Indian Ford Meadow Aspen Restoration

About the aspen restoration project at the Land Trust's Indian Ford Meadow Preserve.

Aspens at Indian Ford Meadow Preserve. Photo: Byron Dudley.
Aspens at Indian Ford Meadow Preserve. Photo: Byron Dudley.

In the spring of 2008, the Land Trust began working to restore aspen stands at Indian Ford Meadow Preserve. Aspen groves provide unique wildlife habitat in Central Oregon and are limited in their range, so the protection of these trees is important.

Aspen does best with a lot of light and limited competition for resources. Because our aspen grove had a lot of encroaching juniper, as well as numerous large, shading ponderosa pines, we removed the juniper and several large pines. Two of the pines were topped so they could become snags and provide much needed homes for birds and other wildlife. All of the work was done in the winter on frozen ground to reduce soil compaction.

Aspens also benefit from fencing that protects young shoots from deer and elk browse. We tried using electric fencing, but it wasn’t well suited to the site (too many branches fell on and severed the lines and too much vegetation grew up from below and shorted it out). 

In 2010, we removed the electric fence and students from the University of Oregon and Cascades Academy replaced it with small cages. These caged areas have become long-term study plots that students return to each year to measure and compare the growth rates of caged and non-caged saplings.

By 2020, these enclosed aspens have become thriving trees that are tall enough where browsing deer and elk no longer cause significant damage to them. In the fall, the cages will be removed and used on a different group of aspens. We will also be working with the University of Oregon once again on a study to determine the best areas within aspen groves to exclude browsing animals and get the best results using the least amount of fencing.