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2013 Youth Art CalendarOn the Ground: The Oregon Conservation Strategy at Work

July/August 2012

Oregon habitats run from the deep rocky reefs of the nearshore ocean to the dry sagebrush country of southeast Oregon as beach gives way to dunes to uplands, valleys, streams, mountains and deserts—each of them home to fish and wildlife adapted to life as they know it. 


Video lander illuminates life on Oregon’s rocky reefs
Wildfire devours sage-grouse habitat
Tsunami debris on Oregon’s shore triggers international interest
Support wildlife: Buy a 2013 ODFW Youth Art

High Definition Video Lander
High Definition Video Lander Footage
- ODFW Video -
Click image to play video


The rugged rocky deepwater habitats off Oregon’s coast are home to a wide diversity of fish, invertebrates and plants. Referred to as rocky reefs by scientists, these craggy landscapes of steep underwater cliffs and boulders are tough to explore. Biologists have used remotely operated vehicles armed with video cameras to shed some light on them, but the devices are expensive to deploy and can be difficult to operate in rugged terrain. So, for the most part, the underwater reefs remain a silent, secret world, rarely illuminated.

For biologists tasked with managing rocky reef habitats, this is not a small problem.

“We need to know a lot more than we do about rocky reef populations to properly manage them,” said ODFW researcher Bob Hannah. “We have a lot of fish populations that need assessment—particularly the reef-dwelling rockfish species.”

With few affordable options available, Hannah and fellow researcher Matthew Blume took matters into their own hands and created a new, relatively inexpensive tool—a low light, high definition video lander designed for deep, rugged environments. It consists of an aluminum frame with breakaway connections; a color video camera; lights; a housing containing batteries and a camcorder; a steel weight and a breakaway base. Figure 1.

Video lander
The video lander: (a) camera; (b) lights; (c) batteries and camcorder; (d) base; (e) weight
- ODFW Photo -
Click Photo to Enlarge

The lander is easily and simply deployed from a modest-sized boat. “It’s much like setting a crab pot,” said Hannah. “If it gets stuck on its journey to the bottom and back, the unit is designed to protect the camera equipment—the base will break away so it can still be retrieved.”

After field testing the video lander in a variety of reef habitats, it was used to survey for yelloweye rockfish abundance. Video clips from the lander are amazingly clear. In this video clip, the lander is deployed, followed by a bait bag of chopped herring to attract fish. Species shown include several rockfish, kelp greenling and Pacific halibut.

The video lander and survey results are documented in a paper in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, titled Tests of an experimental unbaited video lander as a marine fish survey tool for high-relief deepwater rocky reefs. Read or download from Oregon State University’s ScholarsArchive website.

The project was funded by the ODFW Marine Resources Program and a Conservation Strategy Implementation Grant funded by the federal State Wildlife Grant Program.

See the Oregon Nearshore Strategy for more information about rocky reefs. Contact Bob.  


Autumn Larkins, ODFW Sage Grouse Conservation coordinator, has fire on her mind. Although her office is in Hines, 100 miles north and east of the ferocious Long Draw fire that burned more than half a million acres of land in July, she felt the heat. Most of land burned was sagebrush and short grass—prime sage-grouse habitat. Two other fires quickly followed: the Miller Homestead fire near Frenchglen and the Holloway fire, which burned into the Trout Creek Mountains—both in core sage-grouse habitat.

Habitat fragmentation, including wildfire, is one of the factors that have led to the decline of the greater sage-grouse and made it a candidate species for listing under the federal endangered species act.

“We don’t know how the fires will affect bird populations yet,” said Larkins. “But we have active interagency teams in place, so we have a forum to discuss the issues and make plans.”

Long draw fire
The Long Draw Fire in southeastern Oregon burned in sage-grouse habitat.
- ODOT Photo -
Click to Enlarge Photo

There are five Sage-Grouse Conservation Local Implementation Teams in the state, one for each of four Bureau of Land Management Districts within the current distribution of sage-grouse as well as one in the Baker Resource Area of the Vale district. BLM districts are used for planning purposes as the organization manages 70 percent of the occupied sage-grouse habitat in the state.

“There has been lots of discussion in the teams about fire prevention, suppression and restoration,” she said. “We are developing a list of recommendations and adaptive guidelines.”

Larkins has been getting a lot of questions about the fires.

“A lot is still unknown, but I can say the habitat will take a long time to come back. It will come back quicker in the higher elevations, and if we get some moisture in here, we will get some green-up in the fall, which will help. I am more worried about a heavy snow year. With no sagebrush sticking up through the snow, the birds are going to have to travel farther at a tough time of year.”

Sage-Grouse Conservation Local Implementation Teams have been meeting since 2005. In May 2011, they reviewed and recommended changes to the Core Area maps as defined in the April 2011 revision of the updated Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation Assessment and Strategy for Oregon. In December 2011 and January 2012, they developed Action Areas with the Core Area maps that identified areas that share common threats to sage-grouse, which will help focus efforts for future habitat management actions and/or mitigation.

During meetings in July and August, the Implementation teams developed prioritization guidelines for project proposals within the Action Areas. The teams also identified projects that they would like to see occur and would support for each Action Area.

More information, including team meetings and minutes, and a greater sage grouse backgrounder are available in the Conservation section of ODFW’s website. Fire maps are available on the InciWeb website.

Tsunami debris
Mitch Vance, ODFW shellfish project leader, and Caren Braby, ODFW Marine Resources Program manager, discuss invasive species in relation to tsunami debris with German TV reporter.
- ODFW Photo -
Click to Enlarge Photo


The echo of a tragedy: On June 5, 2012, a 66-foot long shipping dock washed ashore on a stretch of sandy beach near Newport, bearing a cargo of living organisms. Scientists were stunned that after a 15-month, 5,000 mile journey, so much life had survived—kelp, seastars, barnacles, oysters, mollusks and more. Most were native to Japan, and there were several potentially destructive invasive species among them.

While the dock was quickly stripped of life, its arrival ignited the imagination and interest of the world, and those involved in managing tsunami debris have been interviewed by reporters from across the U.S. and around the world.  

Chris Havel, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Communications Director, fields media questions daily. “Japanese reporters invariably express concern and want to know about the condition of our beaches and how the state is being impacted financially.

“Australian calls focus more on invasive species, especially plants. They want to know about the ecological effects. The U.K. media usually want to know about how people are dealing with the debris and are interested in the volunteer efforts to keep beaches clean.”

Most calls coming into ODFW are about marine invasive species: Are Oregonians concerned? What should they be concerned about? What should be done with debris with organisms on it?

“In general there is not a good understanding of marine invasive species, so reporters often don’t know what to ask,” said Caren Braby, ODFW Marine Resources Program Manager. “And it will be a long time before we know if anything takes hold here so that message doesn’t always resonate with an immediate news cycle.”

Braby has enjoyed speaking with the international media for the very reason of learning what has been so compelling about the dock that washed up a few miles up the road from her Newport office. Like Havel, she finds a strong sense of responsibility running through discussions with Japanese journalists.  

What about the U.S. media? Most of the questions were focused on the dock, which has now been removed. Although funding—or the lack of it—for western states to clean up debris is being covered more widely.

Is there something Havel and Braby wish the media would cover?

Both of them agree funding is the big story at the moment—the unprecedented size of the debris field headed for the west coast will create cleanup and decontamination problems for years to come. However, there are other big picture stories that are missing from news coverage, including:

  • the manmade trash that fouls our ocean regardless of the current tsunami debris;
  • the effect of marine debris on birds and other sea life that ingest or get tangled in it;
  • education on international efforts to prevent debris from entering the ocean in the first place;
  • ongoing volunteer opportunities to clean the beach and what a treasure Oregon has in its public beaches; and
  • the importance of the world’s oceans.

More information: NOAA, OPRD, ODFW, SOLVE, Surfrider Foundation, Ocean Conservancy


Buy an ODFW 2013 Youth Art Calendar and help support Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their habitats. Calendars are $10 each and can be ordered from ODFW or picked up at one of these ODFW offices: Bend, Central Point, Charleston, Clackamas, Corvallis, La Grande, Roseburg, Salem, Springfield and Newport. They make great gifts!

Artwork features native species identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy as in need of help including American Marten, Sandhill Cranes, Kit Fox and Spotted Bat. Proceeds will be used for restoration of the native habitats that are home to the state’s fish and wildlife. A mail order form is available in the Conservation section of the ODFW website.


Tired of spending your days watering, weeding and fertilizing your yard? Remove non-native, invasive plants and replace them with natives. You'll save time, money and attract native wildlife to your yard. Read more in the Clean Water Services newsletter.


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The Oregon Conservation Strategy provides a blueprint and action plan for the long-term conservation of Oregon’s native fish and wildlife and their habitats through a voluntary, statewide approach to conservation. It was developed by ODFW with the help of a diverse coalition of Oregonians including scientists, conservation groups, landowners, extension services, anglers, hunters, and representatives from agriculture, forestry and rangelands.

Meg Kenagy
Oregon Conservation Strategy Communications coordinator
(503) 947-6021

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