Thankful for… you!

Giving Thanks

A few reasons why we are thankful this season…

Joe Moll, Executive Director
I’m thankful for waterfowl at sunrise, fresh blueberries for a mid-morning snack, an afternoon nap beneath gold quaking aspen, an evening hatch on the river, and an owl’s call at lights-out, each and every day.

Charlie Ward, Board President
I am most thankful this year and throughout my long association with MRT for the collaborative approach this organization takes to accomplish its work. People from varied backgrounds, income levels, and political views working together to move us to a more sustainable landscape. How refreshing on the heals of this election season!

Jodi Lemmer, Land Steward
My job involves land restoration, care, respect for, and continued maintenance, of our conserved lands. I’m thankful that every day I get to interact with these special lands and the very special people who share this stewardship ethic and help us carry out our mission.

Ryan Ruggiero, Land Protection Manager
Landowners who are dedicated to their land and its future compel me to bring my best effort to my work each day. I am continually inspired that they can look both backward and forward and consider the legacy they want to leave for both past and future generations. It is truly humbling to be a part of something with such endurance.

Chris Vogel, Green Island Project Manager
The Willamette Valley floodplain is always active. I am thankful to work in a setting where I regularly witness gravel bar formations, seasonal flooding, and migrations of fish and wildlife. Green Island looks different to me every time I set foot on the ground, and MRT continues to grow our support and partnerships. Together, we have great opportunities to strengthen the Green Island project.

Brandi Ferguson, Development Manager
From volunteers to local businesses, from fly fisherman to birders, colleagues and partners to our very committed supporters – when I come to work each day I am surrounded by a community of individuals who inspire me. People that are passionate about the same things I am, helping to preserve the remarkable landscapes and waterways that surround us. I was born here. I used to take living here for granted, but I have come to realize how fortunate I truly am.

Liz Lawrence, Director of Resources
As I bike to work each day beside the rushing waters of our valley’s namesake river, I’m often reminded that we live in one of the most amazing places on the planet. I’m grateful to all of you who join us on the ground to see firsthand how your donations help protect the lands and waters that nourish our communities.

Nicole Nielsen-Pincus, Willamette Program Manager
I am continually moved by the dedication and land ethic of the private landowners we get to work with at the McKenzie River Trust. I am so thankful for the trust and relationships we have formed with these unique people.

Dane Moeggenberg, Stewardship Technician
I am thankful that there is an organization devoted to the protection of lands and rivers in Western Oregon. I am thankful that I am physically able to perform my stewardship duties. I am thankful for the people that I work with, the knowledge I am gaining, and the network of support in the area.

Most of all, we are thankful for you!

Your support is critical to protect and care for special lands in our region.

If you are on our mailing list, you will soon receive a letter asking for your donation. Inside the envelope, you will also find a small token of our appreciation. To provide a head-start to our year-end fundraising campaign, you can GIVE NOW through our secure online server.

We are thankful to have supporters who are so committed to our local land conservation work. We couldn’t do it without you. Thank you!

Landowners donate 91-acre forest easement

"Our vision for Woodpecker Ridge is not to have it just be a wild refuge," says landowner Max Gessert, who recently worked with his wife Kate to donate a conservation easement to the McKenzie River Trust. "We also want the forest to be a place where humans can be part of the land."

As you walk through the forest and farmland protected in the Woodpecker Ridge Conservation Easement near Crow, mature conifer trees tower above while your feet squish into the rich floodplain of Trout Creek. Passing tall oak groves, you reach a small wetland. A flock of sheep grazes in the farm fields. It’s easy to see why Kate and Max Gessert wanted to protect this special place.

Kate, an English as a Second Language teacher at Lane Community College, and Max, an artist and writer, donated a 91-acre conservation easement to the McKenzie River Trust in May. Grant funds from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Wetlands Conservation Act helped pay for some of the transaction expenses.

Landowners Kate and Max Gessert.

After living on 20 acres of the property for a few years, the Gesserts learned that the second-growth forest next door was owned by a timber company and about to be cut, so they bought it. “We first talked with the McKenzie River Trust about an easement about 10 years ago,” says Max. “We wanted to protect the land, but there were some staff changes and it was easy to put off. Many years went by. Then I was diagnosed with cancer, and suddenly, all kinds of issues became foregrounded. We began thinking about lots of things we had considered before that hadn’t been finished.”

Red-legged frogs, pileated woodpeckers, yellow-breasted chat and other sensitive fish and wildlife species are likely to benefit from the land’s protection. In keeping with the Gesserts’ Forest Stewardship Certification of the land, the easement allows for limited, sustainable forest harvest.

Nicole Nielsen-Pincus, MRT’s Willamette Program Manager, emphasizes that customized legal agreements can meet landowner needs while protecting critical habitat. “In working with Kate and Max to develop this easement, I learned how much this forest means to them,” says Nicole. “Conservation easements are as unique as the landscapes they protect, and we’re grateful that future wildlife and people will coexist on Woodpecker Ridge and be protected.”

Here at the McKenzie River Trust, we are also grateful to you, our supporters, for your help in bringing conservation agreements like this one to life.

“There are many ways we all try to take care of the world,” says Kate. “But it’s hard to know which ones will work. This seemed like something effective we could do.”

Railroad Island Now Protected!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 3, 2012

Contacts: Nicole Nielsen-Pincus, Willamette Program Manager: nicole (at) mckenzieriver.org
Liz Lawrence, Operations Manager: llawrence (at) mckenzieriver.org
541-345-2799

McKenzie River Trust Protects Railroad Island

Land Trust Purchases 63-Acre Island in the Willamette River Near Harrisburg

Railroad Island, a 63-acre dynamic floodplain property in the Willamette River south of Harrisburg recently purchased by the McKenzie River Trust. Accessible only by boat, the Island is blanketed with cottonwood and ash forest, gravel bars, and backchannel sloughs, making it prime habitat for native fish and wildlife. Photo by Raptorviews by Philip Bayles: psb@efn.org.

(EUGENE, OR) Landowners Wayne and Pam Swango have sold a 63-acre island in the Willamette River south of Harrisburg to the nonprofit McKenzie River Trust (MRT). The land trust’s purchase of the property, now called Railroad Island, protects critical fish and wildlife habitat along a dynamic stretch of the Willamette.

Landowners Wayne and Pam Swango have roots in the area going back to the 1800s.

“Living along the river can sometimes be a challenge,” Wayne Swango says, acknowledging the river’s impact on his daily life. “We’ve lost some sheep that were stranded in high water. And part of our property is eroding – the river gives and takes whatever it wants to.”

It was partly this recognition of the river as a powerful and occasionally unpredictable force that caused the Swangos, who have roots in the area going back to the 1800s, to sell the 63-acre island. The Swangos own, live on, and farm an additional 200 acres on the east side of the river.

Railroad Island, named after the railroad bridge that crosses the land’s downstream end, is exceptional habitat for native fish and wildlife. With a network of complex gravel bars, side channels, and sloughs on the mainstem Willamette, Railroad Island is a refuge for Chinook salmon, steelhead, and migratory birds. As a natural area, the Island can also absorb high flows and lessen the impact of floodwaters.

The purchase of Railroad Island extends MRT’s conservation lands in the upper Willamette River basin. The property is several miles downstream of Green Island, a 1,000+ acre complex of fish and wildlife habitat that MRT has been restoring since 2005. In recent years, partners across Oregon have worked together to promote conservation along the Willamette. The statewide focus on the river in our own backyard attracted the attention of the Meyer Memorial Trust, and they awarded MRT a grant for pre-acquisition costs through the Willamette River Initiative. The Bonneville Power Administration contributed the additional funds for MRT to buy Railroad Island.

“Bonneville Power Administration funding helps fulfill an agreement that the State of Oregon made in 2010 to protect nearly 17,000 acres of Willamette Basin wildlife habitat,” says Lorri Bodi, the Bonneville Power Administration’s Vice President for Environment, Fish and Wildlife. “The agreement dedicates stable funding from electric ratepayers for 15 years to safeguard Willamette habitat for native species, supporting state efforts to protect the Willamette Basin and fulfilling BPA’s responsibility under the Northwest Power Act to offset the impacts of federal flood control and hydropower dams.”

Land trust accomplishments are often measured in the number of acres protected. But for Railroad Island, that may not be the best way to gauge success. “Railroad Island is a place for fish and wildlife where the dynamic river can move around without causing harm or loss of livelihood,” says Nicole Nielsen-Pincus, MRT’s Willamette Program Manager. “Gravel bars and floodplain forests provide a buffer from where people are trying to live or farm. That’s part of what makes this such a great conservation project.”

With the addition of Railroad Island, the McKenzie River Trust now owns 1,827 acres of land in western Oregon and has permanently protected an additional 1,830 acres with conservation easements. The Eugene-based land trust was founded in 1989.

#####

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: https://www.mckenzieriver.org/protected-lands/owned-properties/green-island

Ties to the Land

Seminar Explores Conservation Easements in Succession Planning

Kate and Max Gessert, who protected their forest near the town of Crow with a conservation easement, will speak during the seminar about their experience working with the McKenzie River Trust to permanently protect their land.

Passing your family’s land on to the next generation is a process with financial, legal, and emotional dimensions. It’s an essential – but often overlooked – element of estate planning.

Oregon State University Extension Service and the McKenzie River Trust are offering a special session of the Ties to the Land succession planning program on Saturday, October 20 from 9am to 12pm to help families learn about conservation easements as an element of estate planning.

About the seminar

Willamette Program Manager Nicole Nielsen-Pincus will co-present a free seminar on conservation easements on Saturday, October 20.

Conservation easements are a valuable tool for landowners who would like to protect their land for future generations, and they can also be an important tool in helping landowners pass their land on to another generation. This 3 hour session will give a brief introduction to basic conceptual and legal underpinnings of easements, their scope, flexibility, and the types of organizations that hold conservation easements. Then, we will look at a local example with Nicole Nielsen-Pincus of the McKenzie River Trust. Nicole will discuss the McKenzie River Trust’s mission, the conservation opportunities the organization seeks, and how MRT works with private landowners to explore and establish an easement. Finally, local conservation easement landowners Kate and Max Gessert will share their thoughts on the process. We will conclude with a facilitated discussion.

Please join us for an informative presentation and engaging discussion about conservation easements and succession planning.

Details

When: Saturday, October 20 from 9 am to 12 pm
Where:
Willamalane Community Center, Heron Room, 250 S. 32nd St., Springfield, Oregon (just south of Main St. near ODF Eastern Lane)
Cost & Registration: This class if FREE, but pre-registration is required. To register, please email Jody Einerson (jody.einerson@oregonstate.edu) or call the Benton County Extension Office (541) 766-6750.

Restoration Makes Dollars and Cents

Enhancing habitat can help build the local economy

Ecotrust recently released a report – supported in part by NOAA – concluding that restoration projects in Oregon generated $977.5 million in economic activity and as many as 6,483 jobs between 2001 and 2010. For a local example, look no further than the McKenzie River Trust and Siuslaw Watershed Council‘s (SWC) Waite Ranch Tidal Wetland Restoration Project, located on the Siuslaw River near Mapleton.

MRT recently awarded a $22,000 contract to Leisure Excavating Inc., a local company based in Florence, for work on the Waite Ranch project. Leisure Excavating owner Gary Rose and his team are removing aging infrastructure on the property to make way for the re-establishment of 211 acres of tidal wetland habitat near Highway 126, important habitat for coastal coho, Chinook and chum salmon, steelhead, and sea-run cutthroat trout. The SWC has also received contracts and secured grant funding for the Waite Ranch project, enabling them to hire new project management staff and work with local and regional businesses.

Healthy estuary habitat is often described as a nursery for economically important fish and other marine creatures. Not only is local economic benefit being provided now through these contracts and the resulting jobs, but in the future, the Siuslaw and coastal recreational and commercial fishing industries could benefit from the habitat improvements.

The first few buildings have already come down.  You can learn more about Waite Ranch and track the latest developments by visiting: https://www.mckenzieriver.org/protected-lands/owned-properties/waite-ranch/

Thank you to the Waite Ranch Tidal Wetland Restoration Project funders:

  • NOAA Fisheries Service, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and Ecotrust – Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative
  • Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife – Restoration & Enhancement program
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service – North American Wetlands Conservation Act
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Oregon Governor’s Fund for the Environment
  • Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board – Technical Assistance grant program
  • Siuslaw Watershed Council
  • Individual supporters of the McKenzie River Trust and Siuslaw Watershed Council

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.

2011 Annual Report Available Now

Annual report highlights:

  • Ferguson Creek Conservation Easement established in the Long Tom Watershed – 62 acres of meandering streamside habitat protected.
  • $1.01 million in grants and contracts secured for land conservation projects by MRT staff.
  • Continued restoration on Green Island, including planting more than 5,300 native trees to restore the floodplain forest.
  • A 21% increase in the number of people who made a donation to MRT from 2010 to 2011.

Read the full report on our Annual Report page, or download a pdf (2 MB).

The health of our local communities is reflected in the health of the natural areas that surround us. Thank you for your donations to support land conservation in western Oregon!

If you have any questions about our Annual Report, please contact our office at 541-345-2799.

Connect With the Land

Guided tours and volunteer days on the land are a great way to explore new places and connect with the special lands your donations help to protect. We hope to see you at one of our upcoming events!

Volunteer on Green Island!

Monday July 16 from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm

Get your boots on the ground and your hands dirty volunteering with the McKenzie River Trust’s Green Island Project Manager Chris Vogel. Help care for this unique site. You’ll mulch trees that need protection from the summer heat while learning more about habitat restoration.

Dazzling Dragonflies! Family-friendly tour of Green Island

Friday July 20 from 9 am to 12 pm

What has two pairs of wings, lives near the water, and eats mosquitoes? A dragonfly! Join Steve Gordon and Cary Kerst for a family-oriented dragonfly and damselfly tour of Green Island.

Dragonfly Field Course on Green Island

Friday July 20 from 1 to 4 pm

Join dragonfly experts Steven Gordon and Cary Kerst for an afternoon field course on dragonflies and damselflies. Learn about the life cycle, preferred habitat, and behavior of these fascinating creatures who call Green Island home.

Lower Siuslaw Kayak Tour

Saturday July 28 from 8:30 am to 3 pm

Explore Waite Ranch and the Duncan Island Conservation Easement, conservation lands protected by the McKenzie River Trust between Florence and Mapleton, from a kayak. We’ll spend the day on the Siuslaw Estuary, led by an expert guide from Oregon Paddle Sports. Good physical condition and moderate kayaking experience is required.

Volunteer on Green Island!

Wednesday, August 22 from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm

Get your boots on the ground and your hands dirty volunteering with the McKenzie River Trust’s Green Island Stewardship Technician Dane Moeggenberg and Project Manager Chris Vogel. Help care for this unique site. You’ll build browse protectors for trees planted in the northeast section of the island near the historic McKenzie River channel.

Eugene Celebration Parade

Saturday, August 25  

The Eugene Celebration brings out the best in town, and once again, the McKenzie River Trust will march in the Parade with our giant paper-mache fish! Contact Liz if you’d like to march with us.

Links to these and other events where you’ll find the McKenzie River Trust are always available on our Events page.

Running for the River

A Washington DC man runs a marathon and raises money in memory of his step-father

A fundraiser in memory of river-lover Timmy O’Grady, pictured here at center, continues through July 31. Timmy is shown here rafting the McKenzie.

Steven Putansu was looking for a way to memorialize his step-father, who died last summer after a sudden and short illness. Timmy O’Grady was only 52 years old.

“I wanted to do something good in his name,” Steven said.

“Timmy truly loved spending time in the woods, being in nature, and getting that fresh Oregon air. When he and my mom moved to live along the McKenzie, Timmy felt he’d accomplished his life’s dream.”

Steven, who lives in Washington DC, decided to run the Foot Traffic Flat marathon in Oregon in memory of his step-father on July 4, 2012, near the one year anniversary of Timmy’s death. “People run marathons for causes all the time, so I thought I could turn this into something to remember Timmy.” Through a google search, Steven found the McKenzie River Trust. “It was a perfect fit. Timmy wasn’t an environmentalist, but he loved being outside, getting lost in the woods, and he loved the river. What he would want with every fiber of his being was that this land and this river would stay as it is for as long as it could.”

Steven began training for the marathon in February while working full time and writing his PhD dissertation in Public Administration. He’s been keeping a blog about his training runs and sharing memories of Timmy. “When I’ve got a story about Timmy in my mind, the blog is a good way to get that out,” says Steven. “Running relieves some of the stress and reduces the sadness, too.”

“Timmy was probably my most important role model. He was a truck driver, one of the best drivers out there, and one of 14 siblings. I haven’t followed exactly in his footsteps, but my whole life I’ve tried to emulate the man Timmy was.”

On July 9, 2012, Steven Putansu, second from right, and his family planted a native Oregon ash tree at the Berggren Watershed Conservation Area. The tree, planted for Timmy O’Grady, will serve as a living memorial.

Steven has raised $2,829 for the McKenzie River Trust, exceeding his goal of $100 for every mile of the marathon. “When it comes down to it,” Steven said, “Timmy loved just being near the river.” Now Steven’s efforts and the donations of his friends and family will help protect and care for the place that Timmy cherished.

Update: Steven completed the marathon in 4:20. On July 9, 2012, the one year anniversary of Timmy’s death, Steven and his family planted a native Oregon ash tree at the Berggren Watershed Conservation Area. The tree will serve as a living memory to Timmy. Steven will continue accepting donations for his fundraiser through July 31 at http://www.active.com/donate/McKenzieRiverTrust/R4R

Visit Steven’s running blog: runningfortheriver.blogspot.com

Would you like to run a marathon for land conservation like Steven?

Or maybe you’re celebrating an anniversary, planning a wedding, or would like to honor someone special by raising money in their name. With your own online fundraising page, it’s easy to reach out to family and friends. We can help. For more information, contact Brandi Ferguson, Development Manager: 541-345-2799 or brandi@mckenzieriver.org.