From Blackberries to Native Trees

Floodplain Restoration Continues on Green Island

Contractors have been hard at work on the south end of Green Island this month. Bulldozers, excavators, and large trucks removed four berms that limited the flow of high water onto the interior of the property. Within years, native grasses, incense cedar, Douglas fir, and ponderosa pine will fill an area that was once covered in blackberry vines and reed canary grass.

MRT is undertaking this work on the higher floodplain near side channels and sloughs of the Willamette River to allow for seasonal connections that have been prevented by these berms.

Before and after views of an area where 4-foot tall berms were removed on Green Island. The berms were covered in blackberry vines and reed canary grass, and their removal makes way for planting native grasses and trees.

Active floodplains can provide many benefits to people, fish and wildlife, and they’re key to maintaining the qualities that define our Oregon landscapes. Floodplains clean water by filtering it through many layers of gravel and sediment, and they can buffer flooding impacts on downstream areas.

Floodplain side channels and sloughs also create spawning and rearing habitat for endangered salmon. Studies on Green Island completed by Oregon State University and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife show that Oregon chub, Chinook salmon, and other native fish use these channels throughout many phases of their lifecycles. Floodplain forests, once abundant along the Willamette River, also harbor sensitive birds, amphibians such as red legged-frogs, and reptiles like western pond turtles.

Since 2005, MRT has been working to re-establish floodplain forest habitat for fish and wildlife by removing man-made obstructions and planting over 300 acres of Green Island with native trees, shrubs, and grasses. Local farmers, hundreds of volunteers, and dozens of local contractors have been involved in restoration efforts on the 1,000+ acre property just downstream of the confluence of the McKenzie and the Willamette rivers.

The berms removed this month were originally built 20-40 years ago to reduce flooding on farm fields. The 3,500 cubic yards of sandy loam dirt that was removed will be reused in the Coburg Aggregate Reclamation Project (CARP). The former gravel mines at CARP along the eastern edge of Green Island will also be restored to native habitat in the coming years.

In recent years, habitat restoration projects at Green Island have been supported by grants from the Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Meyer Memorial Trust. Individual donations also support our restoration efforts at Green Island and on the other properties we protect throughout western Oregon.  For more information about Green Island, visit: http://mckenzieriver.org/protected-lands/owned-properties/green-island

Ties to the Land

Seminar Explores Conservation Easements in Succession Planning

Kate and Max Gessert, who protected their forest near the town of Crow with a conservation easement, will speak during the seminar about their experience working with the McKenzie River Trust to permanently protect their land.

Passing your family’s land on to the next generation is a process with financial, legal, and emotional dimensions. It’s an essential – but often overlooked – element of estate planning.

Oregon State University Extension Service and the McKenzie River Trust are offering a special session of the Ties to the Land succession planning program on Saturday, October 20 from 9am to 12pm to help families learn about conservation easements as an element of estate planning.

About the seminar

Willamette Program Manager Nicole Nielsen-Pincus will co-present a free seminar on conservation easements on Saturday, October 20.

Conservation easements are a valuable tool for landowners who would like to protect their land for future generations, and they can also be an important tool in helping landowners pass their land on to another generation. This 3 hour session will give a brief introduction to basic conceptual and legal underpinnings of easements, their scope, flexibility, and the types of organizations that hold conservation easements. Then, we will look at a local example with Nicole Nielsen-Pincus of the McKenzie River Trust. Nicole will discuss the McKenzie River Trust’s mission, the conservation opportunities the organization seeks, and how MRT works with private landowners to explore and establish an easement. Finally, local conservation easement landowners Kate and Max Gessert will share their thoughts on the process. We will conclude with a facilitated discussion.

Please join us for an informative presentation and engaging discussion about conservation easements and succession planning.

Details

When: Saturday, October 20 from 9 am to 12 pm
Where:
Willamalane Community Center, Heron Room, 250 S. 32nd St., Springfield, Oregon (just south of Main St. near ODF Eastern Lane)
Cost & Registration: This class if FREE, but pre-registration is required. To register, please email Jody Einerson (jody.einerson@oregonstate.edu) or call the Benton County Extension Office (541) 766-6750.

Restoration Makes Dollars and Cents

Enhancing habitat can help build the local economy

Ecotrust recently released a report – supported in part by NOAA – concluding that restoration projects in Oregon generated $977.5 million in economic activity and as many as 6,483 jobs between 2001 and 2010. For a local example, look no further than the McKenzie River Trust and Siuslaw Watershed Council‘s (SWC) Waite Ranch Tidal Wetland Restoration Project, located on the Siuslaw River near Mapleton.

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 cutthroat trout. 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 is often 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.

The first few buildings have already come down.  You can learn more about Waite Ranch and track the latest developments by visiting: http://mckenzieriver.org/protected-lands/owned-properties/waite-ranch/

Thank you to the Waite Ranch Tidal Wetland Restoration Project funders:

  • NOAA Fisheries Service, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and Ecotrust – Whole Watershed Restoration Initiative
  • Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife – Restoration & Enhancement program
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service – North American Wetlands Conservation Act
  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Oregon Governor’s Fund for the Environment
  • Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board – Technical Assistance grant program
  • Siuslaw Watershed Council
  • Individual supporters of the McKenzie River Trust and Siuslaw Watershed Council