2017 Blog Posts

Good conversation over great beer leads to great land conservation

This week the Land Trust announced a major gift for The Campaign for Whychus Creek from Deschutes Brewery. But what you may not know is that the Land Trust was founded over beers at Deschutes Brewery way back in 1995.

by Brad Chalfant

This week the Land Trust announced a major gift for The Campaign for Whychus Creek from Deschutes Brewery. We are so grateful for the Brewery's commitment to the land and the Campaign for Whychus Creek. But we are even more grateful for their long-term partnership and their commitment to land conservation in Central Oregon.

What you may not know is that the Land Trust was founded over beers at Deschutes Brewery way back in 1995. Back then we were a small group of public employees with a weakness for good craft beer and a passion for the community. We loved this place in the high desert we called home and, of course, we were going to try and protect it. So, we came together to form a land trust--a local nonprofit dedicated to conserving land for wildlife and the local community.

Shortly thereafter, the opportunity arose to work with a private landowner in Sisters, and our little land trust found ourselves the recipient of our first property, the 63-acre Indian Ford Meadow Preserve. Today, the Land Trust has conserved more than 8,900 acres of Land in Central Oregon and we remain a dedicated partners with Deschutes Brewery. Over the years, we have hosted countless events at the Brewery, and they have donated beer and more to support our land conservation efforts.

We've also celebrated several beers brewed by Deschutes Brewery and connected to Land Trust conservation projects. The Chainbreaker White IPA is named for the annual mountain bike race in Skyline Forest--the 33,000 acre forest outside of Bend the Land Trust has been working to conserve for years. Sagefight Imperial IPA was first brewed using sage collected as part of a Beers Made by Walking tour at the Land Trust's Whychus Canyon Preserve. Finally the Down and Dirty IPA is in honor of the annual FootZone Dirty Half Trail Run which is an annual fundraiser for the Land Trust.

The Brewery (our backyard office) will always be a gathering place for the Land Trust to discuss conservation options and come up with plans for how we can conserve and protect the best of Central Oregon. We are the proud owners of a plaque on the wall in the Bend Pub that marks our founding and shares with others the story of land conservation and a local organization working to make our community better. This June, the Land Trust is the designated beneficiary of Deschutes Brewery's Community Pint Nights. For every beer sold, the Brewery will donate $1 to the Land Trust. We hope you'll come out to join us and raise a toast to a great local brewery that has done so much for land conservation over the years.

Thanks to Deschutes Brewery for choosing to support land conservation and the future of Central Oregon. Together we help make our community a wonderful place to live!


Ranger report from the rim

I assumed the restoration would have an effect on the wildlife but I never expected it to happen so quickly or so profoundly. It’s been less than a year and already wildlife seems to be drawn to the area in increasing numbers.

by Mark Monteiro

Their names are Boo Boo and Sasquatch. At least, that’s what I call them.
For the last couple of weeks, watching these two baby birds (possibly swallows?) hatch, grow, and eventually leave the nest of their industrious mama has been one small but fascinating part of an amazing show taking place outside the windows of our home overlooking the recently restored Whychus Canyon Preserve.
My wife and I wake up every morning to a Disney-esque show featuring an endless parade of birds of all sizes, shapes, colors and personalities. There are also baby rabbits with bodies barely the size of an orange, families of quail marching about in single file, deer staring in our window while they graze and, perhaps most exciting of all, a squadron of about twelve turkey vultures regularly performing a WWII dog fight in the air currents above the canyon. Add the wildflowers, the quiet, and the beautiful weather, and it’s truly special.
We’ve seen all this before but never in such abundance.
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence but, this year, the quantity and diversity of the wildlife has been astonishing. Granted, as a guy who writes advertising for a living, I have no specific knowledge or scientific proof to back up anything I say but it seems to me that this wild proliferation of beauty must have something to do with the recent creek and meadow restoration of Whychus Canyon Preserve.
I assumed the restoration would have an effect on the wildlife but I never expected it to happen so quickly or so profoundly. It’s been less than a year and already wildlife seems to be drawn to the area in increasing numbers. If this is what can happen in less than a year, I think we all have a lot to look forward to.
For that we should be grateful to everyone to donated their time, money, passion and expertise to making the restoration happen. At a time when people can’t seem to come together about anything it’s inspiring to see a small reminder of what we can accomplish when diverse groups find a way to come together and make something beautiful happen.
Now I have to go. Boo Boo and Sasquatch are calling.


Mark Monterio is a neighbor of the Land Trust's Whychus Canyon Preserve.


Little Boa of the Northwestern Woods

Broaden your appreciation of the outdoors! Learn more about our native rubber boa--the gentle little boa of the Northwestern woods--from guest blogger and herpetologist, Alan St. John.

by Alan St. John

Boas are the victims of bad press. Public perceptions about these snakes have been shaped by too many old, grade-B safari movies with plots revolving around one frightening jungle menace after another. Many directors seemingly can't resist using the image of an immense snake dropping from a tree to envelope some unfortunate actor in its deadly coils.

Don't automatically believe all snake-related depictions that you see in the movies. It's a lesser-known fact that there are also a number of small boa species. One is native to Central Oregon and most of the surrounding Pacific Northwest region, along with the wooded sections of California. This harmless little snake, which usually does not grow much beyond two feet in length, is called the rubber boa (scientifically known as Charina bottae). The common name is derived from the loose, rubbery quality of its smooth, olive-brown skin.  

While its elastic skin alone would qualify it as unique, the rubber boa has a couple other quirky traits that make it one of the most intriguing of our native reptiles.  

A rubber Boa displaying its blunt tail as a fake head. Photo: Alan St. John.
A rubber Boa displaying its blunt tail as a fake head. Photo: Alan St. John.

One rather odd characteristic of this slow-moving, thick-bodied snake is the bluntly rounded tail that bears a remarkable resemblance to a secondary head. Consequently, the rubber boa is sometimes called the "two-headed snake" or "double-ender." The snake uses this fake head to its advantage when confronted by danger.  Shy and retiring by nature, a rubber boa will not bite to protect itself.  Instead, it simply rolls into a tight ball, hides its head beneath the coils of its body, and then displays the tail as a decoy "head." Occasionally, a rubber boa will even jab about with the tail, simulating a striking movement. In this way a predator is attracted to the more expendable tail, while the actual head is protected from harm. The tip of the tail features a large, solid scale plate that creates a protective hard cap to deflect the bites of attacking animals. Additionally, a bad-smelling musk is emitted to repel enemies.

Because most kinds of boas are tropical, the rubber boa bears the distinction of being the most northerly ranging of all its family. It reaches the limits of its distribution in mid British Columbia, Canada. Although rubber boas occur throughout all but the most arid deserts and damp, shady coastal rain forests of the Northwest, it's very secretive and rarely seen. Most of the daylight span is spent beneath logs and rocks, in rodent tunnels, or burrowing in leaf litter. As evening shadows lengthen or during cloudy mild weather, the little boa creeps from its hiding place to search for food. On warm summer nights it may continue to hunt throughout most of the nocturnal hours. The rubber boa eats a variety of small animals, including such items as lizards, other snakes, insects and nestling birds (it's a good climber), but the primary favored food source is small rodents.  It's particularly fond of young mice that are still in the nest, using its all-purpose blunt tail to fend off attacks by mother mouse.  In typical boa fashion, prey is subdued by constriction. Two or more loops of the snake's body are quickly wrapped tight around the victim, the intense compression causing death from suffocation and heart stoppage.  

Like all other boa species, rubber boas are "live-bearing" (viviparous). One to eight young are born in the late summer or early autumn. Baby rubber boas are about seven inches in length and have a pleasing pinkish-tan hue. In fact, these dinky infant boas can sometimes initially be mistaken for a similarly colored earthworm.

Hiking in Deschutes Land Trust Preserves and just about anywhere else in the Bend area offers a possible encounter with a rubber boa. It inhabits not only the pine forested slopes of the Cascades (especially the borders of meadows where there are rotting logs for cover), but also eastward into the semi-arid juniper woodlands. Although not truly a desert reptile, rubber boas have been found in crevices at Fort Rock amid the sweeping sagelands.  

Learning about this interesting and often overlooked animal can add a broader dimension to one's appreciation of the outdoors. Should you chance upon a rubber boa during your next jaunt along a trail, slow down for a close look and make a new acquaintance. Being slow-moving and non-flighty, probably no other snake is easier to get to know than our gentle little boa of the Northwestern woods.

Other Land Trust blog posts by Alan St. John:


About Alan St. John

A native Oregonian, Alan D. St. John lives in sage-scented juniper woodlands near Bend with his wife, Jan. Al is a freelance interpretive naturalist who uses writing, photography, and drawings to teach about the natural world. Specializing in herpetology, he has worked as a reptile keeper at Portland's zoological park, and conducted extensive reptile and amphibian field surveys for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, USDA Forest Service, the U. S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service. Along with authoring the books, Reptiles of the Northwest and Oregon's Dry Side: Exploring East of the Cascade Crest, his work has appeared in National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, Ranger Rick, Natural History, Country, Nature Conservancy, The New York Times, and other periodicals.


Bats of Central Oregon

Summer is prime time to view bats out and about in Central Oregon. So grab your chair, set up at dusk, and to see what's flying! Ecologist Tom Rodhouse leads the way...

Summer is prime time to view bats out and about in Central Oregon!
So grab your chair, set up at dusk, and to see what's flying. Our native bats eat insects--several hundred a night--so head to some place where the insects fly. Lakes can be a hot spot since bats will drink and hunt for insects there. But, your local street corner or your front porch will also do since the street/porch lights will attract insects. Then, be patient and quiet. You'll often hear the chirping of a bat before you'll see it. When you do see one, you'll need some background on our local species. We are here to help!

We asked National Park Service ecologist, Tom Rodhouse, for some local species to watch for and here is his list:

  1. Spotted bat (Euderma maculatum). The spotted bat is a favorite because it has huge pink ears and three large white spots on its back against a black background. Rarely seen or captured by biologists during surveys, the spotted bat is a desert dweller that roosts only in really large cliffs along desert canyons and open forest meadows, and flies high, chasing down large moths. It can be heard during its foraging bouts at night by its tell-tale chirping or clicking calls that are audible to the unaided human ear--unique among Oregon's bats. Learn more about spotted bats.

    Spotted Bat. Photo: Michael Durham.
    Spotted Bat. Photo: Michael Durham.

  2. Pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus). The pallid bat is one of central Oregon's largest bats and specializes on capturing crickets, scorpions, and centipedes. It has huge ears like the spotted bat but is otherwise distinctive because its fur is a yellow tawny color. Pallid bats are also desert specialists and are very social, forming large maternity colonies in the desert canyon cliff walls. Learn more about pallid bats.

    Pallid bat. Photo: Michael Durham.
    Pallid bat. Photo: Michael Durham.

  3. Canyon bat (Parastrellus hesperus). The canyon bat, formerly called the western pipistrelle, is the smallest bat north of Mexico. It too is a desert dweller that comes out early in the evening so it is frequently seen flitting about chasing small flies and mosquitoes in, of course, desert canyons. It can sometimes be seen during the day along the lower Deschutes and John Day rivers sneaking out of its cliff crevice roost for a quick drink. Learn more about canyon bats.

    Canyon bat. Photo: Michael Durham.
    Canyon bat. Photo: Michael Durham.

  4. Hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus). The hoary bat is the largest bat in Oregon and is migratory, arriving the region in spring and departing in fall, rather than staying to hibernate. The hoary bat is a very strong, fast flying bat that sometimes can be seen chasing other bats (although not to eat them, it too is an insect eater). Hoary bats are unique because they roost in the foliage of cottonwoods and other deciduous trees. They are not desert specialists but do frequent desert canyons as well as the west-side forests of Oregon. Learn more about hoary bats.

    Hoary bat. Photo: Michael Durham.
    Hoary bat. Photo: Michael Durham.

  5. Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus). The little brown bat has been considered America's most widespread and common bat. However, in recent years this perception has been forcibly changed as little brown bat populations in eastern North America have been decimated by the bat disease white-nose syndrome. So far, little brown bats in Oregon appear not to have been infected by the disease although it has spread in to Washington so it may only be a matter of time. Little brown bats are one of several plain brown bats with indistinct markings that live in Central Oregon. Little brown bats are commensal with humans, meaning that they will share our residences, sometimes roosting in attics, or hanging out under porch eaves while resting in between foraging bouts. Learn more about little brown bats.

    Little brown bat. Photo: Michael Durham.
    Little brown bat. Photo: Michael Durham.

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Enjoying the Perseids Meteor Shower

The peak of the Perseids meteor shower is almost here. Learn more about the Perseids and how to best enjoy this annual display.

Summer is a classic time for looking at the night sky. With the Perseids meteor shower already appearing and the peak days almost here, now is the perfect opportunity to head outside and gaze in wonder at this popular display.

The Perseids meteor shower is tiny bits of debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle. As the comet orbits the sun (taking 134 years to make the full rotation), it leaves a trail of dust and debris that it off-gases as it is warmed by the sun. Most of these particles are about the size of a grain of sand. When they hit the earth’s atmosphere, at about 37 miles per second, they burn up in a flash of light.

The Central Oregon night sky. Photo: Kris Kristovich.
The Central Oregon night sky. Photo: Kris Kristovich.
The Perseids receive their name from the constellation Perseus. If you were to trace the path of all the meteors you see from Perseids on a sky map, they would all appear to radiate from a point in Perseus (which in turn is named after the son of the mortal Danaë and the Greek god Zeus).

In mid-July through late August of every year, Earth passes through Swift-Tuttle’s debris trail, allowing us to see this spectacle. This year, we’ll be passing through the central, most dense part of the comet’s orbit on the nights of August 11th and 12th, making this the peak time to see Perseids in our area.

Luckily for us, Central Oregon is an excellent spot for stargazing because we have a relatively small amount of light pollution. The best time to view Perseids is usually after midnight since we’re then on the side of Earth that is moving into the comet dust. Head to an open area where you can see as much sky as possible. This year’s viewing is a bit tricky, as the moon will be around ¾ full during the peak of the showers. You’ll still be able to see plenty of meteors, but the dimmer ones will be obscured.

Before heading out, it’s recommended to take a look at a star chart to locate the constellation Perseus, but make sure to watch the whole sky since the meteors will be anywhere. It takes your eyes at least 30 minutes to fully adapt to dark vision, so give yourself plenty of time to adjust. Also, make sure to leave your flashlights and cell phone screens off. It’s a great idea to bring a reclining chair and a sleeping bag, as you’ll want to be comfortable and warm for this waiting game.

The Perseids are known for producing some very bright meteors and occasionally the brightest ones will leave faint trails. If you’re lucky, you can use binoculars to sometimes see the meteor trail! The Perseids typically averages around 140 meteors per hour, but this year’s moon might cause you to see less than that.

Perseids can also produce an outburst, which is when the earth passes through a denser part of the comet’s orbit, filled with more dust and debris. During an outburst, there can be hundreds of meteors per minute. While there are no predictions for an outburst this year, they can occur randomly, so keep an eye out!

We hope you’ll enjoy the beauty of the night sky and the Perseids display this year—happy stargazing!


Many thanks to Rod Moorehead for contributing his astronomy knowledge to this blog post. Rod is a casual astronomer who enjoys the night sky and sharing this wonder with others.


Wild Wanderings

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 river otter, and a Great Horned Owl eating a squirrel.

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.) To see videos, click the photo and it will open in a new tab where you can play the video.


Wildlife Wanderings
Wildlife Wanderings

Sense of Place

This month the Land Trust is hosting a Nature Night presentation on sense of place. But what, you ask, is sense of place?

by Sarah Mowry

This month the Land Trust is hosting a Nature Night presentation on sense of place. But what, you ask, is sense of place?

The simple words themselves suggest understanding where you live. On the surface that may mean understanding your local geography—where are you on the map? But the concept of sense of place is deeper than that. It’s more than the map. It’s what is under the map, who lives on the map—human and wild, what human and natural history influenced the map, and the future the map holds.

The Dictionary of Human Geography defines sense of place as “the attitudes and feelings that individuals and groups hold vis a` vis the geographical areas in which they live. It further commonly suggests intimate, personal and emotional relationships between self and place” (Gregory, Johnston, Pratt, Watts & Whatmore, 2009, p. 676).  

It is the intimate and personal connections that drive sense of place. It means truly inhabitating the place where we live. Digging deep to understand the natural and cultural history of a place and then committing to making that place better. It means stepping out of the busyness of our daily lives to truly connect to our neighbors, the earth, and our local community.

Dig in and get to know your place! Photo: Jay Mather.
Dig in and get to know your place! Photo: Jay Mather.

In our modern, fast-paced era, we are becoming less and less connected to place. We move more often to new communities. We stay inside, and we “connect” via online communities. We are beginning to lose our sense of place, and our communities—and the earth—are suffering for it.

So how do we re-invigorate our sense of place? The first step is to understand sense of place and how it applies to our home in Central Oregon. That’s why the Land Trust invited author John Elder to speak for our September Nature Night. John has a great deal of experience teaching and talking about sense of place. His presentation will focus on place and affiliation and offer a vision of nature and culture, citizenship and stewardship. We hope you’ll join us to learn more!

You can also read up on sense of place with the following seminal works of environmental literature:

  • Carson, Rachel. The Sense of Wonder
  • Elder, John. Reading the Mountains of Home
  • Leopold, Aldo.  A Sand County Almanac 
  • Muir, John. The Mountains of California
  • Nabhan, Gary Paul & Trimble, Stephen. The Geography of Childhood
  • Orr, David.  Earth in Mind and Ecological Literacy
  • Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony
  • Snyder, Gary. The Practice of the Wild
  • Sobel, David. Place-Based Education
  • Stafford, Kim. Having Everything Right
  • Thoreau, Henry David. Walden and Other Writings
  • Williams, Terry Tempest. Refuge
  • Wilson, Edward O. Biophilia and The Diversity of Life


Common Questions about Wildfires in Central Oregon

This summer's wildfires have greatly impacted Central Oregon. Learn more about these wildfires from NW Incident Management Team 8 Operations Chief and Deschutes Land Trust board member Rod Bonacker.

An interview with NW Incident Management Team 8 Operations Chief and Deschutes Land Trust board member, Rod Bonacker

Questions by Jana Hemphill, Deschutes Land Trust Outreach Manager

When a fire burns in a place that has already recently burned, does it usually burn better or worse?

It depends on how the first fire burned. Factors to consider include: how long ago the first fire burned, what it burned, and what has grown back.

The Milli Fire from Indian Ford Meadow Preserve. Photo: Land Trust.
The Milli Fire from Indian Ford Meadow Preserve. Photo: Land Trust.
If a new wildfire occurs in an area where a recent fire occurred, or where fuel treatment has occurred to remove small trees and brush, then the premise is that the fire behavior will be reduced because fuel loading has been reduced. However, if it has been many years since the fire burned and there are large dead fuels like snags and logs left, or the vegetation has returned with small trees and shrubs, then it is in a more flammable state. Fires in old fire scars may burn in a lower profile closer to the ground as they consume downed wood. Logs burning and smoldering on the ground for days can cause more soil damage than a quick-moving crown fire in the tops of trees. 


Are there names for different patterns that fires have? 

No, although oftentimes you will hear reference to "Mosaic" burns, which simply means there is a complicated pattern of live and dead trees or you might hear a fire referred to as “Stand Replacement,” which means the majority of the trees in the area have been killed.

Can you explain fire containment lines? Are they generally successful? What enables/helps a fire to jump the containment line?

Fire containment lines may be natural such as rivers or rocky slopes or existing barriers such as roads, or they may be constructed by hand (handline) or by machine. Occasionally, we can create a temporary containment line with water or fire retardant.

Containment lines are meant to stop the spread of the fire in the direction it is going, but they are not always successful. The lines may not be wide enough for the existing fire behavior and spot fires are commonly a problem because embers can be carried by wind as far as one mile away, creating new fires.


Once a fire has been established, what are the top factors/forces that keep it burning?

Fires need fuel (trees, shrubs, grasses). They need oxygen in the form of wind and they need heat in the form of temperature and reduced humidity. All of these things contribute to fire spread. Topography can also be a factor as fires tend to move fast upslope.


Regarding the Whitewater fire: how does a lightning strike smolder in a tree for almost a month?!?

Well, the Whitewater fire ignition was detected quickly, shortly after the lightning storm passed through. See Inciweb for detailed fire information, maps and photos from the Teams on site: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5420/.

But it’s true that fires can smolder for long periods of time if they get into the right environment, which is typically the base of the tree. Lightning can travel down to the tree roots underground and smolder as long as it has some oxygen getting to it to maintain the fire. Then warmer weather, wind, and decreasing humidity can bring it to life.


Are fire lookout towers still used by the Forest Service in Oregon? What other methods of detecting fire are used?

They are not as common as they once were, but there are still many active lookouts in Oregon. Black Butte in Sisters is one of the most prominent, but in Central Oregon we also have lookouts at Lava Butte, Round Mountain, East Butte, Walker Mountain, Odell Butte, Hinkle Butte (right above Camp Polk), and Wolf Mountain, plus several other places.

Fires are also commonly detected by fixed wing airplane patrols and occasionally by citizens who see smoke and call it in. Another method that is getting more prominence is the use of fixed cameras and remote detection systems where cameras are placed on high spots, and then transmit to a central viewing room where electronic equipment senses changes in the viewing picture and triggers an alarm for a human to come look at them to see if it is a bird or an airplane or, in fact, is smoke.


Is there anything else you can tell us about wildfires that people have been wondering about lately?

People often ask why so many fires are allowed to go on unstaffed and unchecked for so long. The answer is that the sheer number of wildfires and the timing can overwhelm the available forces. Priorities have to be set based on property and lives at risk versus resources at risk, and then suppression resources are assigned to the fires that have the highest priority, leaving many other fires unstaffed. 

People also often say we need more air tankers and helicopters to put the fires out. Air tankers or helicopters with water and fire retardant cannot put fires out acting alone. Retardant is just that­­--it retards the spread of the fire for a short time. To stop a fire, it still requires somehow breaking the continuity of fuels, be it fire lines made by people or machines. Fires will burn until either a massive weather change or until they are physically dug up and extinguished with water by people. Airtankers and helicopters can give you more time, but used alone, they do not put out fires.


Thank you for your insight, Rod! 

Cultivating Your Sense of Place

This month the Land Trust is hosting a Nature Night presentation on sense of place. How can you cultivate your sense of place in Central Oregon?

by Jana Hemphill

As Land Trust Outreach Director Sarah Mowry mentioned in a recent blog post, “It is the intimate and personal connections that drive sense of place.” Do you feel that you have a sense of place in Central Oregon? Whether the answer is yes or no, how can we develop or expand our sense of place?

Understand Natural and Cultural History
The first way to cultivate your sense of place in Central Oregon is to understand the natural and cultural history of a place. Luckily for us, there’s a wealth of resources for Central Oregon’s natural and cultural history. These resources include visiting the Deschutes Historical Museum, reading Martin Winch’s Biography of a Place, and learning more about the Santiam Wagon Road and Camp Polk Meadow Preserve’s history. The Land Trust also offers history walks, with a couple of good ones coming up in October!

Connect to Neighbors
You’ll also want to connect to neighbors, the earth, and the local community. Do you know your neighbors? If not, go introduce yourself! I know it can be daunting for those of us who are shy, but it can be quick. If you already know some of your neighbors, think about planning a block party to get together and celebrate your neighborhood.

Connect to the Earth
Connecting to the earth is something that Central Oregonians are pretty good at doing! Join the Land Trust on one of our Hikes + Walks this season—our fall colors hikes are a great way to tap into the rhythms of nature in Central Oregon. There are a myriad of ways to connect to the earth here—explore our National Forests, National Monuments, Land Trust Preserves, State Parks, mountain biking trails, and the Deschutes River. Observe the changing of the seasons and what this means in our area—what are the first plants to show their fall colors? What flowers hold on the longest? What does the forest smell like in the cool fall versus the warm summer?

Connect to the Local Community
The Central Oregon community is an incredible group of people. Connect with them by attending local events and supporting local businesses. Ask others what they consider “quintessential Bend” activities. Ideas include going to a performance at the Tower Theatre, tubing the Deschutes River (maybe put this on your list for next summer!), attending the Sisters Folk Festival, buying your veggies at the Bend Farmer’s Market, getting a milkshake at Prineville's Tastee Treet, snowshoeing to the Virginia Meissner Shelter, and visiting Bend’s many breweries. A great way to learn about local businesses is the Instagram account @localizebend.

Make Central Oregon a Better Place
Having a true sense of place means being committed to making that place better. Share in the responsibility of creating a better Central Oregon. You can volunteer with the Land Trust, or other organizations in the area. You can also get involved politically—voting, contacting your representatives, or running for office. Or start even smaller, and bring joy and kindness to Central Oregon through the Bend Joy Project.

Learn more about Sense of Place
Join the Land Trust for our September Nature Night with author John Elder: Coming Home to Central Oregon. John is sure to give you more ideas on how you can cultivate your own sense of place in Central Oregon.


Learn more:

Coming Home to Central Oregon

On September 28th, the Land Trust hosted a Nature Night talk with scholar John Elder about sense of place and affiliation. Read a recap from the event and find a list of books John referenced or recommended.

On September 28th, the Land Trust hosted a Nature Night talk with scholar and writer John Elder. John spoke about sense of place--a phrase often used to describe the ways in which a given landscape's geology, climate, forest history, indigenous culture, and patterns of settlement can all influence the experience of living there.

Referencing writers from Jarold Ramsey to William Wordsworth, John wove a story about how we can truly affiliate with a place. Affiliation is "a more active and conscious process of claiming a place as one's own." It means you make the place you live a part of your family. You connect on a personal, emotional level and have an ethical obligation to make your place better. 

John finished his talk with a reading from Gary Snyder's Turtle Island. A simple message for how we go forward:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light


John Elder's suggested readings:

  • George W. Aguilar, Sr., When the River Ran Wild! Indian Traditions on the Mid-Columbia and the Warm Springs Reservation, University of Washington Press, 2005

  • Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop, Knopf, 1927

  • Jarold Ramsey, New Era: Reflections on the Human and Natural History of Central Oregon, Oregon State University Press, 2003

  • Leslie Marmon Silko, "Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination," pdf from The Norton Book of Nature Writing

  • Gary Snyder, Turtle Island, New Directions, 1974

  • Martin Winch, Biography of a Place: Passages through a Central Oregon Meadow, Deschutes County Historical Society, 2006


About John Elder

John Elder taught English and Environmental Studies at Middlebury College in Vermont for almost four decades. He continues to teach at the Bread Loaf School of English and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and to give frequent talks about environmental topics and nature writing. John holds a PhD in English from Yale University and has received many honors and awards for his teaching and writing. John is also a widely published author with a host of essays and books. Three of his recent books—Reading the Mountains of Home, The Frog Run, and Pilgrimage to Vallombrosa—combine landscape description and discussions of literature with memoir. In 2016 he published a "musical memoir" about immersion in Irish music called Picking Up the Flute. He is also co-editor of The Norton Book of Nature Writing. John, with his wife Rita and the families of their two sons, helps to run a maple-syrup operation in the hills of Starksboro, Vermont.


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The Spirits of Camp Polk

As the end of October nears, we habitually turn our thoughts to ghosts and all things ghoulish. One of the best collections of delightfully haunted stories can be found in and around the Land Trust’s Camp Polk Meadow Preserve.

As the end of October nears, we habitually turn our thoughts to ghosts and all things ghoulish. One of the best collections of delightfully haunted stories can be found in and around the Land Trust’s Camp Polk Meadow Preserve.

Camp Polk Meadow Preserve has a long and illustrious history as a crossroads for Native Americans, explorers, soldiers and settlers. The nearby Camp Polk Cemetery holds the graves of many of these settlers. So, listen closely and learn the ghostly stories of some of these earliest Central Oregonians as relayed by volunteer hike leader Kelly Madden:

Joe Claypool was the youngest of 17 children who arrived at Camp Polk in 1877. He brought his wagon and wife and began carrying freight on the Santiam Wagon Road. He carried goods and mail and news to settlers and pioneers all over the area.

One day, Joe told the folks gathered around at Samuel Hindman’s barn about Theodore Borstel. It was 1891, in the early evening when Theodore Borstel accidentally shot himself with a 44 COLT. The bullet hit his groin and kept going through his abdomen and chest, catching his trousers on fire illuminating the rocks up at Dutchman Flat. Borstel survived until 11:00 pm. He was laid to rest in the Camp Polk Cemetery.

Claypool also told a story about Elizabeth Fryrear, a sassy and strong woman from Missouri. The Fryrears lived east of Camp Polk. One fall day, a cougar killed one of her colts. Elizabeth saddled up her horse, found the cougar and shot it in the head with a 44 Winchester. She killed the cougar in one shot. The cougar measured 7 feet from nose to tail. All the Fryrears are all laid to rest in the Camp Polk Cemetery.

Claypool was in his 60’s when Robert Krug was murdered. He gave those gathered round at the Owl Tavern in Sisters a run-down of the lurid tale. Folks around Sisters were a feared that the murderer was in their midst, namely one AJ “Jack Weston”. The ensuing trial and story was the first murder in the newly formed Deschutes County. Robert Krug is buried in the Camp Polk Cemetery.


These are just a few of the stories of the hardy pioneers that settled in this area. To learn more join the Land Trust for a guided history walk at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve. Or, if there is still space, join us for our annual Spirits of Camp Polk outing.

Learn more:

Wonderful Western larch

When I moved here years ago, I loved the woods, collecting pine cones like an addict and inhaling the earthy smells, but I had no idea what trees I was seeing or smelling.

by Kelly Madden

When I moved here years ago, I loved the woods, collecting pine cones like an addict and inhaling the earthy smells, but I had no idea what trees I was seeing or smelling. The first time I walked into Shevlin Park in the late fall, I saw these gorgeous tall, soft trees that were clearly some type of pine, but the poor stand was dead and ALL the needles were falling off. I thought the trees had some horrible tree disease. Then, I found out it was a Western larch.

A lone larch at the Metolius Preserve. Photo: Jay Mather.
A lone larch at the Metolius Preserve. Photo: Jay Mather.
Western larch or Larix occidentalis is one of a handful of deciduous conifers that sheds its needles each fall and grows new ones in the spring. The Shevlin Park trees weren’t dead, they were just doing what all deciduous trees do in the fall…getting ready for winter, just like us!

The Western larch grows between 2,000 and 7,000 feet. It likes cool, moist sites with lots of sunshine. The Western larch is fast growing and very tall and straight. They can grow up to 180 feet and have what my friend Kirin calls a “cute cone”—small, narrow and shaped like a nutmeg. It is indeed cute.

A fully grown Western larch will only have limbs on the upper third of the tree. The needles, which feel soft and look feathery, are narrow and flat and are from one to two inches long. They grow from little wood nubs in clusters and turn that brilliant yellow each fall. Come spring they sprout vibrant green clusters that cheerfully herald a new season.

Western larch do not make extensive forests on their own, but rather grown in mixed conifer forests with ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, grand fir, hemlock, an others. They are shade intolerant and once they get going, can grow up to three feet a year. They live a long time, up to 500 years.  

Western larches need frequent disturbance. This means they respond well after fire, wind, or soil movement. The bark, as the tree ages, becomes deeply furrowed and turns a reddish brown making it strong, thick and fire-resistant. The Western larch is also a great tree for wildlife. Bald eagles, goshawks and other raptors like the tall straight trees. As dead standing trees, larch snags are great for owls and woodpeckers and the seeds are valuable food for birds and squirrels. Native Americans chewed the resin as a candy and used the tree’s needles and bark to cure colds and arthritis. Today, the same ingredients are used as an emulsifier in ink and paint.

If you have a chance to get down to Camp Sherman, on the Land Trust’s Metolius Preserve, the Western larches are immediately obvious and lovely and currently at their peak. Hurry out there as they won’t last long!

Learn more:


  1. OSU. Oregon Master Naturalist Class, “Forest Ecology” by  Stephen Fitzgerald, Oct. 20, 2012.
  2. Oregon Department of Forestry pamphlet; “Forests for Oregon”, fall 2007.
  3. PSU. Oregon Encyclopedia- Oregon History and Culture 2009.


The Cottonwood Circle: Celebrating long time volunteers

Volunteers are the heart of the Land Trust community. This year, we wanted to recognize a special group of volunteers who are celebrating an important milestone.

by Sarah Mowry

Volunteers are the heart of the Land Trust community. We are eternally grateful to have so many dedicated volunteers who lend a hand to make such a difference. In the early years of the Land Trust, those folks did everything from brokering our first project to writing grants to pulling weeds. Today, volunteers continue to play a critical role whether its helping in the office, restoring and caring for our Preserves, or helping connect the community to our lands.

This year, we wanted to recognize a special group of volunteers who have celebrated an important milestone with the Land Trust--their 10 year anniversary! This group of incredibly dedicated individuals have volunteered for 10 or more years for the Land Trust. That is a truly outstanding contribution!! We extend our most sincere thanks for all their time and energy. Our community really is a better place because of their efforts to conserve and care for land in Central Oregon.


To celebrate this accomplishment, we welcomed the following volunteers into The Cottonwood Circle--our elite group of volunteers who have donated the most time to the organization.

2016-2017 Cottonwood Circle Inductees:

Cal Allen
Karen Allen
Jim Anderson
Sue Anderson
Tom Atkins
Gayle Baker
Rod Bonacker
Bruce Bowen
Robert Brunoe
Mary Campbell
John Casey
Judy Clinton
Lloyd Corliss
Mary Crow
Bill Dakin
Gretchen Dakin
Elke Dortmund
Byron Dudley
Eva Eagle
Paul Edgerton
Win Francis
Dwain Fullerton
Norma Funai
John Gerke
Anne Gerke
Kent Gill

Lois Gill
Jim Hammond
Collins Hemingway
Paula Johnson
Kit Korish
Mary Krenowicz
Martha Lussenhop
Jay Mather
Bill Mitchell
Paul MacMillan
Barbara MacMillan
Heidi Nichols
Jerry Norquist
Joyce Padgham
Maret Pajutee
Barb Rumer
Jake Schas
Pete Schay
Magda Schay
Linda Shaw
Rick Thomas
Carol Wall
Larry Weinberg
Bruce White
M.A. Willson
Martin Winch
Bob Woodward

Thank you for choosing the Land Trust and for dedicating so much of yourself over the years!

Learn more:


Fall colors of 2017

Did you get out and see the fall colors this year? Enjoy some highlights from a few of the Land Trust's Preserves.

Nature did not disappoint this October with the incredible displays of color in Central Oregon. Here are some highlights of the fall colors at the Land Trust's Preserves. Thank you to our amazing volunteer photographers for capturing these images!

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.)

El Niño vs. La Niña in Central Oregon

La Niña is back—what does that mean for our winter in Central Oregon?

By Fiona Noonan

If you’re an outdoorsperson of any kind, hearing “El Niño” or “La Niña” probably elicits a feeling within you, for better or worse. In a bizarre popularization of an otherwise technical meteorological term, it seems that anyone with a vested interest in winter weather has an opinion on El Niño and La Niña, but what are these two phenomena in the first place, and what do they mean for this winter in Central Oregon?

On November 9, 2017, the National Weather Service predicted a 65-75% chance of a “weak La Niña” for winter 2017-2018. This prediction follows a relatively short 2016-2017 La Niña and a 2015-2016 El Niño that was one of the strongest in history.

To understand either El Niño or La Niña—Spanish for “the little boy” and “the little girl,” respectively—you first have to take a dive into the oceanic system known as El Niño Southern Oscillation, or ENSO.

ENSO is constant, and you can think of it as warm water sloshing back and forth—or oscillating—very slowly across the Pacific Ocean. El Niño and La Niña are just specific ENSO scenarios that can determine which direction the water sloshes in a given year.

  • In a normal year (image below), easterly trade winds (winds that blow from east to west) carry warm air from the Americas toward Asia. This piles up warm water on the west side of the Pacific, which allows cold, deep water to rise to the ocean’s surface along the coasts of South, Central, and North America. This is known as upwelling, and the cold water brings with it important nutrients that contribute to coastal ecosystem and fisheries health, particularly in South America.

Graphic courtesy of NOAA.
Graphic courtesy of NOAA.


  • In an El Niño year (think the winter before last), the normal ENSO pattern reverses as pressure changes in the western Pacific and surface sea temperatures increase at least 0.5ºC above a normal year (see image below). These changes weaken trade winds and allow more warm water to stay near the Americas. The warmer than average temperatures devastate fish populations in Peru and Ecuador, create big surf all along the coast, and lead to increased precipitation (and incredible skiing) in California’s Sierra Nevada range.

    As for Oregon, El Niño usually brings warmer than average temperatures across the state, and particularly in the Cascades. While this isn’t a death sentence for ski season, it’s usually an indicator of less-than-desirable snowfall.

Graphic courtesy of NOAA.
Graphic courtesy of NOAA.


  • La Niña events, by contrast, basically enhance all of the components of ENSO. Easterly trade winds become even stronger, leading to increased upwelling along the Americas and an average sea surface temperature drop of at least 0.5ºC. While it’s too early to know exactly how La Niña will impact Oregon this year, La Niña generally does increase the chances of heavy storms and precipitation, particularly in the Cascades.

    Remember last winter in Bend? Yeah, that was La Niña.

Graphic courtesy of NOAA.
Graphic courtesy of NOAA.

So, whether you’re hoping for snowpack to support spring stream flows and fish health, or you just want to make sure that the Bachelor season pass you bought in September will ultimately pay off, La Niña could bring much to be thankful for this winter.

Learn More:


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.


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.

Winter isn’t coming

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.