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.”
Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians Regain Salmon-Bearing Wetlands in Ancestral Homeland
Purchase of the Fivemile Creek property restores Tribe’s ancestral homeland while protecting critical coho salmon habitat.
SILETZ, Ore. – October 25, 2016 – The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians (CTSI) acquired 125 acres of ecologically and culturally significant wetlands on the central Oregon coast. The property, known as Fivemile Creek, is located upstream of Tahkenitch Lake between Florence and Reedsport. Fivemile Creek provides critical nursery habitat for Oregon’s most threatened and emblematic salmon species—the native Oregon coast coho salmon. The Tribe’s purchase will ensure that these wetlands and associated habitat will continue to support tribal cultural traditions while enhancing the long term vitality of the native salmon run.
“The Siletz Tribe is pleased to acquire this property of our ancestors and help protect coho salmon,” said Tribal Chairman Delores Pigsley. “It’s part of our cultural tradition to take care of the land and its inhabitants, and this is another opportunity to do both. I’d like to thank Ecotrust Forest Management, the McKenzie River Trust, and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board for their efforts in making this happen.”
Studies have shown that Fivemile Creek and its associated wetlands support some of the highest numbers of adult Oregon coast coho of any stream in Oregon. Hundreds of adult fish return yearly from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the creek. The associated freshwater wetlands serve as a nursery for young salmon before they return to the Pacific Ocean. These fish populations are a significant economic driver for the Oregon Coast in terms of both commercial and recreational fishing. The 2015 Oregon Commercial Fishing Industry Report stated that commercial fishing alone generated $205 million in personal income. In order for these benefits to continue, salmon populations need stewards of the land—like CTSI—with long-term strategies that can support consistent cold water temperatures and functioning intact wetland habitat.
CTSI acquired the land from Ecotrust Forest Management (EFM), a for-profit FSC-certified forestland investment company that acquires and manages forestland in the Pacific Northwest region on behalf of its clients. EFM purchased Fivemile Creek in 2013 due to the property’s conservation significance and importance to the Tribe. “We are honored to have facilitated this important and historic transaction with the Confederated Tribe of Siletz Indians, in partnership with the McKenzie River Trust and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. Fivemile Creek is a property that will greatly benefit from the Tribe’s deep knowledge, cultural traditions and significant history in this area.” said Bettina von Hagen, CEO of EFM.
The McKenzie River Trust (MRT), a not-for-profit land trust based in Eugene, Oregon, facilitated the transaction and secured grant funds for the sale. “We are privileged to have been able to be a part of this transfer,” said Joe Moll, executive director of the McKenzie River Trust. “Working together with EFM, the Siletz Tribe, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and other partners—this is how we are making progress at restoring salmon runs, healthy forests, and strong communities.”
The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), a state agency that provides grants for Oregonians to take care of local streams, rivers, wetlands, and natural areas, provided funding for the project. All three project partners contributed both cash and in-kind support. “This acquisition is located in the Tahkenitch Lake watershed which is highly productive for coho salmon,” said Meta Loftsgaarden, executive director of OWEB. “In addition to ecological values, this site offers important cultural benefits that will be preserved by the Siletz Tribe. OWEB is excited to be a part of this historic transaction.”
With the purchase of this land, CTSI is now poised to begin work to enhance the fish, wildlife, and plant communities on the property. The Tribe will be removing two old cross dikes and exploring options such as enhanced native plantings and adding large wood to the wetlands in order to increase the number of places for young fish to grow before journeying to the ocean.
About the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians:
The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians is a diverse confederation of 27 Western Oregon, Northern California and Southern Washington bands. A 1.1 million-acre reservation was established by President Franklin Pierce on Nov. 9, 1855, fulfilling the stipulations of eight treaties. Over time, reservation lands were drastically reduced and the Tribe was terminated as a Tribe in 1954. In 1977, the Siletz Tribe was the second Tribe in the nation to achieve restoration and in 1980, some reservation lands were re-established. Since 1980, the Tribe has increased its land base to 15,615 acres, which includes 15,016 acres of timberland and 599 acres for cultural preservation, housing, operations, economic purposes, and wildlife enhancement. For more information, visit www.ctsi.nsn.us.
About Ecotrust Forest Management:
Ecotrust Forest Management (EFM) is a private forestland investment management company that strategically acquires and manages ecologically significant forestland in the western United States on behalf of its clients. Founded in 2004 by our parent company Ecotrust, we currently manage 27,000 acres of Northwest forestland to enhance forest health and productivity, and to produce a diverse array of forest products and services including timber, biomass, carbon, and improved habitat and water quality. For more information, visit www.ecotrustforests.com.
About the McKenzie River Trust:
The McKenzie River Trust is a nonprofit land trust based in Eugene, Oregon. Our mission is to help people protect and care for the lands and rivers they cherish in western Oregon. Since 1989, we’ve acquired property and voluntary conservation easements to protect over 4,800 acres of clean, free-flowing rivers, plentiful salmon runs, and vibrant farms and forests that provide livelihoods and habitat. We envision a future in which conservation lands are at the core of community efforts to sustain clean water, abundant fish and wildlife, and diverse natural resource economies in western Oregon. Working with private willing landowners in eight different watersheds from the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, we take on the responsibility of ensuring that the land and its conservation values will be protected forever. For more information, visit www.mckenzieriver.org.
Many people think of land conservation and farming as opposites. But on properties protected by the McKenzie River Trust, land owners and managers are doing both, balancing our communities’ need for fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat, while protecting drinking water, and conserving natural areas where salmon thrive riparian forests tower high above clean flowing rivers. Here are two farms that are doing just that.
Berggren Demonstration Farm – McKenzie Watershed
As you prepare for Thanksgiving dinner this year, know that there’s a new place in town to get your turkey. The Berggren Demonstration Farm is concluding its second year of production this winter. The farm is located on lower McKenzie River property that MRT acquired in 2010, and it is managed by Cascade Pacific Resource Conservation & Development. This collaboration among the Trust, CPRCD, and EWEB is an effort to protect clean drinking water, integrate farming and conservation, and teach young people about growing food. Right now, the farm is growing chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats, rabbits, chicken eggs, and more. For more information visit berggren-farm.org.
Whiskey Creek Organics – Siuslaw Watershed
Looking for fresh food in Florence? Whiskey Creek Organics, a family farm on Duncan Island near Mapleton, grows tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, peppers, and much more. David and Joy Pippenger’s mission is to grow the best food possible with the least amount of “off farm” inputs as possible. The Pippengers’ property is protected under a conservation easement held by MRT. Framed by towering Sitka spruce, the estuary wetlands there provide tremendous nursery habitat for salmon and many marine animals. And MRT staff can personally vouch for the deliciousness of the farm’s raspberries! For more information visit whiskeycreekorganics.com.
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 cutthroattrout. 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 isoften 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.
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.
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.
The Tenmile Creek watershed south of Yachats is one of western Oregon’s most treasured places. Surrounded by Wilderness Areas, the watershed is part of the largest coastal temperate rainforest remaining in the lower 48 states. Filled with towering Sitka spruce that harbor spotted owls and marbled murrelets and coastal streams that still support strong runs of native salmon, trout, and lamprey, Tenmile is a window to a more abundant past in the Coast Range.