million in grant funding in 2015. You help us protect and restore wetlands, prairies, forests, and riverbanks from the Cascade mountains to the Oregon coast.

We need your support on this #GivingTuesday. Help us raise $3,000 by midnight so we can get out there to protect and care for the special places where Julia and Hugo live.

Will you please contribute $50 or more today?

To learn more about the Coyote Spencer Wetlands, click here.

What is #GivingTuesday?

Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday is December 2 this year.

Here’s the idea, from the #GivingTuesday website: “We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.”

So on behalf of the McKenzie River Trust, on December 2nd you’re invited to give to your favorite causes, to share how you give with your friends, and to join a global and local community of givers. Our goal is to raise at least $3,000 on December 2nd. Help us make it happen!

On #GivingTuesday, download this graphic and share it with your friends on social media to help protect Julie and Hugo’s home!

Click here for more downloadable graphics to share on social media.

We need your comments

McKenzie River Trust Land Trust Accreditation Renewal

Open for Public Comment until November 21, 2014

Did you know that land trusts can become accredited, just like colleges and universities? Accreditation recognizes land conservation organizations that meet national standards for excellence, uphold the public trust, and ensure that conservation efforts are permanent. Accredited land trusts meet national quality standards for protecting important natural places and working lands forever.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is the organization that certifies accredited land trusts. The McKenzie River Trust first earned accreditation in March, 2010, and we are now applying for renewal of accreditation. A public comment period is now open on our renewal application. As part of this process, the Commission is conducting an extensive review of our policies and programs.

We need your comments!

The Commission invites public input and accepts signed, written comments on pending applications. Comments must relate to how McKenzie River Trust complies with national quality standards. These standards address the ethical and technical operation of a land trust. Click here to learn more about these standards.

To learn more about the accreditation program, click here. You can submit your comment online, or email it to info@landtrustaccreditation.org.

Comments may also be faxed or mailed to:

Land Trust Accreditation Commission, Attn: Public Comments
36 Phila Street, Suite 2
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.
(fax) 518-587-3183

Comments on McKenzie River Trust’s application will be most useful by November 21, 2014

Thanks to you, wetlands are protected!

Wetlands and oaks near Fern Ridge will be a home to wildlife and fish, forever.

The Coyote Oaks Conservation Easement permanently protects 152 acres of wetlands and oaks just north of Fern Ridge Reservoir in the Long Tom River Watershed. Photo by Tim Giraudier.

There’s a tucked away spot just north of Fern Ridge Reservoir where – just about any time of year – you can hear the loud waka-waka-waka of an acorn woodpecker. Huge expanses of wetlands and oak trees thrive here. And thanks to the foresight of a restoration-conscious landowner and the support of the Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and people like you, this place will be protected forever.

The Coyote Oaks Conservation Easement was signed in September, and with that, 152 acres of forested wetlands and marsh are protected from future development and commercial use.

The land is owned by longtime Eugene residents and MRT supporters Art and Anita Johnson. Mr. Johnson has completed numerous projects to enhance wetland and oak woodland habitat on the Coyote Oaks property. He’s won awards for his land stewardship on this property and others.

Strong partners

Meaningful partnerships play a role in the project, too. The Long Tom Watershed Council, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Army Corps of Engineers all have a presence in the neighborhood, working towards a vision for a 1,200-acre natural area surrounding the property. When you get to that scale, you can amplify the benefits of conserving a single parcel. Partners helped identify the Coyote Oaks property as a conservation priority due to its extremely high-quality wetland and oak habitat.

Nootka rose is one of many native plants growing on the Coyote Oaks Conservation Easement. Photo by Tim Giraudier.

This rare habitat means that there is exceptional ecological diversity on the property. Bradshaw’s lomatium, red-legged frog, cutthroat trout, slender-billed nuthatch, yellow-breasted chat, and western bluebird have all been spotted here. It’s not unusual to see signs of elk, bobcat, black bear, and river otter.

Ownership in the area is a mix of public and private land, with federal agencies managing over 700 acres and private landowners committing to permanent land protection on 260 acres through easements held by MRT. The Johnsons now join them.

Funding for land protection

The Bonneville Power Administration and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provided funding for the project through the Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program, with additional support from individual donors like you. The grant to purchase the Conservation Easement was awarded through a competitive application process. The Coyote Oaks project was the second highest ranked project for the Willamette Valley in 2014, showing the importance of this investment for land conservation in our region.

The Willamette Wildlife Habitat Agreement, which created the grant program that funded the acquisition, was signed in October of 2010 between BPA and the state of Oregon. This 15-year agreement provides stable funding for wildlife habitat acquisitions for more than 26,000 acres in the Willamette Valley to offset the impacts of federal dams on the Willamette River and its tributaries, as required by the Northwest Power Act.

Flushing for fish

Restoration of the former Coburg Aggregate gravel pits on Green Island is all about working with the water we have.

If you ask Chris Vogel, the $1 million restoration project happening this summer on Green Island is all about flushing.

Wildish Construction Company crews moved over 110,000 cubic yards of gravel to create habitat for fish at the Coburg Aggregate Reclamation Project on Green Island. Photo by River Design Group.

“We’ll be working with the same amount of water we used to get on site,” says Chris, who has been Green Island‘s restoration Project Manager for six years. “It’s just where it goes and how and how long it stays that’s different.”

Flushing is simple: in a healthy river system, you’ve got water in, and water out. When a side channel fills up and then empties out, at least a couple times a year during high water events, the river flushes any ponded water and the critters living in it down the channel. In a natural area, this flushing provides a huge range of benefits for fish and wildlife.

The CARP site is in an active side channel of the Willamette River. We call this area the historic McKenzie River channel, because the main channel of the McKenzie River flowed right through here before the big 1964 floods which moved the McKenzie-Willamette confluence to where it is today, just south of Green Island. The channel has water year round, even more in the winter.

But it’s far from a natural area.

An altered landscape

CARP stands for Coburg Aggregate Reclamation Project. Until the McKenzie River Trust purchased this 56-acre parcel in 2010, the site was mined for sand and gravel. And that created steep gravel pits with few places for native plants to take hold.

“Before restoration, when that historic McKenzie River channel filled up, it would overtop into the pits. Lots of fish – both native and non-native – would get trapped until the next high flow,” says Chris.

In other words: no flushing.

The fish didn’t have a way to escape back into the channel as the water dropped. So, stranded, the fish lived their lives in the pits. “More frequent flushing will get them out,” says Chris.

Restoration solutions

The solution is to use heavy construction equipment to grade the slopes to a more natural rise of one foot up for every ten feet out. And that’s exactly what we did this summer at CARP, hiring the Wildish Construction Company to move 125,000 cubic yards of gravel to create those slopes and the right entry and exit points for the ponds to be much friendlier to native Willamette spring Chinook salmon, Oregon chub, and other fish and wildlife.

A new side-channel bypasses gravel ponds at the Coburg Aggregate Reclamation Project on Green Island, allowing fish to go around the pits in high water events and continue on down the Willamette River system. Photo by Raptorviews by Philip Bayles.

This winter, we’ll plant thousands of willows and other native trees and shrubs along the pond edges. As the plants grow up, they’ll offer fish plenty of places to hide from predators.

The next time the water rises, we’ll see on the ground how all this work makes a difference for salmon.

“We’re always looking for ways to give life to the river,” says Joe Moll, Executive Director of MRT. “This is one of the best investments we can make to do that.”

Special thanks

The Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and Meyer Memorial Trust’s Willamette Special Investment Partnership provided funding for CARP restoration. Additional funds were provided by The Nature Conservancy Portland General Electric Habitat Support program, and individual donors like you.