McKenzie River Trust Protects Scenic, Regionally Important Wetlands Near Eugene

The Coyote Spencer Wetlands, 161 acres of high functioning wetland habitat in the Long Tom Watershed, were protected by the McKenzie River Trust on March 1, 2012.

(EUGENE, OR) The McKenzie River Trust announces the protection of the Coyote Spencer Wetlands, 161 acres of regionally important native habitat about 5 miles southwest of Eugene. The land trust purchased the property to protect its extraordinary wetlands, plant and animal diversity, and the scenic backdrop it provides along Crow Road.

Located where Coyote and Spencer Creeks come together in the Long Tom River Watershed, the Coyote Spencer Wetlands contain over three miles of streams and 158 acres of mixed forest and wet meadows. Its wildflower displays and oak and ash forests also help define a route that has become popular for wine-country driving tours and recreational cyclists.

“The Coyote Spencer Wetlands site has long been identified as a conservation priority by the West Eugene Wetlands Partnership, now expanded as the Rivers to Ridges Partnership,” notes Eric Wold, Natural Resources Manager for the City of Eugene. “The McKenzie River Trust has added to a regional network of protected lands that contribute not only to the health of our ecosystems, but also to the livability of our local communities.”

“Protecting wetlands was a key focus for us in this landscape,” notes McKenzie River Trust Land Protection Manager Ryan Ruggiero, who brokered the acquisition. “Wetlands are integral to healthy ecosystems because they filter sediments from water and provide habitat for numerous fish and wildlife species.” Sometimes called the ‘nurseries of nature’ and compared to coral reefs or rainforests for the diversity of life that they support, wetlands are exceptionally productive ecosystems. Wetlands offer nesting or feeding grounds to more than half of all North American bird species and provide a home for an estimated 31% of all plant species.

Between 1994 and 2005, the Willamette Valley saw a net loss of 3,932 acres of wetlands. In the Long Tom Watershed, a significant percentage of wetlands were historically converted to agricultural use. Large, intact expanses of wetlands, such those that make up the Coyote Spencer Wetlands, are increasingly rare, showing what the historic, pre-European settlement landscape in the Willamette Valley may have looked like. Permanently protecting remaining wetlands like this can enhance stream water quality, buffer floods, and provide an essential home and refuge for an array of native plants and animals. Rare native plants including Bradshaw’s lomatium, Oregon delphinium and thin-leaved peavine have been identified on the property.

The property is also known locally as a well-traveled wildlife corridor where bear, mountain lion, bobcat, deer, and elk have been seen. Sensitive fish and wildlife species also known in the area include vesper sparrow, white-breasted nuthatch, western bluebird, northern harrier, cutthroat trout, red-legged frog, and northwestern pond turtle.

The McKenzie River Trust was uniquely poised to protect the Coyote Spencer Wetlands. “Having a local champion was essential to protect these high-quality wetlands,” notes Dana Hicks of the Oregon Department of State Lands. “The McKenzie River Trust’s long term vision for stewardship will help ensure the wetland values and functions that exist on the land now will continue forever.” The McKenzie River Trust will host public tours and volunteer events on the Coyote Spencer Wetlands property, making it available to local school, university, and research partners as a reference site for education and scientific research into wetland health and restoration.

Since 1989, the McKenzie River Trust has acquired property and voluntary conservation easements through donation or purchase on over 3,500 acres in eight different watersheds across Lane and Douglas Counties. Working with private willing landowners, the nonprofit group takes on the responsibility of ensuring that the land and its conservation values will be protected forever. For more information about the McKenzie River Trust, visit mckenzieriver.org.

Grant funding and project support was provided by Oregon Department of State Lands, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Long Tom Watershed Council, and the Rivers to Ridges Partnership.

Press Contact: Ryan Ruggiero
Land Protection Manager
McKenzie River Trust
541-345-2799
rruggiero@mckenzieriver.org
mckenzieriver.org

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