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.

New boot scrubbing kiosk installed at the Coyote Spencer Wetlands

Ryan Ruggiero, Land Protection Manager for the McKenzie River Trust, and Kolton Baldree, the Walton Eagle Scout who build the new boot scrubbing kiosk at the Coyote Spencer Wetlands.

Eagle Scout completes volunteer service project on
Coyote Spencer Wetlands

Kolton and his dad and brother finalize the installation of the kiosk.


Kolton Baldree of Walton, a sophomore at Elmira High School, recently completed his community service project for his Eagle Scout ranking, the highest ranking attainable in the Boy Scouting program. Kolton constructed a boot scrubbing kiosk at the Coyote Spencer Wetlands (CSW), a botanically rich landscape acquired by the McKenzie River Trust in 2012. In order to help limit weeds on the property, the boot scrubber will enable site managers, conservation partners, and public tour participants to scrub weed seeds from their footwear as they walk onto the site.

A community member donated the materials for the project, and Kolton has been working on it for the past few months. On Wednesday, Kolton completed the installation of the interpretive sign that teaches people the value of cleaning their shoes and the importance of doing so on a property like the Coyote Spencer Wetlands.

The CSW contains over 300 species of plants, more than half of which are native and several of which are very rare, including suncups, federally-endangered Bradshaw’s lomatium, Hitchcock’s blue-eyed grass, and thin-leaved peavine. MRT is managing the property for these and other native plant species.

Historically, the property was grazed, and several pasture grasses, notably meadow foxtail, now dominate the meadow areas. MRT is working to reverse the dominance of introduced species through annual mowing and other measures. One factor that will continue to influence how healthy native plant communities are in the meadow areas is the introduction of weed seed. More weeds means less light, water, and soil nutrients will be available for native species.

The boot scrubbing kiosk will help reduce the weed seed being brought into the site over time, increasing the chances that the CSW will be a haven for native plant species and the wildlife species that depend on them.

On behalf of the McKenzie River Trust board, staff, partners and supporters – A huge thanks to Kolton for making this project happen, for contributing something of tremendous value to the property’s conservation value, and for building the Trust’s first-ever boot scrubbing kiosk!

If you’d like to see the new kiosk, join us on our upcoming Bird Tour of the Coyote Spencer Wetlands on Saturday, May 4th or Native Plant Tour on Saturday, May 11th.

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.”