Developing a sense of place via baseline surveys at Whychus Canyon

Nov 27, 2010
Preparing for the acquisition of a new property involves detailed surveys which help staff develop an intimate knowledge of the land and lay the groundwork for future management plans.

As 2010 draws to a close, all of us at the Deschutes Land Trust are hoping that our community of supporters will come through with the funding to help us acquire the spectacular 450-acre Whychus Canyon Preserve near Sisters, Oregon. When preparing for such an acquisition, Land Trust stewardship staff and volunteers spend time exploring the property and creating a baseline report, which will serve as a guide for future management plans.

A baseline report is a report on the existing conditions of a property.  The Land Trust’s staff and volunteers spend time extensively exploring a property and documenting the terrain, property lines, wildlife, existing vegetation, and areas of importance or concern. The baseline survey records the current conditions on the property and allows our staff  to begin developing an intimate knowledge of the land, its history, and the plant and animal communities present.

Below you'll hear first hand reports from our stewardship staff about their experience “doing baseline” at Whychus Canyon last month.

What is your favorite part about doing a baseline for a property?

Sherry:  It’s really the best way to get to know a property. You get to explore all the different corners and go to areas you might not visit again!

Amanda:  Getting to know a new place – taking the time to really explore, to hike all over the property and discover hidden nooks.  The first couple times out, I’m just trying to get the ‘big picture’ – figure out what the main restoration opportunities are going to be, look at the things we really want to try to protect. Then on subsequent visits, I often discover other hidden treasures I didn’t see the first time.

I also really love working with all the volunteers that help us inventory a new property. We try to learn as much as we can – so we can accurately document existing conditions at the time of acquisition – and so we can formulate our management plans for the property with as much data as possible.  And we couldn’t amass all this information without the contributions of volunteers.  They spend countless hours surveying birds and other wildlife, plants, mapping fence lines and roads, and much more.

What has been the most interesting “discovery” you’ve made at Whychus Canyon?

Sherry: Well, since I’ve primarily been focused on weeds, maybe for me it’s that the weed infestations aren’t too bad out there! It feels very manageable which makes me happy. I’ve also seen cougar tracks there 3 of the 4 times I’ve been out there!

Amanda: That’s a tough one! There have been so many…walking down the historic wagon road, actually walking in the wagon ruts and thinking about the history (which is a stretch for me because I RARELY take time to ponder history!), discovering old growth juniper groves, old growth ponderosa pine, amazingly intact and healthy bunchgrass communities, stumbling across a band of rimrock I didn’t know was out there and being treated to the phenomenal, uninterrupted view of the high Cascades.

To you, what is the most interesting ecological feature of the property?
The riparian corridor along Whychus Creek.  Photo: Brian Ouimette
The riparian corridor along Whychus Creek. Photo: Brian Ouimette
The riparian corridor along Whychus Creek. Photo: Brian Ouimette

Sherryi: I think the rimrock is pretty cool but I guess I’m a water person and love the riparian corridor the most.

Amanda: Do I have to choose just one? May I choose DIVERSITY as my answer?  From upland meadows and old-growth groves, to steep rimrock canyon walls, to the lush riparian corridor – this property has it ALL!  And it’s in such great condition compared to so many other places I’ve seen.

Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share from spending days roaming that land?

Sherry: I think once we determine a more accessible way to get people down to the creek this property is going to be a really great place for birding, hiking and just enjoying the beauty of Whychus Creek and the high desert.

Amanda: I’m always happiest at the end of a long day spent hiking and exploring a new place, especially one as special as this property. Whychus Canyon is a place of such beauty and such promise – for the future of the Land Trust, for our community, and for the future generations of steelhead and salmon finding their way back to home waters.

The Land Trust would like to extend a special thanks to all of our numerous volunteers involved in the baseline survey process.  They include Bill Mitchell, Mary Crow and Jane Meissner, Paul Edgerton, Eva Eagle, Bob Groves Jr., and Darrin Stringer, among others.   We rely on your help, expertise and dedication.  Thank you!