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.”

Beers Made By Walking comes to Eugene

Photo by Trask Bedortha

Beers Made By Walking comes to Eugene

Drink up the land. That’s what seven local breweries and a cidery are hoping you’ll do on November 5th when Beers Made By Walking (BMBW) comes to The Bier Stein.

This summer we’ve been working with BMBW to invite brewers to create place-based beers inspired by plants found on nature walks on MRT properties.

The public walks this summer on three places protected by MRT in the southern Willamette Valley taught people about native and invasive plants, in addition to private land conservation in the area. The brewers have been challenged to create a beer or cider that represents the trails they walked.

This brewers have included ingredients in their beers as varied as yarrow, lemon balm, mustard seed, fennel, chamomile, and many other wild ingredients. These experimental beers will be a joy to experience, particularly because they were inspired by the lands MRT members are helping to protect.

The proceeds from the event at The Bier Stein on November 5th will support MRT’s mission.

Participating breweries and cidery include:
Agrarian Ales, Claim 52 Brewing, Elk Horn Brewery, Falling Sky Brewing, Oakshire Brewing, Plank Town Brewing, Viking Braggot Co., and Wildcraft Cider Works.

Tapping event details

For more details about the event, including a link to the full beer list, click here.

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.

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.

Caddis Fly Angling Shop’s Annual Two-Fly Tournament Supports McKenzie River Trust

This post is the first in a series of profiles of McKenzie River Trust members. Have an idea for a member spotlight? Contact Jules Abbott, Membership and Outreach Coordinator: jules (at) mckenzieriver (dot) org.

Member Spotlight:

Chris Daughters, Caddis Fly Angling Shop

One of Chris Daughter’s earliest memories of life is fishing. Chris caught the family tradition the first time he cast a rod into McKenzie River’s crisp, clear water with his father and grandfather. Fishing quickly became his passion.

When Chris was only ten years old, he began working at the Caddis Fly Angling Shop. The owners became his second family. By his twenties, he bought it.

It’s all about enhancement

Today, as owner of a respected fly-fishing shop, Chris values McKenzie River Trust and its positive impact on Oregon Rivers and fish. Chris sees a strong connection between the shop’s customers and the Trust.

“[MRT] supports healthy habitat enhancement for rivers which enhance fish and clean water,” Chris says. “My philosophy is so much like theirs … [and] it benefits the customers as well. We’re all looking for enhancement.”

Chris believes that small steps can positively affect rivers and fish, and recognizes the importance of preserving the McKenzie River and its natural beauty.

“It has quite a bit of diversity, excellent gradient and beautiful forests,” Chris says about the McKenzie River. “When you get down into the lower flood plains, it has a totally different character. It’s a really diverse body of water, so its fishing techniques can be as well.”

Two-Fly Tournament makes an impact

One of the ways that Chris supports McKenzie River Trust is through an annual fly-fishing tournament, where all proceeds benefit MRT. In five years, The Caddis Fly Angling Shop’s Two-Fly Tournament has raised over $25,000, and Chris is one of several fishing guides who donate their time to the cause. This year’s tournament on September 26 and 27 filled up within weeks of registration opening.

Now, Chris continues to pass on his family tradition to his two young children, who accompanied him and his wife on fishing trips when they were just a couple of months old. They have fished in some of the world’s most exotic locations including, New Zealand, Argentina and Chile, but they always return to where it all began, on the McKenzie River.

Get involved!

Are you an angler who would like to help protect the McKenzie and our other local rivers? Then shop at the Caddis Fly Shop on Friday, September 26, when Chris and his crew will donate 10% of sales to the McKenzie River Trust.

Press Release: Living River Celebration

For Immediate Release

Contact: Liz Lawrence
Director of Resources

McKenzie River Trust Hosts Living River Event
Celebrating Green Island Conservation

EUGENE, Ore. (June 19, 2014) – On Saturday, June 28, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the McKenzie River Trust will celebrate 11 years of land and water conservation on Green Island with a free and family-friendly event. The McKenzie River Trust invites families, friends, and nature lovers to enjoy the conserved land and water at the Living River Celebration.

Visitors will enjoy birdsong and live music, freshwater and cold beverages, all while exploring 1,100 acres of rolling floodplain that grow wilder by the day. Activities include tree climbing, guided tours, birding, picnicking, self-guided walks and runs, canoeing, Ninkasi beer, a musical performance by guitarist Don Latarski, and more than a dozen booths from local conservation organizations. New this year, writers and others will offer walking tours and free workshops for nature lovers to get in tune with their senses and better appreciate the land.

Green Island is located west of Coburg, Oregon where the Willamette and McKenzie Rivers come together. Green Island is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Eugene or Springfield. Parking on the property is limited, so carpooling is encouraged.

For more details about this event, including a full schedule of activities and directions, visit

About the McKenzie River Trust
The McKenzie River Trust is a nonprofit land trust that was formed in 1989 to conserve and care for special lands and the rivers that flow through them in western Oregon. For 25 years, McKenzie River Trust has worked with landowners and diverse partnerships to protect, forever, nearly 4,000 acres of special lands in western Oregon. The McKenzie River Trust is committed to a future in which intact, functioning ecosystems provide clean water, abundant fish and wildlife, and productive natural landscapes throughout western Oregon. To learn more about McKenzie River Trust, visit

About the Living River events
The Living River event, now in its sixth year, is the McKenzie River Trust’s annual event to connect our community to the unique landscapes that surround us in Oregon – where we all live, work, and play. Living River events benefit the McKenzie River Trust’s mission. Last year’s Living River Celebration was the first to be held on Green Island. Over 800 people joined us to walk, bird, paddle, climb, picnic, and explore this special place. To see pictures of last year’s celebration, visit


Floodplain ESB

Beer for Water

Falling Sky Brewing has created a special beer called Floodplain ESB, brewed to support the McKenzie River Trust.

Falling Sky Brewing has created Floodplain ESB, a limited edition beer brewed to benefit the McKenzie River Trust. $1 from every pint sold will be donated to MRT while supplies last.

Falling Sky Brewing will donate $1 for every Floodplain ESB pint to the Mckenzie River Trust. “Beer is made from amazing things, but it’s mostly water. We can’t think of a more worthwhile cause to those ends than the McKenzie River Trust. We can make great beer because we have great water,” says Scott Sieber, Falling Sky’s lead brewer.

McKenzie River Trust protects and cares for special lands and the rivers that flow through them. Working in eight different watersheds throughout western Oregon, the McKenzie River Trust works with private, willing landowners to permanently protect the places people care about.

The ESB, which stands for Extra Special Bitter, will be available only while supplies last. “We brewed 18 kegs, and it should last at least through the first 3 weeks of March. We love this beer and we love this cause,” says Michael Zarkesh, Falling Sky’s other brewer.

Raise a pint of beer to future pints, and the conservation that will continue to make them exceptional!

Join us to Connect with the Land at Falling Sky Brewing on Monday February 24th. 25% of your check will be donated to the McKenzie River Trust when you mention our name or show a special flyer. More details can be found here.

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.