We have a special match challenge for Giving Tuesday! Support our lands and waters this #givingtuesday with a gift to McKenzie River Trust.
Giving Tuesday is a global movement that encourages people to do good. Hundreds of millions of people have come together on this day for the last few years to raise money for causes they care about.
A gift to McKenzie River Trust means investing in work to protect lands and rivers people cherish in Western Oregon. We protect and steward the lands and rivers that support healthy communities. We connect those who are upstream to the lands and rivers affected by their choices. We restore river meanders and floodplain forests where we can. With your support, we work with landowners who share this vision to sustain the special places around us.
We’re celebrating 30 years of local conservation. We’d love your help funding the next 30 years
This month marks 30 years of land and river conservation in Western Oregon at McKenzie River Trust. we wanted to mark the occasion with a graphic showcasing some of our accomplishments over the last 30 years. Do you have a memory you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments!
Our 30 Year Milestones
1989 Tom Bowerman and Bob Doppelt bring together concerned citizens interested in protecting
and preserving the McKenzie River’s pristine quality for future generations.
1999 MRT expands its service area to include all of Lane County
and parts of Douglas County with
community support. Kurt Hupé joins MRT as the first executive director.
2002 ODFW biologists find Oregon chub at the Big Island property. It’s the first time in over 100 years the chub is seen in the McKenzie River watershed.
2014 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to remove the
Oregon chub from the Endangered Species List — the first fish ever to be
delisted due to recovery.
2007-08 The Trust protects more than 400 acres with five landowners
in the Tenmile Creek watershed north of Florence.
1991 EWEB collaborates with Tom Bowerman to mitigate the impact of
Leaburg Dam. MRT protects its first land, buying the Smith Forest in fee
title. George Grier and Cynthia Pappas donate MRT’s first conservation
easement on Big Island near Springfield.
2003 The Green family sells the Trust 865 acres where the McKenzie
and Willamette rivers meet. Karen Green shares: “Before it is too late, we want
this land to be protected for all the special things it has and can offer
future generations.” The Green Island purchase ensures 1,300 contiguous
acres of land will be protected in one of the most diverse habitats in
2000-01 EWEB kicks off the McKenzie Conservancy Campaign with a $500k
grant for McKenzie watershed protection. The Trust raises another $500k from
the community to unlock the final $500k, a challenge grant from the EWEB water
protection fund first discussed in 1991.
2010 MRT secures protection for 217 acres near Mapleton on the Siuslaw
River, 92 acres on Camp Creek Road on the lower McKenzie, and a
56-acre former gravel mine next to Green Island.
2015 MRT works with the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians
to conserve 125 acres along Fivemile Creek.
2018 Over 400 people contribute to the McKenzie Homewaters
Campaign, raising $4.6 million to
repay the bridge loan used to acquire Finn Rock Reach, restore and care for the
land, and create a fund for future conservation projects.
1997 MRT secures a 20-acres tract east of Blue River in response
to local leaders’ effort to permanently protect hillside. It is the Trust’s
first conservation property beyond riparian floodplain habitat.
2015-16 MRT seizes an opportunity to
conserve Finn Rock Reach. The McKenzie riverfront property is vital for
more than 200,000 people
who rely on the McKenzie for their drinking water. The spectacular property
includes spawning ground for native Chinook salmon, the popular Finn Rock Boat
Landing, and the historic Finn Rock Logging camp.
2013 1,000+ people attend the Living River Celebration on Green
Island to commemorate ten years of conservation work.
2005 75 volunteers turn out to plant 3,400 native trees on Green
2001 Forest Care becomes MRT’s first conservation easement
outside the McKenzie watershed.
A short film to kick things off that reminds us of our common humanity and reminds us to look up every once in a while. Watch as Wylie Overstreet takes a telescope around the streets of Los Angeles to give passersby an up-close look at a new view of the moon.
The simple pleasure of a centuries old Japanese fishing technique and how it can bring us together with rivers and their inhabitants. This film hearkens back to the time in our youth when fishing gear was easily carried in one hand.
Atypical for her time, Mary Vaux defies all gender roles, mountain weather, and traditions to spark the first glaciology study in North America. Her perseverance brings her back to the same glacier for five decades.
Our National Parks Belong to Everyone. So Why are They So White?
Only 20 percent of visitors to National Parks are people of color. Learn about the troubling history of public lands and to meet the conservationists of color who are trying to change the parks’ future.
Blue carbon is captured and stored by coastal wetlands, helping to mitigate climate change. This film is about mud and the multiple benefits that estuaries provide for us. Shot in the Pacific Northwest.
Portland-based organization called Soul River, our partner through the Willamette River Initiative, who is working to bring veterans and inner city youth together around fly fishing to heal past traumas and build a community of support.
Bring Them Home
Provides important and often neglected indigenous perspective on how to manage our wildlife and natural resources. Tribal voices tell the story of how one tribe is working to bring back the buffalo.
March of the Newts
From right here in the Great Pacific Northwest, follow one of the forest’s funkiest creatures into a gangly gathering of amphibious affection… and learn how you can help protect these sensitive animals from an emerging disease.
In a city full of people trying to catch a break, one lucky man hooks into an unexpected dream that becomes the role of a lifetime, reminding him to seize each new day as a chance to do what he loves.
Discover a novel way of studying elusive carnivores – with snow! Join scientists Jessie and Tommy as they re-purpose an old technique in a way that not only revolutionizes how we study threatened species and manage our landscapes, but also highlights the importance of collaboration in conservation.
Protected: A Wild & Scenic River Portrait
Follow river paddler, author, and conservationist Tim Palmer through the enchanting waters of Oregon’s Wild Rivers Coast, which has the highest concentration of National Wild & Scenic Rivers in the US
Keepers of the Future
In a fertile floodplain, where the great river meets the sea, a peasant movement puts down roots – growing resilience
in the scorched earth of exile and war. But soon these farmers and fishers discover new, global challenges.
Lost in Light
Lost in Light is a short film on how light pollution affects the view of the night skies. Shot mostly in California, this piece
shows how the night sky view gets progressively better as you move away from the lights.
Habitat Protected 10 Years Ago Expands with a Strategic Purchase
In 2010, we acquired a 210-acre property between Florence and Mapleton known as Waite Ranch. This land is adjacent to Highway 126 and just upstream of Cushman Landing. It’s identified as a conservation priority because of the variety of habitat types that could be restored there. Tidal estuary and marshland are home to an abundance of fish and wildlife.
There are few of these types of habitats left on the Central Oregon Coast. Nearly 1,000 acres of protected conservation lands surrounds Waite Ranch, which makes it an excellent candidate for restoration work. McKenzie River Trust felt the opportunity was too great to pass up, and we used our success and resources to buy the land and work alongside a variety of partners working to protect and restore coastal habitat.
On September 25th, the Trust acquired Wren Marsh, an 8-acre parcel of land across the Siuslaw River from Waite Ranch that fills one of the last remaining gaps in this conservation complex and significantly benefits restoration efforts. The Waite Ranch Restoration Project will benefit from critical cost savings thanks to this purchase. Because of the acquisition, we can remove powerlines serving Wren Marsh that cross Waite Ranch instead of re-routing them.
A Good Neighbor
Wren Marsh had been owned by Dick Fithian for nearly 30 years. Dick was deeply knowledgeable about the land and history of Wren Marsh and Waite Ranch, having spent much of his time as a kid visiting the land with members of the Waite family. When MRT bought Waite, Dick was there to lend a hand and an ear as MRT got to know the unique characteristics of land on the Siuslaw River. When Dick decided to sell Wren Marsh, we were grateful he chose us to continue the legacy of stewardship.
Restoring Tidal Swamp Land
The Siuslaw estuary is an idyllic marshy region; filled with the sound of frequent and varied birdsong. Over the years, development caused estuaries like this to be diked, drained, and converted, eliminating habitat needed for young fish and shellfish to thrive. Studies from the 70’s and early 80’s first showed the important roles that estuaries play for fish. More recent local studies have shown the import role restoration can play in the recovery of our fisheries. While there has been great success in preserving land in the Siuslaw estuary, areas like Waite Ranch and Wren Marsh remain degraded by blocked fish passage, loss of tidal channels, lack of habitat diversity, and poor water quality during summer months.
Approximately 200 acres of tidal estuary habitat are expected to result from planned restoration efforts, along with about 10 miles of tidal channel. This habitat could offer a home and refuge for many sensitive fish and wildlife species, including American bald eagles, shorebirds like the short billed dowitcher, and native fish such as coastal coho, steelhead, and Chinook salmon.
McKenzie River Trust on the Oregon Coast
The success of our conservation work in the McKenzie River watershed brought McKenzie River Trust to lend a hand to other vital watersheds. Our first project on the central coast was in 2007 and we continue to protect more land in the region.
The Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians, the Siuslaw Watershed Council, and a network of government agencies are our partners in conservation in this region. Together, our knowledge, technical expertise, and flexibility expands the capability to preserve coastal lands and waters.
A no-interest loan to the Trust from local donors made this purchase possible. We are very grateful for the support of our members. We can expand our mission to help people protect and care for the lands and rivers they cherish in Western Oregon.
How You Can Help
We are looking for more strategic partners in connecting coastal community members to our lands and our work. Please encourage anyone you know to join. Next year, we will see more volunteer and tour opportunities to help connect our members to this vital estuary.
On Friday, August 2nd, MRT staff and volunteers met at our Finn Rock Reach property to learn about freshwater mussels. We were lucky to host Emilie Blevins of the Xerces Society. She gave a talk about the importance of mussels to watershed environments and showed volunteers what to look for during a survey.
Emilie provided the group with a guide to freshwater mussels and brought some examples of mussel shells found in Oregon. The western pearlshell is the species we were most likely to find in our Finn Rock Reach survey. The Xerces society focuses on conserving invertebrate habitats.
The Importance of Freshwater Mussels
Freshwater mussels provide food for a variety of wildlife. In addition, they are beneficial to water quality, processing nutrients, and supporting habitats. They filter tiny suspended materials such as algae, bacteria, and zooplankton that bottom dwelling animals can feed on.
One mussel can filter up to 15 gallons of water a day. They can also live to be over 100 years old! Due to their age, they also retain essential minerals. Mussels may improve habitat quality and diversity of benthic macroinvertebrates (Known as “benthos”) like caddisflies, dragon & damsel flies, and crayfish. Mussel movements stir oxygen and nutrients into the sediment and water, similar to how earthworms in your garden help your soil. Further, mussel shells provide a surface for algae and animals (such as sponges and insect larvae) to attach.
Mussels played an important role for humans historically. Native populations ate mussels in seasons when food was scarce and used shells for tool parts. Mussels were also exploited commercial for the button industry in the 19th century and later to cultivate freshwater pearls.
Conservation of Mussels
There are nearly 300 species of mussels documented in the United States. Thirty five species have gone extinct over the last century. The Endangered Species Act lists 25% of mussel species. States across the country list 75% of mussel species as threatened or endanged.
Support has grown for mussel conservation in recent years, as scientists and conservationists are learning the strong correlation between healthy mussel beds and healthy salmon runs.
In Oregon, the Umatilla and Warm Springs Native American tribes are conducting research and working to conserve mussel populations. Other organizations like the Willamette Riverkeeper and the Xerces Society also conduct mussel research. McKenzie River Trust hopes to find or restore mussel beds in our properties along the McKenzie River at Finn Rock Reach and beyond.
People are welcome to search for mussels and report any findings with photos to the McKenzie River Trust. Be sure not to remove the mussels from their habitat or harm them in the process of your discovery.
Emilie taught the Friends of Finn Rock group to look for mussels in shallow, slow moving waters. A glass bucket or aqua viewing tube helps to see under the water. For advanced swimmers, snorkeling is also an option for surveying mussels. While our group didn’t find any mussels in this survey, the life we found was exciting. They noted seeing Chinook salmon hatchlings, caddisflies, a lamprey, and crayfish.
While Waite Ranch awaits restoration, sedge wrens visit
MRT’s former board president Roger Robb was conducting a bird count at the Trust’s Waite Ranch property, on the lower Siuslaw River, in December when he saw a little brown wren, one that didn’t look quite like the Pacific or marsh wrens he expected to see in western Oregon. It was a sedge wren, a species normally found only east of the Rockies and only the third sedge wren ever spotted in Oregon.
Word of rare sightings travels quickly in birding circles, and soon birdwatchers were flocking to Waite Ranch hoping for a glimpse of the little wren. The challenge: Waite Ranch is set to undergo major tidal wetland restoration and is not open to the public. And a bird hundreds of miles from home didn’t need more stress.
What happened next is a tale of community and habitat. Eugene birdwatcher and MRT volunteer Alan Contreras called upon his Florence-area birding friends, who started offering guided tours to small groups, giving people a chance to spot the sedge wren—or wrens, after a second one appeared—without harm. By the end of January, more than 160 people had traveled to Waite Ranch to see the wrens, and more were scheduled. “What’s incredible,” said lead guide Daniel Farrar, “is that the habitat is not only good enough to attract a sedge wren, but it’s attracted two of them.”