‘Safe Harbors’ for native fish

This is part of a series about the MRT members who have played a part in the incredible comeback of Oregon chub. In the coming days and weeks, we’ll share more stories of MRT members who aided the recovery.

Gail and Eric Haws

“The chub seems like such an insignificant little creature,” MRT member Gail Haws noted from her home along the Middle Fork of the Willamette River near Oakridge. But her family’s work to protect it has had a huge impact.

Gail and her husband Eric were among the first landowners to sign a Safe Harbor Agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009. Through the agreement, the Haws family committed to protecting Oregon chub found in their ponds.

Researcher Brian Bangs from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife helps coordinate the Safe Harbor program for Oregon chub in the Willamette Valley.

The Safe Harbor program started in the early 2000s. The program allowed private landowners to take on voluntary conservation measures on behalf of Oregon chub on their properties. This allowed agency staff to work in partnership with private landowners to manage endangered species on private property as well as public land. For species native to the Willamette Valley, where land is 96% privately owned, that’s critical.

“It’s been staggering to watch a community grow around this two inch minnow,” says researcher Brian Bangs. “There was a word of mouth to it. People begin seeing what one landowner is doing and saying, ‘Well, this is really neat. What can I do? How can I get involved, too?’”

Oregon chub makes a comeback

Because of members like you, an Oregon native makes a comeback

It was the early 1990s. Like many of our native fishes, the Oregon chub was in trouble.

Chub lived their lives in the moist backwater channels and sloughs of the Willamette Valley’s lush rivers and streams. But those streams had fewer and fewer rich habitat areas for the chub to thrive. Braided rivers with plentiful meanders, oxbows, and diverse floodplains that had once blanketed the Willamette Valley were now largely developed or cut off from the river.

In 1993, with only 1,000 known Oregon chub remaining, the fish was listed as endangered.

This was the start of a huge group effort to recover Oregon chub, a native species that went from imperiled to healthy in just 22 years.

Member stories

Together with our members, MRT has played an important part in the comeback of Oregon chub. Because of support from people like you, we’ve protected places for chub to grow and thrive, six places on the Lower McKenzie River.

In the coming days and weeks, we’ll share a few stories of MRT members who aided the recovery.

George Grier and Cynthia Pappas
Art and Anita Johnson
Gail and Eric Haws

 

Places our members have helped protect

Press Release: Living River Celebration

For Immediate Release

Contact: Liz Lawrence
Director of Resources
llawrence@mckenzieriver.org
541-345-2799

McKenzie River Trust Hosts Living River Event
Celebrating Green Island Conservation

EUGENE, Ore. (June 19, 2014) – On Saturday, June 28, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the McKenzie River Trust will celebrate 11 years of land and water conservation on Green Island with a free and family-friendly event. The McKenzie River Trust invites families, friends, and nature lovers to enjoy the conserved land and water at the Living River Celebration.

Visitors will enjoy birdsong and live music, freshwater and cold beverages, all while exploring 1,100 acres of rolling floodplain that grow wilder by the day. Activities include tree climbing, guided tours, birding, picnicking, self-guided walks and runs, canoeing, Ninkasi beer, a musical performance by guitarist Don Latarski, and more than a dozen booths from local conservation organizations. New this year, writers and others will offer walking tours and free workshops for nature lovers to get in tune with their senses and better appreciate the land.

Green Island is located west of Coburg, Oregon where the Willamette and McKenzie Rivers come together. Green Island is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Eugene or Springfield. Parking on the property is limited, so carpooling is encouraged.

For more details about this event, including a full schedule of activities and directions, visit mckenzieriver.org/events/living-river/.

About the McKenzie River Trust
The McKenzie River Trust is a nonprofit land trust that was formed in 1989 to conserve and care for special lands and the rivers that flow through them in western Oregon. For 25 years, McKenzie River Trust has worked with landowners and diverse partnerships to protect, forever, nearly 4,000 acres of special lands in western Oregon. The McKenzie River Trust is committed to a future in which intact, functioning ecosystems provide clean water, abundant fish and wildlife, and productive natural landscapes throughout western Oregon. To learn more about McKenzie River Trust, visit mckenzieriver.org.

About the Living River events
The Living River event, now in its sixth year, is the McKenzie River Trust’s annual event to connect our community to the unique landscapes that surround us in Oregon – where we all live, work, and play. Living River events benefit the McKenzie River Trust’s mission. Last year’s Living River Celebration was the first to be held on Green Island. Over 800 people joined us to walk, bird, paddle, climb, picnic, and explore this special place. To see pictures of last year’s celebration, visit http://on.fb.me/1nhTN0G.

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Oregon chub makes history

Landowner-Nonprofit Partnerships Aid in Recovery of Oregon Chub

Small minnow native to the Willamette Valley is the first fish proposed for removal from the Endangered Species List due to recovery

Nonprofits and private landowners have played an important role in the historic recovery of Oregon chub, a small minnow native to the Willamette Valley. On February 4, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to remove the Oregon chub from the Endangered Species List due to its recovery. If finalized, it would be the first fish to be delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act.

Robyn Thorson, Regional Director of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, announces the proposed delisting of Oregon chub from the Endangered Species Act on February 4, 2014. Behind her stand biologists Brian Bangs and Paul Sheerer of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife who have spent their careers helping to conserve and protect this native minnow that is found only in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
The historic announcement was made from the Berggren Watershed Conservation Area, a 92-acre property owned by the McKenzie River Trust (MRT). MRT is a land trust formed in 1989 to protect clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, and productive natural lands in western Oregon. The Berggren property was selected for the announcement because it contains a natural population of Oregon chub that has been growing over the past few years within some of the best side channel and floodplain forest habitat found on the lower McKenzie River. Since 2001, MRT has worked with private landowners to permanently protect habitat for chub and other species on six properties on this stretch of the river. These linked conservation areas help ensure that as the river continues to meander and change, there will always be suitable habitats for chub and other aquatic species.

“Protecting and caring for healthy habitat across the floodplain has been a key to chub recovery,” said Joe Moll, Executive Director of the McKenzie River Trust. “Here in Oregon, we live, work, and play among living rivers. We are proud to be a part of a partnership that has helped this native fish make a comeback. It is good news not only for chub, but for everything that depends on clean water and a healthy river. And that’s all of us.”

Chub ecology

More than 70 people attended the historic announcement, which was hosted on the Berggren Watershed Conservation Area, a 92-acre property owned by the McKenzie River Trust. The property is home to a natural population of chub as well as an active farm called the Berggren Demonstration Farm.
The chub is a small minnow existing only in the Willamette River Basin in floodplain habitats with limited or seasonal water flow such as beaver ponds, side channels and flooded marshes. These rare habitats generally have considerable aquatic vegetation to provide cover for hiding and spawning, and they are also home to other species of concern such as Chinook salmon, Red-legged frogs, and Western pond turtles.

Oregon chub were listed as endangered in 1993 under the Endangered Species Act and reclassified as threatened in 2009. If delisting is finalized, the fish will have gone from endangered to recovered in just over 20 years.

A home for chub

A private landowner sold the Berggren property to MRT in 2010. The purchase was supported by grant funding from the Bonneville Power Administration’s Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program, the McKenzie Watershed Council and the Eugene Water and Electric Board. The property contains about 60 acres of riparian habitat next to 30 acres of farmland managed by Cascade Pacific Resource Conservation and Development as the Berggren Demonstration Farm. The Farm is supported by EWEB’s Healthy Farms Clean Water program.

“We use ecologically appropriate farming practices so that we don’t harm species like chub,” said Jared Pruch, Coordinator for the Berggren Demonstration Farm. “We’re proud to partner with the McKenzie River Trust, McKenzie Watershed Council, EWEB, and others to build a strong local food system and engage the community to learn how to farm in a way that supports our native habitats.”

“What’s unique and exciting about the Berggren property is the opportunity to integrate restoration and education within the context of a collaborative partnership with the Trust, Farm and local schools,” said Jared Weybright, Project Manager for the McKenzie Watershed Council and coordinator of much of the restoration happening on the Berggren property. “Students participate through active involvement in tree planting and monitoring both the progress of the restoration work and natural conditions throughout the property.”

Diverse partnerships lead to success

The McKenzie River Trust has worked closely with biologists from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to monitor populations of Oregon chub on six properties owned by MRT on the McKenzie River. MRT and other nonprofits have also worked to enhance habitat for chub on these properties, with benefits for other aquatic species such as Chinook salmon, Western pond turtles, Red-legged frogs, and more.
Partnerships have been the foundation of the Oregon chub’s recovery, beginning with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s conservation planning efforts which led to the development of the species’ recovery plan. The McKenzie Watershed Council, Long Tom Watershed Council, and Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council have helped coordinate many private landowners who have contributed to the recovery of Oregon chub by managing habitats to support the fish on their lands. In some cases, private landowners have also created habitat to support introductions of the species on their property. Other key partners include Lane County, which owns parkland adjacent to the Berggren property that is home to several natural chub populations, and the Meyer Memorial Trust, which has catalyzed habitat conservation efforts basin-wide through the Willamette River Initiative. Many public agencies also manage habitats that support Oregon chub populations.

The McKenzie Watershed Council regularly hosts field-based learning sessions on the Berggren Watershed Conservation Area. These Thurston Middle School students are planting trees on the Berggren property while learning about riparian habitats and the creatures that live there.
“Efforts to conserve Oregon chub have been collective in the Willamette Valley. This recovery clearly demonstrates how a listed species can make a comeback in a highly populated, working landscape,” said Paul Scheerer, Oregon Chub Recovery Project Leader for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now has up to one year to determine whether the proposal should become final. The Service will open a 60-day public comment period to allow the public to review and comment on the proposal and provide additional information. The final decision whether or not to delist the Oregon chub will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available.

In the meantime, groups like the McKenzie River Trust, McKenzie Watershed Council, and Cascade Pacific Resource Conservation and Development will continue to coordinate with biologists from state and federal agencies to track chub populations and protect and restore habitat for the many creatures that benefit from healthy natural lands.

Restoration Progress on Green Island

Big Earth Works for Little Fish

Restoration on Green Island

Green Island low water crossing construction, photo by Chris vogel
The downstream run for a juvenile Chinook salmon can be a gauntlet. Flushed from mountain headwaters, they ride high winter flows with logs and stones, avoiding predators, looking for food, seeking to grow before heading out to the ocean. Floodplains and side channels can provide a bounty and a respite, but as waters drop young fish can also be cut off and isolated, trapped in pools and then puddles that warm and make them vulnerable to hungry birds, bull frogs and non-native bass.

This fall on Green Island we brought in the heavy equipment – dump trucks, backhoes, loaders, and even cranes – to provide safer passage for such small fry.

What you’ll see

The next time you cross the old McKenzie channel or “the neck” near the property’s center, you’ll see the results of three major earthworks that will make it easier for young salmon to get in and to get out of the site. The low water crossing, our road access across the historic McKenzie River channel onto the property, has been completely retrofitted with a concrete span engineered to withstand significant winter flooding. Crews have also been hard at work on a side channel of the Willamette River, placing massive logs and root-wads there, creating pools that are perfect for young salmon. And a culvert thirteen feet in diameter will help connect side channels of the mainstem Willamette to the historic McKenzie channel for longer seasonal stretches.

Why are we doing it?

These changes will provide more frequent floodplain connections, better passage for fish through the area, and better places for native fish and wildlife to thrive. The project brought more than $270,000 for local restoration contractors, including R.L. Reimers Company of Albany and the Corvallis-based River Design Group. Grants from the Bonneville Power Administration Willamette Biological Opinion Habitat Technical Team and Natural Resources Conservation Service are funding the work.

In the coming years, we expect to be carrying out similar work around the CARP ponds – the gravel mining site that we added to Green Island in 2010 – so look forward to more big equipment and earth moving on behalf of some tiny little fish.

McMenamins Friends and Family Night

Tuesday, September 24 from 5-11pm

McMenamins North Bank – 22 Club Road in Eugene
Live music by Neil Bjorklund and Friends at 8pm

Join us for dinner, brew, and live music at McMenamins North Bank, 22 Club Road in Eugene, on Tuesday, September 24th. 50% of all the night’s sales will be donated to the McKenzie River Trust! Bring your friends and family and join us for a wonderful evening along the Willamette River.

The McKenzie River Trust protects and cares for special lands and the rivers that flow through them in western Oregon. Working along the Willamette, the McKenzie, and throughout six other watersheds in our region, the McKenzie River Trust is committed to a future in which intact, functioning ecosystems provide clean water, abundant fish and wildlife, and productive natural landscapes throughout western Oregon. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to the McKenzie River Trust.

Living River Celebration Showcases Green Island

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 20, 2013

Contact: Liz Lawrence
Director of Resources, McKenzie River Trust
541-345-2799 or llawrence@mckenzieriver.org

McKenzie River Trust Invites the Community to Explore
10 Years of Habitat Conservation on Property Near Eugene

[EUGENE, ORE.] When you picture re-forestation in Oregon, you might imagine the cool mountains of the Cascades or Coast range. But a different kind of re-forestation has been steadily enhancing native habitat on the Willamette Valley floor for the past 8 years, much closer to Eugene than you may know. With the Living River Celebration: 10 Years on Green Island from 7am to 5pm on Saturday, June 29, the McKenzie River Trust invites the community to explore this special place just 15 minutes from downtown Eugene or Springfield.

Volunteers and local contractors have joined the McKenzie River Trust to plant more than 80,000 native trees and shrubs on Green Island since 2006 in an effort to restore the floodplain forest. Come see this special place during the Living River Celebration on Saturday, June 29 from 7am to 5pm. Photo by Tim Giraudier.

Directions to Green Island and the full day’s schedule of events can be found at http://37.60.251.229/~mckenzi9/events/living-river/.

Green Island is located at the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers just west of Coburg, OR. Since 2006, the McKenzie River Trust has been undertaking an ambitious habitat restoration project on the property, planting tens of thousands of trees, removing barriers to floodplain connectivity, and enhancing side channels of the Willamette and historic McKenzie rivers. The restoration has already provided benefits to Chinook salmon, Red-legged frogs, Western Meadowlarks, and many more native species.

Ten years ago, the McKenzie River Trust was able to purchase 865 acres of land from the Green family, who had a vision for a restored natural area on farmland that was subject to flooding. Funding for the purchase was provided by the Bonneville Power Administration and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program, Eugene Water and Electric Board, US Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Wetlands Conservation Act, and individual supporters of the Trust.

Green Island is located just west of Coburg, OR at the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette rivers. The property is about 15 minutes drive from downtown Eugene or Springfield. For directions visit: http://37.60.251.229/~mckenzi9/events/living-river/#directions

Today, the Green Island habitat complex measures nearly 1,100 acres thanks to additional land transactions that have expanded the conserved area.

The McKenzie River Trust frequently hosts small tours and volunteer events on the land, but for the Living River Celebration on Saturday, June 29, an array of offerings will greet visitors interested in nature. “Many people have helped us plant trees, pull weeds, and learn about this place over the last ten years,” says Joe Moll, McKenzie River Trust Executive Director. “While enjoying a walkabout, music, canoeing, tree climbing, and a picnic beside two of our community’s great rivers at the Living River Celebration, you can see some of the changes that have occurred thanks to that support, and help us
think about the next ten years of work to be done.”

The Living River Celebration is sponsored by Mountain Rose Herbs. The event is free and family friendly. Gates will open at 7am and close at 5pm. The full day of activities on the land includes:

  • Exploring nearly 7 miles of trails. Points of interest throughout the Island will tell the story of this special place where wildflowers bloom, salmon hide, turtles bask, and volunteers plant trees, restoring the floodplain forest.
  • Free guided walks all day. Choices include: early morning Bird Walks, an Ethnobotany Walk, two Green Island Restoration Tours, an Amphibian and Reptile Walk with Dr. Tom Titus, a Dragonfly & Damselfly Walk with Cary Kerst, a Nature Tour with Bruce Newhouse and Peg Boulay, and a Native Plant and Herb Walk with Mountain Rose Herbs.
  • Canoeing and Kayaking: Explore a bit of a historic McKenzie River channel on the water. Try paddling a canoe or kayak for free, offered by Oregon Paddle Sports.
  • Tree Climbing: Get a bird’s-eye view by climbing up into a cedar tree with the experts from the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute.
  • Music: The Blue McKenzie (11am-12pm) acoustic trio returns to Green Island. Then from 1-3pm, The Whiskey Chasers will bring their bluegrass-old-time-country, grassytonk-dance-stomp to the stage.
  • Oakshire Brewing will join in the celebration by serving their Watershed IPA. Through Oakshire’s 1% for Watersheds program, the brewery is donating 1% of all sales of Watershed IPA in the Southern Willamette Valley in 2013 to the McKenzie River Trust.
  • Food: Sammitch Food Cart will serve up their unique local fare. So Delicious Dairy Free will also be giving away frozen treats. Or you can bring your own picnic. You can also fill up your water bottle with fresh water from McKenzie Mist.
  • Booths: Learn about the history of Green Island, the work of the McKenzie River Trust, partner organizations and lots more at The Hub’s educational booths. Booths include: McKenzie River Trust; McKenzie Watershed Council; Long Tom Watershed Council; Siuslaw Watershed Council; Middle Fork Watershed Council; Mountain Rose Herbs; Eugene Water and Electric Board; Terra Tech; McKenzie River History with the University of Oregon Environmental Leadership Program and McKenzie River Mobile Museum; Hands-On Nature with David Walp’s amazing touch & feel mammal specimen collection; and Karma’s Forest Native Nursery with examples of the native plants used to restore Green Island’s habitat.

For more information about the Living River Celebration, visit: http://37.60.251.229/~mckenzi9/events/living-river/.

About the McKenzie River Trust:
The mission of the McKenzie River Trust (MRT) is to protect and care for special lands and the rivers the flow through them in western Oregon. Formed in 1989, MRT is committed to a future in which intact, functioning ecosystems provide clean water, abundant fish and wildlife, and productive natural landscapes throughout western Oregon. In the year 2000, MRT expanded its service area from a focus solely on the McKenzie watershed, the source of Eugene and Springfield’s drinking water. Today, MRT works in the watersheds of the McKenzie, Long Tom, Upper Willamette, Coast and Middle Forks of the Willamette, Umpqua, Siuslaw, and coastal streams and lakes from Reedsport to Yachats. Throughout its history, MRT has worked with landowners and diverse partnerships to protect, forever, over 3,650 acres of special lands in western Oregon. Green Island, a 1,100-acre property at the confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette rivers, is MRT’s largest protected property.

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From Blackberries to Native Trees

Floodplain Restoration Continues on Green Island

Contractors have been hard at work on the south end of Green Island this month. Bulldozers, excavators, and large trucks removed four berms that limited the flow of high water onto the interior of the property. Within years, native grasses, incense cedar, Douglas fir, and ponderosa pine will fill an area that was once covered in blackberry vines and reed canary grass.

MRT is undertaking this work on the higher floodplain near side channels and sloughs of the Willamette River to allow for seasonal connections that have been prevented by these berms.

Before and after views of an area where 4-foot tall berms were removed on Green Island. The berms were covered in blackberry vines and reed canary grass, and their removal makes way for planting native grasses and trees.

Active floodplains can provide many benefits to people, fish and wildlife, and they’re key to maintaining the qualities that define our Oregon landscapes. Floodplains clean water by filtering it through many layers of gravel and sediment, and they can buffer flooding impacts on downstream areas.

Floodplain side channels and sloughs also create spawning and rearing habitat for endangered salmon. Studies on Green Island completed by Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife show that Oregon chub, Chinook salmon, and other native fish use these channels throughout many phases of their lifecycles. Floodplain forests, once abundant along the Willamette River, also harbor sensitive birds, amphibians such as red legged-frogs, and reptiles like western pond turtles.

Since 2005, MRT has been working to re-establish floodplain forest habitat for fish and wildlife by removing man-made obstructions and planting over 300 acres of Green Island with native trees, shrubs, and grasses. Local farmers, hundreds of volunteers, and dozens of local contractors have been involved in restoration efforts on the 1,000+ acre property just downstream of the confluence of the McKenzie and the Willamette rivers.

The berms removed this month were originally built 20-40 years ago to reduce flooding on farm fields. The 3,500 cubic yards of sandy loam dirt that was removed will be reused in the Coburg Aggregate Reclamation Project (CARP). The former gravel mines at CARP along the eastern edge of Green Island will also be restored to native habitat in the coming years.

In recent years, habitat restoration projects at Green Island have been supported by grants from the Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Meyer Memorial Trust. Individual donations also support our restoration efforts at Green Island and on the other properties we protect throughout western Oregon.  For more information about Green Island, visit: http://37.60.251.229/~mckenzi9/protected-lands/owned-properties/green-island

Willamette Weed Removal Project is Underway

McKenzie River Trust is a Key Partner in the Effort to Remove Ivy Infestations

As people from Eugene/Springfield take to the Willamette River on hot afternoons this summer, they might get a glimpse at an innovative partnership that’s cleaning up some familiar Lane County boat landings and private lands.

Six non-profit organizations and public agencies are working together to remove key infestations of invasive English ivy and other weeds, and the results may be noticeable to area boaters, anglers, and those enjoying a swim or float down the river.

Crews from the Northwest Youth Corps are at the center of the weed removal efforts along the Willamette this month. High school students, led by trained crew leaders, are pulling and digging out ivy on Hileman Landing County Park and several state parks including Christensen’s Boat Ramp, Marshall Island Boat Ramp, and Beacon Landing. The crews are also working on Green Island, owned by the McKenzie River Trust, and other private lands nearby.

“English ivy is present throughout the Willamette River corridor, and it is contributing to the loss of floodplain forest by smothering native ground vegetation and choking trees,” said Nicole Nielsen-Pincus, Willamette Program Manager for the McKenzie River Trust and a coordinator of the multi-partner effort. “We’re lucky to have a great river to enjoy right in our backyard, and the areas of floodplain forest and back water channels provide essential habitat for native Chinook salmon, western pond turtles, migratory birds and other species of concern. That’s why these conservation efforts are so important.”

Due to disturbances from flood events and recreational use of waterways, river corridors are especially vulnerable to the establishment of ivy and other weeds. Rivers such as the Willamette are a pathway for the spread of weeds, making early detection and response essential.

A grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through the Oregon Governor’s Fund for the Environment is providing funding for the six partners to do outreach and education and offer technical assistance to 16 public and private landowners. Funding was also provided by the Oregon Department of State Lands and Lane County. The Long Tom Watershed Council and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department are providing technical support and on-the-ground assistance. The total project will cost about $52,000.

“This is a great partnership that brings together not only diverse organizations, but also private citizens and local youth,” said Scott Youngblood, a Park Ranger with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and another project leader. “The result of this work will be immediately noticeable to recreational users of these river front properties.”

Along with ivy, other weeds that will be targeted for removal include purple loosestrife, Japanese knotweed, and traveler’s joy.  “The target species in this project are capable of dramatic growth, and their removal will both benefit floodplain habitat and increase the scenic qualities Oregonians have come to love along the Willamette River,” Youngblood said.

The partnership intends to continue on-the-ground work through 2013, with the Long Tom Watershed Council and McKenzie River Trust doing outreach to private landowners to identify additional project sites this year. Willamette River landowners with a significant invasion of invasive species who would like to learn more about the project are invited to call Nicole Nielsen-Pincus, Willamette Program Manager with the McKenzie River Trust at 541-345-2799.

An article about these efforts appeared in the August 2, 2012 issue of the Register-Guard newspaper. Read the article.

Grant awards support land conservation throughout the region

The McKenzie River Trust's 216-acre Waite Ranch on the Lower Siuslaw River between Florence and Mapleton will be the site of future tidal wetland restoration. Photo by Tim Giraudier.

Four recent grants secured by the McKenzie River Trust will support the next phase of our conservation efforts in the Upper Willamette and Siuslaw watersheds.

In the Upper Willamette, grants from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Meyer Memorial Trust support our continued work with landowners along the Mainstem of the Willamette River and its tributaries, including the Coast and Middle Forks of the Willamette, the Long Tom and the Lower McKenzie.

Willamette Program Manager Nicole Nielsen-Pincus will lead the McKenzie River Trust's role in the Willamette Stewardship Project partnership, which will work to remove invasive weeds on public and private land on the mainstem of the Willamette River this summer. The project was funded in part by a grant from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through the Oregon Governor's Fund for the Environment.

A National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Grant of $24,989 through the Oregon Governor’s Fund for the Environment offers support for a group of partners, including MRT, to remove invasive weeds that threaten floodplain habitats along the Willamette. Nonprofit and public agencies including MRT, the Long Tom Watershed Council, Lane County, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the Northwest Youth Corps, and the Oregon Department of State Lands will work with both private and public landowners to map and remove highly invasive Japanese knotweed, English ivy, traveler’s joy, and purple loosestrife along the river. Youth crews will learn valuable job and life skills while accomplishing habitat restoration when they work on Green Island and neighboring properties this summer. We’ll keep you updated on the weed removal progress by posting photos on our Facebook page.

A 2-year, $133,000 grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust’s Willamette River Initiative provides support for MRT staff to continue to get out the door and talk with private landowners about conservation and stewardship opportunities on their properties. The funds also support ongoing work at Green Island, which will enter its 9th year of restoration in 2013. The Willamette River Initiative website provides more details.

The McKenzie River Trust also received two grants to support tidal wetland restoration in the Siuslaw River Estuary. Awards from the Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) will support the next steps toward re-developing an intact tidal estuary on the McKenzie River Trust’s Waite Ranch property between Florence and Mapleton.

Ecotrust, a Portland-based nonprofit, awarded a $61,750 grant to MRT as part of a multi-partner program called the Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative (WWRI). The grant will fund the removal of aging infrastructure and decommissioning of septic tanks on the 216-acre Waite Ranch property.

A $75,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s NAWCA program will support the engineering analysis of Waite Ranch, which will inform the restoration design. This work paves the way for the re-establishment of tidal flow and productive wetlands on the property.

We expect that the long-term restoration efforts of the Waite Ranch Tidal Wetland Restoration project partners, including MRT and the Siuslaw Watershed Council, will yield approximately 211 acres of restored tidal estuary habitat and ten miles of tidal channels. This work benefits native fish like coastal coho and Chinook salmon and steelhead, and many other sensitive birds and wildlife species. The work also helps further the WWRI goal of providing local jobs and benefits to the local community as the restoration effort proceeds.

Thank you to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, Ecotrust, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s NAWCA program for supporting the McKenzie River Trust in our efforts to protect and enhance productive natural landscapes throughout western Oregon.