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

   

A generous gift protects an oak woodland

The newest protected area in the Umpqua River Watershed

Photo by Ryan Ruggiero

Landowners Joyce Machado and Dale Carey donated a conservation easement protecting oak woodlands and a portion of Pollock Creek to the McKenzie River Trust. Photo by Bruce Newhouse.
Dale Carey had no idea oak trees would be such a big part of his life.

Dale and his wife Joyce Machado retired to 62 acres of oak woodlands on Pollock Creek in Douglas County nine years ago. “The minute we got off the road, I said I like this place already,” recalls Dale. “It’s beautiful land, that’s about all I can say.”

A self-described nature person, Dale spends most of his time on his land. He tries to walk it every day. He knows practically every tree and rock, having worked extensively to restore habitat on the property.

In late November, Dale and Joyce took another step to protect their land by donating a conservation easement to the McKenzie River Trust. The easement permanently protects the impressive oak habitat, upland prairie, marsh, and forested wetlands from future development or commercial use.

“It’s about the oak trees.”

Jim Lee, a Douglas Soil and Water Conservation District employee, inspired Dale and Joyce to make some big changes on the property – changes that eventually led them to the ‘forever’ protection of a conservation easement.

Joyce met Jim at an open house at Kanipe County Park, just down the road from the couple’s property. When she began telling him about the oaks on their land, Jim’s eyes lit up. Jim visited Dale and Joyce’s land many times in the coming years. He described what oak habitat offers for native critters and suggested they remove the fir trees that were beginning to crowd out the oaks.

While hesitant to cut any trees at first, Dale and Joyce used Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds, matched by their own savings, to thin out their stands. They sent the downed firs to a lumber mill. Dale was determined that all the proceeds – over $20,000 – should go back into the land. Then Cindy Bright, also from the Soil and Water Conservation District, helped Dale and Joyce improve the habitat in Pollock Creek for coho salmon.

“Jim convinced me,” said Dale. “Oak trees have character, plus they support all kinds of life. I never knew that before I met Jim Lee.”

Jim died in 2011 at age 49 after an intense battle with cancer. Speaking with Dale today, you can hear how Jim’s legacy of supporting private landowners in their restoration work will live on in the oak trees of Douglas County.

Protected forever

At some point in those many years of restoration work together, Jim suggested that Dale and Joyce consider a conservation easement to permanently protect their property for fish and wildlife. The McKenzie River Trust came up. As Dale recalls, the organization was “just another abbreviation,” part of the alphabet soup of the conservation world.

Then Land Protection Manager Ryan Ruggiero came for a visit, and the possibility of long-term protection became more real.

When asked how he feels about his property being protected, Dale gets philosophical. “Forever. What a concept. I hope that’s the way it is.”

“Life is just slower up here,” says Dale. “We see lots of deer . . . There’s elk and bear from time to time, and beaver and [coho] salmon down at the creek.” Dale loves to catch sight of a western bluebird or pileated woodpecker, and hummingbirds and vultures migrate through.

Now, thanks to Dale and Joyce, and years of encouragement and effort by Jim Lee, all those creatures and their homes will be protected. Forever.