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Willamette River conservation easement paves way for long-term fish and wildlife conservation

Dec. 21, 2011

Corvallis, Ore.— Greenbelt Land Trust announced today the acquisition of conservation easements on more than 300 acres of Willamette River frontage property in Benton County that will benefit a number of species including chinook salmon, cutthroat trout, Oregon chub, Pacific lampreys, western pond turtles and red-legged frogs. This project will permanently protect important habitat for fish and wildlife identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy. These purchases were made possible through a strong partnership with the existing landowners, the land trust, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and funding from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the Bonneville Power Administration and the Meyer Memorial Trust.

Conservation easements allow for some traditional uses of the land, such as farming, by the landowner but permanently protect important wildlife habitat. They also allow conversion of farmland to restoration and conservation purposes as this project does. They are particularly effective in the Willamette Valley where 96 percent of the land is privately owned. The 319-acre parcel includes Harkens Lake, a significant historic side-channel of the Willamette River that is critical habitat for native fish populations. “This project is an integral part of creating opportunities for broad-scale floodplain habitat restoration on the Willamette River,” states Ken Bierly, Deputy Director of Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

The conservation of Harkens Lake is made possible through a partnership with landowners Gary, Jenny and Steve Horning and Mark and Sherie Adams, a collaboration that will continue as the partners prepare to restore the property’s floodplain forests and riparian areas to their historic conditions. Restoration of these forests decreases erosion and flood damage from seasonal inundation throughout the 100-year floodplain.

“Our family has worked and lived on the Willamette River for five generations, which is why we take such pride in showing we can work around the river sustainably. We know the health of our crops depends on the health of the river system. Our goal for restoration is to utilize important floodplain areas to improve water quality and protect the valuable farm land that our family farm depends on,” said landowner Gary Horning.

"This important work can only be accomplished through partnerships with private landowners, non-profits, foundations and state and federal agencies," said Michael Pope, GLT Executive Director. "We’re facing a monumental task in fish recovery and riparian restoration in the Willamette Valley, and we must all work together. We are extremely pleased to be able to complete this transaction, and grateful to all our partners who work with us to protect and restore environmentally sensitive lands."

Funding from this project was dedicated through:

Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board through its Willamette Special Investment Partnership (SIP). The goal of the Willamette SIP is to identify and implement high-priority land conservation, fish passage, and habitat flow restoration projects that contribute to the enhancement of resident and migratory fish populations in the mainstem and tributaries of the Willamette River.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program which was created to manage the funds dedicated to the State of Oregon by the Bonneville Power Administration for wildlife habitat mitigation in the Willamette Valley. The agreement requires a substantial investment in wildlife and fish habitat restoration over the next 15 years. 

Bonneville Power Administration funding helps fulfill an agreement that the State of Oregon made in 2010 to protect nearly 20,000 acres of Willamette Basin wildlife habitat. The agreement dedicates stable funding from electric ratepayers for 15 years to safeguard Willamette habitat for native species, supporting state efforts to protect the Willamette Basin and fulfilling BPA’s responsibility under the Northwest Power Act to offset the impacts of federal flood control and hydropower dams.

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Contact:

Ken Bierly, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Deputy Director, (503) 986-0182
Doug Johnson, Bonneville Power Administration, Public Affairs Specialist, (503) 236-5840
Jessica McDonald, Greenbelt Land Trust, Development Director (541) 752-9609
Meg Kenagy, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Communications coordinator, (503) 947-6021

 
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