Photo: Land Trust.

23 Ways You Supported Local Land Conservation in 2023

Nov 17, 2023 by Jana Hemphill
WOW! Thank you for making 2023 a successful year for local land conservation!

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The Land Trust can only conserve and care for the land because of our community of supporters. Thank you!!! You made 2023 a successful year for conserving and caring for the lands and waters that sustain us all. Here's what you helped make possible this year:

1. Hosted community visioning sessions for Paulina Creek Preserve. Community conversations about Paulina Creek Preserve started with a small local steering committee this spring. Then, the Land Trust held a series of community visioning sessions in La Pine and Sunriver. We also had an online survey. The goal of these sessions will be to create a shared vision for the Preserve.

2. Improved accessibility at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve. This past spring, we improved the public section of Camp Polk Meadow Preserve to make it more accessible for everyone. We improved the trails by grading and resurfacing them. We also used a special gravel blend that compacts well and is easier for wheelchairs, walkers, and other wheeled devices. For consistency, we have also widened the trail in some spots and updated the transitions between the trail and bridge at the Preserve. A new trail into the Hindman barn now allows visitors to access one of the oldest structures in Deschutes County.

3. Shared our recently completed community vision for Skyline Forest. After leading a new effort to develop a community vision for Skyline Forest through community surveys, meetings, and working groups, the Land Trust was excited to share the fruits of this labor. The community vision for Skyline Forest represents the shared values of our community and is helping inform the Land Trust's strategies for acquiring, conserving, and managing Skyline Forest.

Photo: Land Trust.
Photo: Land Trust.
4. Helped restore Whychus Creek at Rimrock Ranch. This summer, the Land Trust and our partners restored around 1.5 miles of Whychus Creek and the surrounding valley floor at Rimrock Ranch. Restoration work included reshaping the floodplain, creating habitat both in the stream and on the valley floor, adding around 3,000 trees to Whychus Creek as woody debris, and adding native vegetation. We are excited by the dramatic transformation that will improve habitat in and around the creek for fish and wildlife!

5. Laid the groundwork for Metolius Preserve forest restoration. We began a new multi-year forest restoration project with partners at the US Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy. Our ultimate goal is to create a forest that is resilient to the impacts of climate change and provides healthy habitat for native plants and animals. This year, we mowed portions that will be part of a future prescribed burn (creating the safest conditions possible) and also created fire breaks.

6. Participated in a regional gathering to protect Leona's little blue. This tiny, tiny butterfly is believed to be the most range-restricted and smallest butterfly in the US, and possibly the world! Land Trust stewardship director Amanda Egertson was on hand to help with surveys and participate in the dialog and collaboration with a diverse group of stakeholders.

7. Expanded milkweed and pollinator plantings for monarch butterflies. We continued our multi-year effort to get more native milkweed and other pollinator plants out into Central Oregon communities. Through the Oregon School Yards Program, we donated milkweed and other plants that attract pollinators to Chiloquin Elementary School. We also partnered with the Deschutes Public Library and the Crook County Library to hand out milkweed and pollinator plants. In addition, we handed out plants at public events like our Paulina Creek Preserve Open House, Priday Ranch Open House, and the Children's Forest of Central Oregon's Discover Nature Festival. We are grateful to everyone who is helping to improve habitat for monarchs and other pollinators in Central Oregon!

8. Partnered on the reintroduction of summer steelhead. The Land Trust hosted a large acclimation tank at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve for more than 75,000 summer steelhead. Meanwhile at Ochoco Preserve, we used our brand new acclimation pond to help 17,500 steelhead acclimate before they were released. This is part of a broader effort by our partners to help return healthy and sustainable populations of these important fish to Central Oregon.

9. Removed unsafe structures from Paulina Creek Preserve. Several non-historic structures at Paulina Creek Preserve had seen better days and posed a danger to staff and visitors. The Land Trust worked with contractors to remove these structures in a safe and responsible manner and recycle whatever we could salvage. This is the first step in creating a restored Paulina Creek Preserve.

Photo: Matt Oliphant.
Photo: Matt Oliphant.
10. Tackled invasive weeds. The Land Trust continued its battle against invasive weeds with our partners and our volunteer Weed Warriors. Thanks to you, we’re continuing to strengthen the native plant communities of Central Oregon.

11. Helped golden eagles thrive at Aspen Hollow Preserve. For the 14th(!) consecutive year, a pair of golden eagles successfully raised an eaglet at Aspen Hollow Preserve. Thank you for helping to protect and care for Aspen Hollow Preserve, making it a sanctuary for wildlife to raise their families.

12. Made native plants abound at Land Trust Preserves! More than 62,000 new native plants were added to Land Trust Preserves this year alone! We planted native vegetation at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve and Indian Ford Meadow Preserve. This was part of our ongoing restoration efforts. At Ochoco Preserve, volunteers and work crews added nearly 19,000 plants to last year's restoration area. As part of the restoration work at Rimrock Ranch, around 40,000 new bunchgrasses, flowers, shrubs, and trees were added alongside Whychus Creek.

13. Reduced fire danger in Central Oregon. We completed pile burning at several Land Trust Preserves, such as Priday Ranch and Camp Polk Meadow Preserve. Other locations included Rimrock Ranch, Aspen Hollow Preserve, and Whychus Canyon Preserve. In addition, thinning at Rimrock Ranch helped provide woody material for the Whychus Creek restoration at Rimrock Ranch. This forest restoration work will help lower wildfire danger at our Preserves and for our neighbors. It will also recreate historical forest conditions and improve habitat for wildlife.

14. Offered our Nature Night series to share amazing speakers during the winter. More than 1,300 people joined us for our annual Nature Night speaker series to learn about the natural world. We did a deep dive into the world of fungi, learned more about fire and forest restoration in Central Oregon, and took a closer look at wildlife and wildlife management on the Warm Springs Reservation (including some incredible wolf pup howling videos!). Thank you for continuing to support Nature Nights!

Photo: Noah Heilbrun.
Photo: Noah Heilbrun.
15. Shared milkweed seeds with our community. Our community continued to show their commitment to monarch butterfly conservation by requesting nearly 20,000 native milkweed seeds from us! Thank you to everyone for getting involved in growing native milkweed to help increase monarch habitat at home!

16. Volunteered. Our work is simply not possible without our incredible volunteers! Every day, our volunteers make a difference. They remove tagging ribbon, pull fences, steward our trails, help with mailings, add thousands of plants to our Preserves, and so much more! The Land Trust also recognized volunteers who have been by our side for 10 or more years, inducting Marilyn Bertran, Debra Coss, Mike Cutting, Danielle Lordi, Dick Malone, and Glenn Willard into the Cottonwood Circle.

17. Continued habitat restoration at Priday Ranch. The Land Trust converted 15 acres of agricultural fields back to native habitat. First, we removed weeds, then we planted nine different types of native grass seed. Over the spring and summer, we tended them to ensure their survival.

18. Monitored our lands to ensure they are protected forever. Every year, the Land Trust checks our Community Preserves and other protected lands through monitoring. This helps staff make management decisions, track significant changes over time, and protect conservation values on our lands.

19. Joined us for nearly 80 free, guided Walks + Hikes. Thanks to our amazing volunteer Walk + Hike leaders, our community had the opportunity to learn about wildflowers, birds, geology, and more. Nearly 700 folks came out to Land Trust protected lands on a tour! During the tours, they discovered how the Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands and waters of Central Oregon.

20. Thinned juniper at Priday Ranch. Early this year, the Land Trust worked to thin around 245 acres of juniper at Priday Ranch. Older trees were strategically left to resemble a more historical landscape. The juniper thinning project at Priday Ranch will increase the amount of available water for native grasses and wildflowers, as well as help reduce fire danger.

21. Planned for the next phases of the Ochoco Preserve Project. The Land Trust continues to work with a variety of partners to develop funding for the next two phases of the Ochoco Preserve Project. This includes the funds we will need for trails, trail connections, and bridges at the Preserve.

22. Removed fencing to help wildlife thrive. Volunteers helped us remove around two miles of fencing at Priday Ranch this year! Removing old barbed wire, fencing material, and fence posts helps improve habitat for wildlife. It also removes barriers for mule deer, elk, and pronghorn that rely on season migration to access various habitat areas. 

23. Conserved and protected more land. Because of your ongoing support, we keep working on new land protection projects. We also continue to work behind-the-scenes on a conservation solution for Skyline Forest. We look forward to sharing these new projects soon!

WOW! This year, our community of supporters made so many great projects possible! Thank you for your ongoing support! We can't wait to see what we can make happen together next year!


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