Deschutes Land Trust took another step forward in its goal to protect wildlife habitat along Whychus Creek northeast of Sisters.
The trust recently bought 58 acres of land, creating the new Aspen Hollow Preserve. It’s on a half-mile stretch of Whychus Creek, between the Whychus Canyon Preserve and the Camp Polk Meadow Preserve.
In addition to the creek’s salmon and steelhead habitat, the land contains exposed cliffs and pine and aspen woodlands that provide habitat for mule deer, rocky mountain elk, golden eagles, spotted bats and many songbirds. Acquisition of the Aspen Hollow Preserve brings the Whychus Canyon Preserve to 988 acres total.
Brad Nye, conservation director for the land trust, said the property is generally healthy but “the immediate need is to get old structures out of there and get it planted back to native vegetation.”
Nye said the trust expects to spend roughly $75,000 on restoration in the preserve.
In June, the trust will start removing dilapidated structures on the property. A mobile home from the late 1960s has become a fire and rodent hazard. Other associated buildings will be removed, but a building that houses a well on the property will stay, Nye said.
In the fall, the trust plans to begin planting native seeds and opening the property for guided tours. Forestry work to relieve pressure on aspen groves from encroaching juniper and ponderosa pine probably will wait until next year. The Upper Deschutes Watershed Council has helped the trust in the past, and Nye said the trust may take the group back out to look at the newly acquired creek habitat. Whychus Creek flows into the Deschutes River near Lake Billy Chinook.
“The bulk of the stream on the property is already providing great habitat for fish,” Nye said. “But there are some places we might enhance.”
The trust launched its Campaign for Whychus Creek last fall. It has raised about one-third of its $11 million goal. The money to purchase the Aspen Hollow Preserve came from land trust members, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the Laird Norton Family Foundation and the Roundhouse Foundation, according to a Deschutes Land Trust news release issued Monday. Nye said the sellers in the Aspen Hollow deal asked the trust not to disclose their identity or the cost of the property.
In 2010, the trust bought 450 acres of land along Whychus Creek, and last September it bought another 480 acres downstream for about $4 million, according to Bulletin archives. The trust also has a conservation easement that prevents development on the 1,100-acre Rimrock Ranch, through which Whychus Creek flows .
In the future, the trust plans to keep fundraising and working with landowners in the area to determine their interest in conservation projects. The trust has identified three additional miles of high-priority restoration and conservation projects it would like to complete along Whychus Creek. Nye said the trust will probably pursue “a mix of conservation easements and purchasing property, depending on what landowners’ objectives are, and what our objectives are for a particular property. … But it’s up to landowners and what they want to do. We work with willing landowners.”
By Jasmine Rockow
The Bend BulletinApril 15, 2015