2017 Blog Posts

Thank you to local businesses!

Local businesses have been showing the Land Trust their love recently. Read on for a few highlights.

Here at the Deschutes Land Trust, we appreciate our community of supporters every day of the year. One of the incredible parts of being a nonprofit in Central Oregon is the support that area businesses provide. We’re thrilled to highlight just a few local businesses that have been showing the Land Trust their love recently:

Deschutes Brewery

A local business that’s been a long-time supporter of the Land Trust, Deschutes Brewery pledged $30,000 to the Campaign for Whychus Creek this year. The gift was the largest corporate contribution to the Campaign. In addition, the Land Trust was also the featured nonprofit for the Deschutes Brewery’s Community Pint Nights in June. Deschutes Brewery employees have also volunteered with the Land Trust. Thank you, Deschutes Brewery, for your commitment to helping preserve our natural areas!



FootZone and its owner Teague Hatfield have been supportive of the Land Trust for more than a decade! Every June, FootZone donates the proceeds from the Dirty Half—a half marathon trail run at the Phil’s Trail complex. We also get the opportunity to come out and support the Dirty Half with volunteers at aid stations and the finish line. It is such a fun event! Thank you, FootZone, for your continued support!


Hydro Flask

The Land Trust was honored to be chosen by Hydro Flask’s employees as one of the beneficiaries of this year’s Seconds Sale. Though the sale was busy, lots of great deals were had. The end result: Hydro Flask presented half of the proceeds—$22,000—to the Land Trust! In addition, Hydro Flask employees have volunteered with the Land Trust, helping to plant native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses at Whychus Canyon Preserve. Thank you so much, Hydro Flask, for your support!



Central Oregon’s local Patagonia@Bend secured a $5,000 grant through Patagonia, Inc.’s Retail Grants Program this year to support the Land Trust. Owners Rod and Katie Bien have been supportive of the Land Trust in the past, and we appreciate their commitment to our conservation efforts. We’ve also had the opportunity to spread the Land Trust love at Patagonia@Bend on First Friday! Thank you, Patagonia@Bend, for your enthusiasm and dedication!


We hope you’ll show your love for these local businesses. Tell them you appreciate their support of the Deschutes Land Trust and our collective work to conserve and care for land in Central Oregon.


Grand Fir vs Douglas Fir

Do you know a grand fir from a Doug fir? Make sure you can identify the right type of tree to cut at the Tree Hunt!

'Tis the season for Christmas trees!

This marks our 13th year of the Deschutes Land Trust’s annual Tree Hunt. Participants brave the cold and trek through the forest at the Metolius Preserve to find their favorite grand fir tree to take home for the holidays.

Removing grand fir helps restore the forests, which were historically dominated by older ponderosa pine. Decades of fire suppression have allowed grand fir to crowd the forests, posing fire risks and threatening the overall health of the land.

As the Tree Hunt approaches, here is a quick reminder of how to identify the grand fir from the Douglas fir, another common tree on the Metolius Preserve.

Grand Fir (Abies grandis)

The grand fir is an evergreen true fir. True firs, (Genus Abies) are so named to distinguish them from Douglas-firs and a number of other “pretenders”. Medium to large trees, often 150-200’ tall. Trees tend to have narrow shape and rigid upright or horizontal branching.

Needles are about 1” long and highly aromatic. Blunt to the touch. Yellowish-green on top surface, white bands on underside. Needles are two distinct lengths, alternating longer and shorter. Needles are in a flat plane coming off the branch.

Cones are upright, cylindrical, 3-4”, perched on the topmost branches. Cones of true firs do not fall intact like other conifer cones. In late fall, their scales tumble off one by one when the seeds have ripened.

Bark is smooth and pale gray, becoming thicker on older trees and dividing into thick, flat-topped ridges.

Search for more photos of Grand fir (Abies grandis) on Oregon Flora Project.



Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
The Douglas Fir (commonly called Doug Fir) is the most abundant tree species in Oregon and the conifer with the greatest north-south range (from northern B.C. to Mexico). The name Douglas fir may be misleading as it is not a true fir, but a member of it’s own genus Pseudotsuga, which means false hemlock.

Needles are single ½-1-1/2” long generally with white stripe on underside, blunt-tipped (not sharp to the touch). Needles come off the branch in a bottle brush shape.

Cones are 3-4” long with a paper-thin 3-pointed bract sticking out beneath each woody scale. These bracts have been compared to a three-pronged pitchfork and to the hind feet and tail of a mouse diving into a hole.

Bark of mature trees is dark brown and deeply grooved.

Search for more photos of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) on Oregon Flora Project.


Learn more:


Wildlife in the Winter

While we're staying warm and snug in our toasty homes, what do wildlife do to survive the winter?

By Jen Zalewski

It’s happened again—the days are getting shorter and colder. Here in Central Oregon, you may have found yourself remarking to a neighbor or co-worker, “Wow, I can’t believe how early the sun is setting!” This is a common reaction, even though it should be no surprise by now; most of us have lived through decades of seasons. But we should give ourselves a break; after all, most of us humans have adapted so thoroughly to the changing of the seasons that we hardly need to see it coming. Perhaps we should buy a roof rake (I’m putting that on my list right now), gather up our leaves before they do something terrible to the lawn, and cover the patio furniture. Done. Ready for snowpocalypse. But what about the rest of the creatures that inhabit our local forests, rivers, and skies? Without home furnaces controlled by smartphones and Subarus with remote start buttons, they must rely on their hardwired routines and adaptations to get them through the cold, dark days of winter.

I thought I would shed some light on how a few of our local creatures get through the winter so the next time my kid asks me “Where do bees go in winter?” I don’t have to try to sound convincing when I say, “Well, to their condo in Florida, of course.”

So let’s start there.


Honeybees and Bumblebees: Forgive me while I generalize here, for there are many species within these categories.

Honeybees spend the warmer months preparing for the winter. They produce and store honey that sustains them in the hive when the temperature drops into the 50s. Cool temperatures drive the queen deep into the hive where the worker bees (all female) cluster around her. The workers flutter their wings and shiver to create heat to insulate the queen while feasting on the stored honey for energy. This shuddering hive can create a Florida condo microclimate of 80 degrees! Male bees (drones) never even make it to winter. The goal of their short lives is to attempt to mate with virgin queen bees in the warm season, after which they die. If mating doesn’t do them in, they are expelled from the hive before winter and succumb to exposure; such is the life of an individual in a species that reproduces as a colony. Honeybee queens can live for a while, surviving up to five seasons, while their colonies are perennial, surviving indefinitely.

A snowy forest. Photo: Amanda Egertson.
A snowy forest. Photo: Amanda Egertson.
Bumblebees have a different strategy. Their colonies have an annual cycle. They do not store food externally as honeybees do. Without stored sustenance, the current year’s bumblebee queen, the males, and workers all succumb to starvation when the temperature drops. In the meantime, a new fertilized queen has emerged from the colony. The new queen has stored energy (aka fat) inside her body, having feasted heavily on pollen and nectar before winter. She then finds a sheltered place, typically in the ground, where she hibernates alone. Her suppressed metabolism slowly utilizes her fat stores and, if she survives the winter, she will emerge the following spring to start a new colony.

It is important to note that honeybees, although commercially important pollinators, are not native to North America. The introduction of honeybees may be partially responsible for the decline of our native bumblebees; however, both honeybee and bumblebee species are declining due to habitat loss and fragmentation, pesticide use, disease, and climate change.


Sockeye: Historically, the Metolius Preserve was home to one of two sockeye salmon runs in the state! Young sockeye would spend 1-2 years in Suttle Lake growing before they migrated in the spring via Lake Creek and the Metolius River to the ocean. After 2-3 years, they returned home in the summer/fall to spawn and die. In the 1960’s, dams on the Deschutes River blocked passage for sockeye and other salmon. Today, a massive partnership is underway to return these fish to their historic range. While 2017 returning sockeye numbers were small, 2016 was a banner year that has given us all hope for the species. In winter, sockeye salmon do one of two things: any adults that have returned have spawned and are now fertilizer, returning nutrients to the earth. Young sockeye spend winter in their rearing grounds at Suttle Lake where they are biding their time until they leave on their journey to the ocean. Lake Creek is essentially a sockeye ghost town in the winter.

Learn more on sockeye salmon in the Deschutes River system and reintroduction efforts.


A river otter at night. Photo: Land Trust.
A river otter at night. Photo: Land Trust.
River Otters: It’s pretty much business as usual for river otters in the winter. River otters are semi-aquatic carnivores that hunt and fish all year. They do not hibernate and are well adapted to cold weather. Their fur is incredibly thick and they have special oil glands they use to oil and waterproof their fur. Their warm coat and a layer of fat underneath allows them to spend more time in the water than on land where the air temperature is often cooler than the water temperature. Oh, and they go sledding, of course (and then go sledding some more).


Black Bears: During winter, bears den up and sleep the days away because food is scarce. They do not eat and therefore do not urinate or defecate. Very efficient hibernators, their respiration and heart rate drop significantly, but their body temperature stays near normal. Female bears (like all mamas) remain busy during the winter. Assuming they mated the previous spring, female bears have a cool adaptation called delayed implantation. This adaptation allows the egg that was fertilized last spring to go into suspended animation and delay a pregnancy until fall when the bear has enough fat stored up to sustain gestation. Only them does the egg implant. Female bears spend their winter growing and then birthing baby bears, which emerge in the spring weighing 10 pounds and ready to climb a tree.


A pygmy nuthatch. Photo: Kris Kristovich.
A pygmy nuthatch. Photo: Kris Kristovich.
Pygmy Nuthatch: Birds have a variety of ways to survive the cold of winter. Many migrate to the tropics where food is plentiful or move regionally to lower elevations where temperatures are milder. Others decide to stay put and stick it out. Among these is the pygmy nuthatch. If you are not a birder, you need to know they are all kinds of adorable. High on the list of their adorable behaviors is their preference to roost in groups at night; dozens, or even a hundred individuals might be found huddled together—all in a single nest cavity! Along with this sheltered huddling activity, they let their body temperature drop to save energy—an adaptation called torpor. Pygmy nuthatches are the only North American birds that employ these three strategies (cavity sheltering, huddling, and torpor) to survive a cold night. How does this tiny bird, or any bird for that matter, go around in bare feet all winter? A close association between the veins and arteries in their legs and feet regulates the temperature of the blood between their lower limbs and their heart, ensuring they do not lose too much warmth through their feet, yet keep their feet warm enough not to freeze.


Learn more:

Weasels and bobcats and bears, oh my!

You're not the only one that enjoys our Preserves! Find out what creatures have been spotted wandering around recently.

Our wildlife cameras and photographers have spotted some great wildlife on our Preserves recently. Enjoy the latest installment of wildlife photos and videos, including more feline sightings, a black bear, a long-tailed weasel, and lots of deer. 

If you cannot see the slideshow below, please click here. (Be sure to click "Show Info" in the upper right corner to view photo captions.)


Created with flickr slideshow.

Wreath making 101

Learn how to make your own holiday wreath with these six easy steps!

Did you miss our wreath making station at our annual Tree Hunt? Rest assured, we have you covered! Resident wreath guru Ginny Elliott offers these six easy steps on how to make your own wreath.

Gather your supplies and make your own wreath! Photo: Ginny Elliott.
Gather your supplies and make your own wreath! Photo: Ginny Elliott.
 Required supplies:

  1. Hoop: made of wire, willow or vine. You can buy these at craft stores, or find old ones to recycle from resale stores.
  2. Wire: you will need flexible wire to wrap your branches onto your wreath hoop. Lots of options can be found at local hardware stores. Bonus points for buying the green colored wire!
  3. Clippers: you will need some clippers to cut your greenery. Invest in some if you don’t have them, because your kitchen scissors won’t cut it!
  4. Greenery: branches from your Christmas tree, yard trees, herbs, sticks…you name it and you can wreath it up!

Extra credit supplies:

  1. Gloves: save your hands from pokes and pitch.
  2. Embellishments: ribbon, berries, pine cones….bling it up as you like!

Wreath making, step-by-step:

  1. First, wrap wire around hoop a couple of times to secure it to the hoop. Note: it helps to cut a couple of feet of wire from your spool and wrap it around an old pencil or stick. This will help you pull the wire tight as you make the wreath.

  2. Cut greens and make a small bundle. There is no rule on how big or small the bundle needs to be. Just be consistent as you work around the wreath.

  3. Lay bundle on the hoop and secure it with 2 or 3 wraps of the wire. Wrap the wire tight enough to hold it but not so tight you cut the greens.

  4. Make another bundle and lay it on the hoop so it covers the wrapping on the first bundle. Wrap the wire to secure it.

  5. Continue adding bundles until you make it around the entire hoop.

  6. Add ribbon or embellishments as you wish. Hang or display with pride!

Last, but not least:
After the holidays, don’t trash that hoop and wreath! Clip off the branches and wrap up the wire and save it for next year.

Special thanks to Ginny Elliott for her expert wreath making skills, photos, and time!


Winter isn’t coming

It's International Mountain Day! Learn how climate change will impact snow in the Cascades.

by Fiona Noonan

On November 18, Mt. Bachelor had its earliest opening day since 2006, much to the excitement of thousands of Central Oregonians who got in some rare pre-Thanksgiving frontcountry turns. Then, just a few days later, a storm rolled in, carrying with it the promise of extensive, Cascades-blanketing precipitation.

There was only one problem: it was the wrong type of storm for snow sports, and rain was the only kind of blanket draping the Cascades.

In one fell swoop, the rain wiped out roughly half of the snow that had built up on Mt. Bachelor, Tumalo Mountain, Broken Top, and the Three Sisters. Even from Bend you could tell that the peaks had reverted back to their autumnal state of exposed rock. At lower elevations, the runoff that resulted from the rain-on-snow event created torrents in the streams and rivers that flow from the Cascades.

Winter, it seemed, had come and gone in a flash flood, getting off to a false start that may become an increasingly common phenomenon in the years to come. In fact, as the impacts of climate change continue to unfold across the planet, the Cascades may offer a window into a future with less snow, more rain, and warmer temperatures.

Now, you might be thinking, “Wait, did she just say more rain? I thought climate change was going to create a drought-ridden desert apocalypse surrounded by mile-high oceans!”

Before you let yourself sink too deeply into that particular doom-and-gloom scenario, though, there are a couple of Central Oregon-specific climate change predictions to know about.

Most climate change models—mathematical characterizations of atmospheric, terrestrial, and oceanic interactions—predict that temperatures will increase in the Pacific Northwest, but these models to not fully agree on how precipitation will change. Where models do mostly agree is that climate change will cause snowfall to decline in the Cascades and throughout the rest of Oregon.

More rain, less snow is in our future. Photo: Tim Cotter.
More rain, less snow is in our future. Photo: Tim Cotter.
More Rain, Less Snow
There are a couple of possible reasons for this. The first is intuitive: as a rule of thumb, warmer temperatures mean less snow. Therefore, more precipitation will fall as rain at high elevations, reducing snowpack causing melting. Compounding this is a meteorological phenomenon called atmospheric rivers, which carry masses of warm tropical water to the Pacific Northwest and result in storm events that often lead to flooding and other extreme outcomes. Without the cold temperatures needed for snow, atmospheric rivers lead to large rain or rain-on-snow events in the Cascades that will occur more frequently and in greater magnitude with climate change.

Changing Winds, Less Rain
The second reason for a future with snow-free winters takes us much deeper into the climate science weeds: some research suggests that mountain ranges like the Cascades will actually receive less precipitation overall, in part due to decreased wind speed. So how does wind have anything to do with how water falls out of the sky?

In general, westerly winds—which blow from west to east over the Pacific Ocean—push air toward the Cascades. As the air rises it cools rapidly, causing water vapor to condense and release precipitation that normally falls as snow during the colder winter months. Climate change, it turns out, has been decreasing the speed of winds, which rely on temperature gradients to form. Since northern latitudes heat up more quickly than equatorial latitudes, the temperature differences that normally generate wind in the Pacific Northwest are getting much smaller. With less wind, fewer storms make it up into the Cascades, meaning there is less mountain precipitation overall.

Beyond the Cascades
The effects of decreased snowpack don’t stop on the slopes, though. Our rivers depend on snowmelt for summer streamflows and cool temperatures that support fish and other species. Central Oregon’s water storage systems also rely on snowmelt and streamflow timing to properly fill reservoirs, enable agricultural irrigation, and provide adequate drinking water to cities and towns.

The sad reality is that many of these precipitation changes are already visible throughout the Cascades, and by the 2080s Oregon will likely be rain-dominant.

However, don’t lose all hope for mountain snow just yet. The worst of these trends are still to come, so acting now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to conserve mountain ecosystems can help keep our ski season intact longer.

Learn more:


A year in photos: 2017

Thanks to all who made 2017 a wonderful year!


What an incredible year 2017 has been! New trail systems, creek restoration, hikes, and wildlife sightings (including unicorns!) are just a few of the highlights. Many thanks to all who helped make this year a success.

If you cannot see the slideshow below, or for photo credits and captions please click here.


Created with flickr slideshow.

Butterflies of Summer

A butterfly flitting about in a meadow or forest is a sure sign of summer in Central Oregon. The longer, warmer days bring these colorful creatures out in the meadows of Camp Polk Meadow Preserve, the woodlands of the Metolius Preserve, and the juniper covered slopes of Whychus Canyon Preserve. Here are a few to watch for this summer.

A butterfly flitting about in a meadow or forest is a sure sign of summer in Central Oregon. The longer, warmer days bring these colorful creatures out in the meadows of Camp Polk Meadow Preserve, the woodlands of the Metolius Preserve, and the juniper covered slopes of Whychus Canyon Preserve. Here are a few to watch for this summer:

Dark wood nymph, Cercyonis oetus: This smaller species (<1.75”) displays yellow-ringed eyespots on it’s wing, a bright contrast to its often blackish or dark brown color. Look for this species in July in the grasses. It is a common sight in sagebrush meadows, east-side canyons, and mountain meadows and marshes. They enjoy the nectar of mock orange, mint, alfalfa, rabbitbrush, yarrow, buckwheat and others.



Anna’s blue, Lycaeides anna ricei (<1.25”): There are numerous different species of little blue butterflies (often referred to simply as “blues”) flitting about our Preserves in the spring and summer. To tell them apart, catch a glimpse of the undersides of their wings. Females display brownish-copper backs, while males are defined by their cool, grainy blue color. “Blues” often gather on damp soil (a behavior called “puddling”) to sip on salts and minerals.


Pale tiger swallowtail, Papilio eurymedon: Look for this larger (>3”) butterfly starting mid-April in open woodlands like the Metolius Preserve. Their large black and white stripes and tail spots of reddish-orange can help you identify them. Adults nectar on penstemon, phlox, chokecherry and others, and can often be see in open areas as well as along streams and in canyons.




Pine white, Neophasia menapia: A rather elusive and small (<2”) butterfly, the pine white loves middle elevation forests. In the late summer months, look for these milky white insects in the morning or evening, drinking the nectar of yarrow, pearly everlasting, daisies and thistles. Mid-day, they’re often seen flitting about in the treetops, where they lay their eggs on pine and fir needles so their caterpillar offspring can feed on fresh spring growth.



Great spangled fritillary, Speyeria cybele (<3”): Though not as common at Land Trust Preserves, this fritillary is the largest of the species and most distinctive. It’s always exciting to catch a glimpse of one soaring along the creek or cruising the forest margins and meadows in July. With most fritillaries, it’s difficult to distinguish between males and females, but the “great spangleds” make it easy, with males in our region displaying a fiery orange back and females a lovely dark chocolate.


You can find these and other butterflies at your Land Trust Preserves! Want to learn more? Join us for a guided butterfly walk!