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.

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.

Beers Made By Walking

Beers Made By Walking

Brewers to create drinkable portraits of protected lands

Beers Made By Walking, a program that invites brewers to go on nature hikes and make beer inspired by plants found on the trail, is partnering with McKenzie River Trust for a series of three walks this summer and a beer-tasting fundraiser in the fall.

Beers Made By Walking invites brewers and interested community members to go on nature hikes guided by local conservation and plant experts. Brewers attending the hikes are challenged to create a unique hike-inspired beer that serves as a drinkable, landscape portrait of the trails that are walked.

The resulting beers will be served at a special event on November 5th at The Bier Stein, and proceeds from the beers will benefit the McKenzie River Trust. Partnering breweries/cideries in the Eugene/Springfield area include Claim 52 Brewing, Elk Horn Brewery, Agrarian Ales, Oakshire Brewing, Falling Sky Brewing, Viking Braggot Company, and WildCraft Cider Works.

Hike on the Berggren Watershed Conservation Area

Thursday, June 4 from 6 to 8 pmRegister now!
This Beers Made by Walking tour explores the riparian forest and field edges of Berggren along the lower McKenzie River, a special place where farming and conservation come together. This tour will be guided by Jared Pruch, coordinator for the Berggren Demonstration Farm and joined by brewers from Claim 52, Elk Horn Brewery, Falling Sky Brewing, and Viking Braggot Company.

Hike on Green Island during the Living River Celebration

Saturday, June 27, time TBAGet more info
As part of the Living River Celebration, come and explore a natural area just 15 minutes from downtown Eugene. Green Island is McKenzie River Trust’s largest property and an ecologically diverse river system. The Living River Celebration will feature music, refreshments, and is family friendly event. This tour will be one of many offered during the day. It will be guided by Jenny Getty and hikers will be joined by brewers from Agrarian Ales and Oakshire Brewing.

Hike at the Hagens’ Confluence Farm on Ferguson Creek

Thursday, July 30 from 6 to 8 pmGet more info
This Beers Made By Walking tour explores Trey and Tammie Hagen’s family land near Monroe. Visit the intact, meandering section of Ferguson Creek that runs through the property, as well as the hay fields and blueberry patches of Confluence Farm, the Hagens’ berry operation. Located in the Pacific Flyway, one of several major routes across North America for migrating waterfowl, this walk will take hikers back in time to a homestead in the early settlement days of the Willamette Valley. The tour will be guided by plant and ethnobotany expert Heiko Koester and joined by brewers from Planktown Brewing and WildCraft Cider Works.

Beers Made By Walking Release Party at The Bier Stein

Thursday, November 5 from 5 to 8 pmGet more info
Taste the beers made by walking on MRT lands! Mark your calendars for this party at the Bier Stein, where you can meet the all the participating brewers and sample the unique beers inspired by the hikes. A portion of proceeds from this event will be donated to the McKenzie River Trust.

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.

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.

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.

Growing Food & Protecting Clean Water

Farming and Conservation on MRT Properties

Many people think of land conservation and farming as opposites. But on properties protected by the McKenzie River Trust, land owners and managers are doing both, balancing our communities’ need for fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat, while protecting drinking water, and conserving natural areas where salmon thrive riparian forests tower high above clean flowing rivers. Here are two farms that are doing just that.

Berggren Demonstration Farm – McKenzie Watershed

As you prepare for Thanksgiving dinner this year, know that there’s a new place in town to get your turkey. The Berggren Demonstration Farm is concluding its second year of production this winter. The farm is located on lower McKenzie River property that MRT acquired in 2010, and it is managed by Cascade Pacific Resource Conservation & Development. This collaboration among the Trust, CPRCD, and EWEB is an effort to protect clean drinking water, integrate farming and conservation, and teach young people about growing food. Right now, the farm is growing chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats, rabbits, chicken eggs, and more. For more information visit berggren-farm.org.

Whiskey Creek Organics – Siuslaw Watershed

Looking for fresh food in Florence? Whiskey Creek Organics, a family farm on Duncan Island near Mapleton, grows tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, peppers, and much more. David and Joy Pippenger’s mission is to grow the best food possible with the least amount of “off farm” inputs as possible. The Pippengers’ property is protected under a conservation easement held by MRT. Framed by towering Sitka spruce, the estuary wetlands there provide tremendous nursery habitat for salmon and many marine animals. And MRT staff can personally vouch for the deliciousness of the farm’s raspberries! For more information visit whiskeycreekorganics.com.

Landowners donate 91-acre forest easement

"Our vision for Woodpecker Ridge is not to have it just be a wild refuge," says landowner Max Gessert, who recently worked with his wife Kate to donate a conservation easement to the McKenzie River Trust. "We also want the forest to be a place where humans can be part of the land."

As you walk through the forest and farmland protected in the Woodpecker Ridge Conservation Easement near Crow, mature conifer trees tower above while your feet squish into the rich floodplain of Trout Creek. Passing tall oak groves, you reach a small wetland. A flock of sheep grazes in the farm fields. It’s easy to see why Kate and Max Gessert wanted to protect this special place.

Kate, an English as a Second Language teacher at Lane Community College, and Max, an artist and writer, donated a 91-acre conservation easement to the McKenzie River Trust in May. Grant funds from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Wetlands Conservation Act helped pay for some of the transaction expenses.

Landowners Kate and Max Gessert.

After living on 20 acres of the property for a few years, the Gesserts learned that the second-growth forest next door was owned by a timber company and about to be cut, so they bought it. “We first talked with the McKenzie River Trust about an easement about 10 years ago,” says Max. “We wanted to protect the land, but there were some staff changes and it was easy to put off. Many years went by. Then I was diagnosed with cancer, and suddenly, all kinds of issues became foregrounded. We began thinking about lots of things we had considered before that hadn’t been finished.”

Red-legged frogs, pileated woodpeckers, yellow-breasted chat and other sensitive fish and wildlife species are likely to benefit from the land’s protection. In keeping with the Gesserts’ Forest Stewardship Certification of the land, the easement allows for limited, sustainable forest harvest.

Nicole Nielsen-Pincus, MRT’s Willamette Program Manager, emphasizes that customized legal agreements can meet landowner needs while protecting critical habitat. “In working with Kate and Max to develop this easement, I learned how much this forest means to them,” says Nicole. “Conservation easements are as unique as the landscapes they protect, and we’re grateful that future wildlife and people will coexist on Woodpecker Ridge and be protected.”

Here at the McKenzie River Trust, we are also grateful to you, our supporters, for your help in bringing conservation agreements like this one to life.

“There are many ways we all try to take care of the world,” says Kate. “But it’s hard to know which ones will work. This seemed like something effective we could do.”