Big Island

Why It’s Important

With over 2 miles of side channels and one of the largest and oldest intact riparian gallery forests on the lower McKenzie River, Big Island is a conservation gem on the edge of Springfield. 400-year old maple trees and old growth cottonwood stands frame this active floodplain that is home to beavers, salmon, herons, and many more creatures.

The protection of Big Island was amplified by MRT’s purchase of the Berggren Watershed Conservation Area just across the river in 2010.

Fish and wildlife on the property

With intact floodplain forest and a complex network of side channels and backwater sloughs, Big Island provides healthy habitat for many native fish and wildlife species. Oregon chub, red-sided shiners, brook lamprey, and Chinook salmon have all been observed on the property. Amphibians include northwestern salamanders, rough-skinned newts, red-legged frogs, pacific treefrogs, and western pond turtles. Beavers and deer are common, and birds are abundant overhead.

Multiple landowners

Big Island has a unique mosaic of ownership, with 12 acres owned by a private landowner and protected with a conservation easement, and 108 acres owned in fee title by MRT.

The 12-acre Big Island Conservation Easement was donated to MRT in 1992 by landowners George Grier and Cynthia Pappas. This was the McKenzie River Trust’s first ever conservation easement. The easement protects main channel backwaters and sloughs of the McKenzie River and precludes sand and gravel mining in this area.

After three years of complex negotiations, in August 2001 the McKenzie River Trust finalized the protection of another 108 acres of riparian forest, wetlands and side channels by buying the land in fee title. The purchase was supported by the Eugene Water and Electric Board, Springfield Utility Board, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Bonneville Power Administration, and private donors. As part of this land deal, ODFW established a conservation easement over the 108-acre area, ensuring that a third party would continue to monitor and protect the conservation values forever.