Coyote Creek Meadows Protected

Coyote Creek Meadows

Caring for the lands and rivers we cherish

With your generous support, 38 acres of wetlands and camas-filled meadows are now permanently protected for conservation. Thank you!


When Mary Minniti and Mike Shippey bought their 47 acre farm property 17 years ago, both buildings and land were clearly diamonds in the rough… with a heavy emphasis on rough.

“This living room ceiling was low and dark. It was like being in a cave: there were no windows providing a view of the wetland,” remarks Mary during a recent visit. “We thought we would move onto the land in five years, but we were spending every weekend here, so we just dove in. And we were here within 18 months.”

At the same time, Mike had looked on the heavily impacted land with promise. “Scattered among the meadow of planted forage grasses, I found many natives, including some rare ones, like Bradshaw’s lomatium.” An accomplished landscape architect, Mike set about to create Coyote Creek Meadows, a restoration project that included two wetland mitigation sites and a larger labor of love.

“We planted those ash, and those slough sedge; looks like the ash could use some water.”

We’re walking their property on a warm late September afternoon, meandering with the banks of Coyote Creek, just a mile upstream of its entry to Fern Ridge Reservoir. Coyote Creek Meadows is the latest addition to the McKenzie River Trust’s portfolio of protected lands: 38 acres under conservation easement, just 1/4 mile downstream from the Trust’s Coyote Spencer Wetlands, and 1/2 mile upstream from an extensive Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Management Area. Mary and Mike worked with MRT staff over the last two years to agree on terms and secure funding through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), a program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Landowners Mike Shippey and Mary Minniti protected their wetland property near Eugene with a conservation easement. Photo by Anne Nunn Photographers.

“We see our property as piece of that larger conservation vision for Coyote Creek. Our daughters and granddaughters all love this place as well. And they know that whatever they choose to do with the house and its lot, this larger property will be protected for nature and the public good long after we are gone.”

In addition to serving as a refuge of native wetland plants, Coyote Creek Meadows provides habitat for cutthroat trout, otters, elk, black bear, a metropolis of frogs, and large flocks of waterfowl in the winter. “We’ve had a dozen or so wood ducks roosting in the oaks next to our house,” says Mary with pride and wonder.

Both Mary and Mike attribute their love of nature and their commitment to its care to childhoods spent outside. Mike grew up on the outskirts Salem, where two acres of filberts and ready access to Mill Creek gave him the chance to explore, hunt, and fish. Mary’s childhood backyard was a forest on the edge of Renton, Washington. Their daughters now have careers in literature and food, and the land clearly calls to them both.

“This is the wedding ceremony meadow,” says Mike as we continue our walk. “Our daughter of course had to pick the one spot that was thick with 8’ tall Armenian blackberry, saying, ‘I want to be married between these two oak trees.’” Weeks of mowing and digging cleared out the blackberry, and extended the footprint of restoration. The meadow is now thick with native grasses, forbs and shrubs….

Clearly this is a family place, with a family that keeps growing. Grandchildren’s toys are scattered here and there. And long time MRT volunteers Matt and Holly McRae spent two years living in a small rental cottage on the site, caring for the place, caring for the earth, and caring for each other.

“Mary and Mike have a commitment to their land: to caring for it, to restoring it, to preserving its ecological function,” says Holly. “They have an appreciation for all of the communities that live on their property – plants, fungus, insects, animals large and small. They weave together a community of people connected by their property – a connection created by a place, rather than by time or proximity.”

Mary and Mike with their grandkids outside their home along Coyote Creek. Photo by Anne Nunn Photographers.

Mary’s career in health care has culminated in work that invites families to participate more closely in the recovery of loved ones, not relying on experts alone, but working hand in hand. They are taking a similar approach with Coyote Creek Meadows.

“Mary and Mike are generous with their time and affection.” Matt McRae adds. “Every Thanksgiving dinner begins with a walk around the property. To know Mary and Mike is to know their property. That’s who they are – they love and share that space. They share their love of that land. They truly look at the future for their grandchildren, and the legacy they will leave.”

The Long Tom Watershed Council, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Institute for Applied Ecology, the McKenzie River Trust… these are all professional organizations with strategic objectives and the capacity to carry out conservation projects. Mary and Mike cherish their place and the good fortune that allowed them to acquire and now care for it. The partnership, that melding of mind and heart in a place, in the work of conservation, is an investment that gives rise to more Bradshaw’s lomatium, more wood ducks, and fields of camas and buttercups in the spring. Look for an announcement for a guided tour of the site in spring 2017.

It’s the trees

Because of you, a 294-acre conservation easement will protect an oak woodland near Eugene forever. Photo by Tim Giraudier, Beautiful Oregon.

It’s the trees

Thanks to you, an oak woodland and working forest is protected

When you ask Doug and Linda Carnine why it was important to permanently protect their 294-acre property a few miles south of Eugene, it seems to always come back to the trees.

Landowners Doug and Linda Carnine have protected 294 acres of their land on Lorane Highway for native plants and wildlife.

Inspired by a lifetime of travel, Doug and Linda have invested heavily in conservation in their own backyard.

They’ve purchased cut-over parcels of land around Lane County with a vision to turn them into thriving forests that clean the air and provide a home for native hawks, bees, cougars, rattlesnakes, and bears.

Now, one of those areas will be protected forever, thanks to a conservation easement the Carnines developed with the McKenzie River Trust. Funding for the project came from the Bonneville Power Administration and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program, and members of the McKenzie River Trust. The Carnines also donated a portion of the value of the easement to make sure the land would be protected.

Doug and Linda will continue to own the land and manage it for its wildlife habitat, native plants, and for the public, who can access the property on walking trails. They will also continue to involve the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Confederated Tribes of Siletz, and Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon.

The scenic protected property about 12 miles south of Eugene is home to many native plants and wild creatures. It is open for hiking, though the Carnines request that you call them before you visit. Photo by Tim Giraudier, Beautiful Oregon.

Total persistence

Getting the land to the condition it’s in today has taken years of hard work.

“Each of these trees is one we have intimate relations with,” says Linda. We’re standing in a place, she explains, that was once home to a ten foot wall of scotch broom. Sometimes, when Doug and Linda came to visit, they’d find young trees they had planted in an area gnarled, twisted, and bent. “They about died several times.”

Linda points to one redwood sapling, about ten feet tall atop the hill of the Andrew Reasoner Wildlife Preserve and smiles.

“That one is amazing, the way it has popped up! It got real skinny, bent over, and we used stakes and all sorts of things to keep it growing, and now… look at that! Standing up and growing tall.”

“We probably replanted this spot about five times,” adds Doug.

Dedicated to Andy

The preserve’s namesake may be familiar to longtime members of the McKenzie River Trust.

Andrew “Andy” Reasoner, the preserve’s namesake, was MRT’s first Conservation Director from 2005 to 2007.

Andrew Reasoner’s enthusiasm for life extended to his community, family, and work as MRT’s first ever Conservation Director from 2005 to 2007. A warm, energetic and caring person, Andy was able to connect with anyone, from the youngest child to the most skeptical landowner.

Andy’s friend Darin Stringer has worked with the Carnine family for over a decade to support restoration of their land. Andy lived next door to the property and often hiked there. “He was such an avid outdoorsman,” said Darin. As a neighbor “he was really interested in seeing the property conserved.”

Andy passed away in 2007 after battling cancer. When Darin suggested that the Carines dedicate the preserve to Andy, it seemed a fitting tribute. That is even more true now, as the conservation easement will forever protect a place that Andy loved.

Catching on

“People are looking for a way to give back,” says Doug, explaining why more and more lands south of Eugene have been protected in recent years.

Oak woodlands dominate the views at the Andy Reasoner Wildlife Preserve. Photo by Tim Giraudier, Beautiful Oregon.

“For some reason land conservation resonates with them. Maybe they have heard the data on endangered habitat in oak savannahs and how important oaks are for so many species.”

That’s what Steve Smith, a retired US Fish and Wildlife Service refuge manager in the Willamette Valley, told Doug and Linda when he visited their property some years back.

Steve explained that oak savannah is the tenth most endangered habitat in the world. “We’ve lost a huge percentage of what was here when the Native Americans used fire to protect the oak,” says Linda.

It’s protected… so what’s next?

It seems conservation work is never done. Next up, Doug and Linda will work with the Long Tom Watershed Council to make the habitat even more attractive for sensitive species.

Pointing to a young forest of fir and oak to the north, Doug explains the conservation enhancement project. “We’re going to create a corridor from here all the way down to the prairie. We’ll take out some trees, release a lot of native plants and remove invasives.”

There’s a little rock out-cropping, which means diversity and the occasional rattlesnake sighting. There’s an old hunting blind where people have seen a bear cub running past. There’s chinquapin, Willamette Valley pine, and a woody grove that Linda calls her “madrone garden” that flourished in the hot, dry summer of 2015. And there are the oaks.

A special forest management zone in the easement will ensure that oaks will be protected in the midst of an area that the Carnines and any future landowners can thin for timber. The easement will require the area to be managed for the sake of the oak trees, rather than for maximal harvest.

Your visit

You can come see the Andrew Reasoner Wildlife Preserve for yourself. In fact, the Carnines encourage it. “We ask people to give us a call,” says Linda. “It’s nice to know who’s out here.”

They ask that you access the property only on foot, and that dogs stay on leash. “Someone spotted a family of bobcats up here, so we’re really trying to protect them,” she adds.

When you visit…

  • Please do not block the gate.
  • Please call before your visit.
  • Please access on foot only.
  • Please keep all dogs on leash.

Before your visit, please call Doug and Linda to let them know you are coming: 541-485-3781

Address: 84731 Lorane Highway, Eugene OR 97405 – note that the address is approximate. There is no mailbox but look for the Andrew Reasoner Wildlife Preserve sign (pictured above) and the small pull-out by the locked gate. Do not block the gate.

‘Safe Harbors’ for native fish


This is part of a series about the MRT members who have played a part in the incredible comeback of Oregon chub. In the coming days and weeks, we’ll share more stories of MRT members who aided the recovery.

‘Safe Harbors’ for native fish

Gail and Eric Haws

“The chub seems like such an insignificant little creature,” MRT member Gail Haws noted from her home along the Middle Fork of the Willamette River near Oakridge. But her family’s work to protect it has had a huge impact.

Gail and her husband Eric were among the first landowners to sign a Safe Harbor Agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009. Through the agreement, the Haws family committed to protecting Oregon chub found in their ponds.

Researcher Brian Bangs from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife helps coordinate the Safe Harbor program for Oregon chub in the Willamette Valley.

The Safe Harbor program started in the early 2000s. The program allowed private landowners to take on voluntary conservation measures on behalf of Oregon chub on their properties. This allowed agency staff to work in partnership with private landowners to manage endangered species on private property as well as public land. For species native to the Willamette Valley, where land is 96% privately owned, that’s critical.

“It’s been staggering to watch a community grow around this two inch minnow,” says researcher Brian Bangs. “There was a word of mouth to it. People begin seeing what one landowner is doing and saying, ‘Well, this is really neat. What can I do? How can I get involved, too?’”

The importance of healthy floodplains

Landowner and member Art Johnson with former MRT Land Protection Manager Ryan Ruggiero.


This is part of a series about the MRT members who have played a part in the incredible comeback of Oregon chub. In the coming days and weeks, we’ll share more stories of MRT members who aided the recovery.

The importance of healthy floodplains

Art and Anita Johnson

Places protected for Oregon chub are also habitat for many other creatures like Great blue herons, red-legged frogs, and Chinook salmon.

In 2007, MRT helped members Art and Anita Johnson create a conservation easement on their 28-acre floodplain property on the lower McKenzie. The land was protected for its ideal habitat for Chinook salmon, redside rainbow trout, steelhead, and red-legged frogs. Years later, researchers found Oregon chub were also using the side channels there year-round.

As more and more people studied the chub, they learned about the interrelationship between one species and the whole web of creatures that live in the river.

“You can’t allow one species to be lost without that having an impact on other species,” says Art. “I’ve been on the McKenzie and Willamette my whole life. I knew the chub was in the river and I was very pleased that they were in that pocket of our property.”

A healthy, functioning floodplain was a major help for Oregon chub. “The recovery of the chub, to a large extent, is because of natural features,” adds Art. “The way the river moves back and forth creates harbors” for fish like chub.

Like many who have assisted in chub recovery in ways large and small, Art and Anita are humble about their role. “We don’t take any credit for [the recovery],” says Art. “It was a bit of fortune that the habitat developed right in the bends of the river.”

The little fish that we’d never noticed


This is part of a series about the MRT members who have played a part in the incredible comeback of Oregon chub. In the coming days and weeks, we’ll share more stories of MRT members who aided the recovery.

The little fish that we’d never noticed

George Grier and Cynthia Pappas

MRT made the front page of the Register-Guard on November 9, 2001, when researchers discovered Oregon chub on George Grier and Cynthia Pappas’ Big Island conservation easement. It was the first sighting of the fish in the McKenzie basin since 1899.

George Grier and Cynthia Pappas permanently protected 7 acres of their land, pictured above, with a donated conservation easement in 1992. MRT’s first easement, it prevented development on backwater sloughs and side channels of the lower McKenzie River on the edge of Springfield’s drinking water well field.

In 2001 during a routine fish survey on George and Cynthia’s property, researchers Jeff Ziller from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Mike Sheehan from the Willamette National Forest made an incredible discovery. They found Oregon chub, last seen in the McKenzie basin in 1899, over 100 years earlier. A Register-Guard reporter happened to be there to document what George calls “a new chapter” in chub recovery.

It was a new beginning. “No one really knew about chub on the McKenzie until this population was found,” said George. “By looking closely at where the major populations were on our property, [the researchers] were able to get a better handle on where to look for them” elsewhere in the McKenzie and in other Willamette River tributaries.

George Grier, pictured at right, with Mike Running and Ryland Moore, the former Co-Directors of MRT who were with the organization when chub was discovered on Big Island in 2001.

ODFW’s Brian Bangs agrees that the sighting was “a big deal.”

After chub were found on Big Island, researchers started looking for them in similar habitats nearby. “They were everywhere,” says Brian, reflecting back. “It’s the little fish that’s under everyone’s noses. The fish that people, even fisheries biologists, just ignored. We call them little brown fish. And people forget about them. It’s pretty remarkable that we could go 100 years before everyone realized what they were.”

When asked how they felt about the recovery of Oregon chub, George and Cynthia took an optimistic view. “I was pretty excited” to hear they’d be de-listed said George. “To play a role in something like that is a pretty major milestone. It was a long time coming.”

“I was actually surprised that it didn’t take longer,” added Cynthia.

Oregon chub makes a comeback

Because of members like you, an Oregon native makes a comeback

It was the early 1990s. Like many of our native fishes, the Oregon chub was in trouble.

Chub lived their lives in the moist backwater channels and sloughs of the Willamette Valley’s lush rivers and streams. But those streams had fewer and fewer rich habitat areas for the chub to thrive. Braided rivers with plentiful meanders, oxbows, and diverse floodplains that had once blanketed the Willamette Valley were now largely developed or cut off from the river.

In 1993, with only 1,000 known Oregon chub remaining, the fish was listed as endangered.

This was the start of a huge group effort to recover Oregon chub, a native species that went from imperiled to healthy in just 22 years.

Member stories

Together with our members, MRT has played an important part in the comeback of Oregon chub. Because of support from people like you, we’ve protected places for chub to grow and thrive, six places on the Lower McKenzie River.

In the coming days and weeks, we’ll share a few stories of MRT members who aided the recovery.

George Grier and Cynthia Pappas
Art and Anita Johnson
Gail and Eric Haws

 

Places our members have helped protect

McKenzie floodplain forest will be home to fish and wildlife forever

Thank you for protecting habitat!


Because of you,
the abundant fish of the lower McKenzie River will thrive. Another critical piece of their habitat is protected!

In January, after years of negotiation and due diligence work, we purchased Chub Slough, a 34-acre property on the lower McKenzie River. Chub Slough adds to a network of complex, dynamic habitats across several hundred acres of floodplain land on the lower McKenzie.

Located nearby the Berggren Watershed Conservation Area and Bellinger Boat Landing, Chub Slough’s intact floodplain forest habitat adds to the “string of pearls” in this area. Within this network of conserved lands, healthy populations of Oregon chub, Chinook salmon, pond turtles, and red-legged frogs thrive – all thanks to your support.

Chub Slough also contains high value farmland. MRT is exploring ways this land might be enhanced and used in conjunction with the McKenzie Watershed Council and EWEB’s Healthy Farms Clean Water Program.

What’s in a name?

Oregon chub are a tiny minnow found only in the clean rivers of the Willamette Valley. After Oregon chub were placed on the Endangered Species List in the 1990s, the McKenzie River Trust came together with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, private landowners, and many other partners to take actions to protect habitat and create safe harbors for this unique fish.

On February 17, 2015, Oregon chub made history by being the first fish ever to be removed from the Endangered Species List due to recovery. The Chub Slough property contains such incredible habitat for Oregon chub that we had to name it after them.

Special thanks

Chub Slough was protected thanks to the support from people like you. The McKenzie Watershed Council 412 Fund and EWEB’s Drinking Water Source Protection Program, and Meyer Memorial Trust also provided grants for this project.

Thanks to you, wetlands are protected!

Wetlands and oaks near Fern Ridge will be a home to wildlife and fish, forever.

The Coyote Oaks Conservation Easement permanently protects 152 acres of wetlands and oaks just north of Fern Ridge Reservoir in the Long Tom River Watershed. Photo by Tim Giraudier.

There’s a tucked away spot just north of Fern Ridge Reservoir where – just about any time of year – you can hear the loud waka-waka-waka of an acorn woodpecker. Huge expanses of wetlands and oak trees thrive here. And thanks to the foresight of a restoration-conscious landowner and the support of the Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and people like you, this place will be protected forever.

The Coyote Oaks Conservation Easement was signed in September, and with that, 152 acres of forested wetlands and marsh are protected from future development and commercial use.

The land is owned by longtime Eugene residents and MRT supporters Art and Anita Johnson. Mr. Johnson has completed numerous projects to enhance wetland and oak woodland habitat on the Coyote Oaks property. He’s won awards for his land stewardship on this property and others.

Strong partners

Meaningful partnerships play a role in the project, too. The Long Tom Watershed Council, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Army Corps of Engineers all have a presence in the neighborhood, working towards a vision for a 1,200-acre natural area surrounding the property. When you get to that scale, you can amplify the benefits of conserving a single parcel. Partners helped identify the Coyote Oaks property as a conservation priority due to its extremely high-quality wetland and oak habitat.

Nootka rose is one of many native plants growing on the Coyote Oaks Conservation Easement. Photo by Tim Giraudier.

This rare habitat means that there is exceptional ecological diversity on the property. Bradshaw’s lomatium, red-legged frog, cutthroat trout, slender-billed nuthatch, yellow-breasted chat, and western bluebird have all been spotted here. It’s not unusual to see signs of elk, bobcat, black bear, and river otter.

Ownership in the area is a mix of public and private land, with federal agencies managing over 700 acres and private landowners committing to permanent land protection on 260 acres through easements held by MRT. The Johnsons now join them.

Funding for land protection

The Bonneville Power Administration and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provided funding for the project through the Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program, with additional support from individual donors like you. The grant to purchase the Conservation Easement was awarded through a competitive application process. The Coyote Oaks project was the second highest ranked project for the Willamette Valley in 2014, showing the importance of this investment for land conservation in our region.

The Willamette Wildlife Habitat Agreement, which created the grant program that funded the acquisition, was signed in October of 2010 between BPA and the state of Oregon. This 15-year agreement provides stable funding for wildlife habitat acquisitions for more than 26,000 acres in the Willamette Valley to offset the impacts of federal dams on the Willamette River and its tributaries, as required by the Northwest Power Act.

Flushing for fish

Restoration of the former Coburg Aggregate gravel pits on Green Island is all about working with the water we have.

If you ask Chris Vogel, the $1 million restoration project happening this summer on Green Island is all about flushing.

This summer, Wildish Construction Company crews moved over 110,000 cubic yards of gravel to create habitat for fish at the Coburg Aggregate Reclamation Project on Green Island. Photo by River Design Group.

“We’ll be working with the same amount of water we used to get on site,” says Chris, who has been Green Island‘s restoration Project Manager for six years. “It’s just where it goes and how and how long it stays that’s different.”

Flushing is simple: in a healthy river system, you’ve got water in, and water out. When a side channel fills up and then empties out, at least a couple times a year during high water events, the river flushes any ponded water and the critters living in it down the channel. In a natural area, this flushing provides a huge range of benefits for fish and wildlife.

The CARP site is in an active side channel of the Willamette River. We call this area the historic McKenzie River channel, because the main channel of the McKenzie River flowed right through here before the big 1964 floods which moved the McKenzie-Willamette confluence to where it is today, just south of Green Island. The channel has water year round, even more in the winter.

But it’s far from a natural area.

An altered landscape

CARP stands for Coburg Aggregate Reclamation Project. Until the McKenzie River Trust purchased this 56-acre parcel in 2010, the site was mined for sand and gravel. And that created steep gravel pits with few places for native plants to take hold.

“Before restoration, when that historic McKenzie River channel filled up, it would overtop into the pits. Lots of fish – both native and non-native – would get trapped until the next high flow,” says Chris.

In other words: no flushing.

The fish didn’t have a way to escape back into the channel as the water dropped. So, stranded, the fish lived their lives in the pits. “More frequent flushing will get them out,” says Chris.

Restoration solutions

The solution is to use heavy construction equipment to grade the slopes to a more natural rise of one foot up for every ten feet out. And that’s exactly what we did this summer at CARP, hiring the Wildish Construction Company to move 125,000 cubic yards of gravel to create those slopes and the right entry and exit points for the ponds to be much friendlier to native Willamette spring Chinook salmon, Oregon chub, and other fish and wildlife.

A new side-channel bypasses gravel ponds at the Coburg Aggregate Reclamation Project on Green Island, allowing fish to go around the pits in high water events and continue on down the Willamette River system. Photo by Raptorviews by Philip Bayles.

This winter, we’ll plant thousands of willows and other native trees and shrubs along the pond edges. As the plants grow up, they’ll offer fish plenty of places to hide from predators.

The next time the water rises, we’ll see on the ground how all this work makes a difference for salmon.

“We’re always looking for ways to give life to the river,” says Joe Moll, Executive Director of MRT. “This is one of the best investments we can make to do that.”

Special thanks

The Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and Meyer Memorial Trust’s Willamette Special Investment Partnership provided funding for CARP restoration. Additional funds were provided by The Nature Conservancy Portland General Electric Habitat Support program, and individual donors like you.

Oregon chub makes history

Landowner-Nonprofit Partnerships Aid in Recovery of Oregon Chub

Small minnow native to the Willamette Valley is the first fish proposed for removal from the Endangered Species List due to recovery

Nonprofits and private landowners have played an important role in the historic recovery of Oregon chub, a small minnow native to the Willamette Valley. On February 4, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to remove the Oregon chub from the Endangered Species List due to its recovery. If finalized, it would be the first fish to be delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act.

Robyn Thorson, Regional Director of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, announces the proposed delisting of Oregon chub from the Endangered Species Act on February 4, 2014. Behind her stand biologists Brian Bangs and Paul Sheerer of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife who have spent their careers helping to conserve and protect this native minnow that is found only in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

The historic announcement was made from the Berggren Watershed Conservation Area, a 92-acre property owned by the McKenzie River Trust (MRT). MRT is a land trust formed in 1989 to protect clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, and productive natural lands in western Oregon. The Berggren property was selected for the announcement because it contains a natural population of Oregon chub that has been growing over the past few years within some of the best side channel and floodplain forest habitat found on the lower McKenzie River. Since 2001, MRT has worked with private landowners to permanently protect habitat for chub and other species on six properties on this stretch of the river. These linked conservation areas help ensure that as the river continues to meander and change, there will always be suitable habitats for chub and other aquatic species.

“Protecting and caring for healthy habitat across the floodplain has been a key to chub recovery,” said Joe Moll, Executive Director of the McKenzie River Trust. “Here in Oregon, we live, work, and play among living rivers. We are proud to be a part of a partnership that has helped this native fish make a comeback. It is good news not only for chub, but for everything that depends on clean water and a healthy river. And that’s all of us.”

Chub ecology

More than 70 people attended the historic announcement, which was hosted on the Berggren Watershed Conservation Area, a 92-acre property owned by the McKenzie River Trust. The property is home to a natural population of chub as well as an active farm called the Berggren Demonstration Farm.

The chub is a small minnow existing only in the Willamette River Basin in floodplain habitats with limited or seasonal water flow such as beaver ponds, side channels and flooded marshes. These rare habitats generally have considerable aquatic vegetation to provide cover for hiding and spawning, and they are also home to other species of concern such as Chinook salmon, Red-legged frogs, and Western pond turtles.

Oregon chub were listed as endangered in 1993 under the Endangered Species Act and reclassified as threatened in 2009. If delisting is finalized, the fish will have gone from endangered to recovered in just over 20 years.

A home for chub

A private landowner sold the Berggren property to MRT in 2010. The purchase was supported by grant funding from the Bonneville Power Administration’s Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program, the McKenzie Watershed Council and the Eugene Water and Electric Board. The property contains about 60 acres of riparian habitat next to 30 acres of farmland managed by Cascade Pacific Resource Conservation and Development as the Berggren Demonstration Farm. The Farm is supported by EWEB’s Healthy Farms Clean Water program.

“We use ecologically appropriate farming practices so that we don’t harm species like chub,” said Jared Pruch, Coordinator for the Berggren Demonstration Farm. “We’re proud to partner with the McKenzie River Trust, McKenzie Watershed Council, EWEB, and others to build a strong local food system and engage the community to learn how to farm in a way that supports our native habitats.”

“What’s unique and exciting about the Berggren property is the opportunity to integrate restoration and education within the context of a collaborative partnership with the Trust, Farm and local schools,” said Jared Weybright, Project Manager for the McKenzie Watershed Council and coordinator of much of the restoration happening on the Berggren property. “Students participate through active involvement in tree planting and monitoring both the progress of the restoration work and natural conditions throughout the property.”

Diverse partnerships lead to success

The McKenzie River Trust has worked closely with biologists from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to monitor populations of Oregon chub on six properties owned by MRT on the McKenzie River. MRT and other nonprofits have also worked to enhance habitat for chub on these properties, with benefits for other aquatic species such as Chinook salmon, Western pond turtles, Red-legged frogs, and more.

Partnerships have been the foundation of the Oregon chub’s recovery, beginning with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s conservation planning efforts which led to the development of the species’ recovery plan. The McKenzie Watershed Council, Long Tom Watershed Council, and Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council have helped coordinate many private landowners who have contributed to the recovery of Oregon chub by managing habitats to support the fish on their lands. In some cases, private landowners have also created habitat to support introductions of the species on their property. Other key partners include Lane County, which owns parkland adjacent to the Berggren property that is home to several natural chub populations, and the Meyer Memorial Trust, which has catalyzed habitat conservation efforts basin-wide through the Willamette River Initiative. Many public agencies also manage habitats that support Oregon chub populations.

The McKenzie Watershed Council regularly hosts field-based learning sessions on the Berggren Watershed Conservation Area. These Thurston Middle School students are planting trees on the Berggren property while learning about riparian habitats and the creatures that live there.

“Efforts to conserve Oregon chub have been collective in the Willamette Valley. This recovery clearly demonstrates how a listed species can make a comeback in a highly populated, working landscape,” said Paul Scheerer, Oregon Chub Recovery Project Leader for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now has up to one year to determine whether the proposal should become final. The Service will open a 60-day public comment period to allow the public to review and comment on the proposal and provide additional information. The final decision whether or not to delist the Oregon chub will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available.

In the meantime, groups like the McKenzie River Trust, McKenzie Watershed Council, and Cascade Pacific Resource Conservation and Development will continue to coordinate with biologists from state and federal agencies to track chub populations and protect and restore habitat for the many creatures that benefit from healthy natural lands.