Updates from Deschutes Land Trust

(Graphic | Courtesy of Deschutes Land Trust)

Do you know the old saying, if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes? Well, there’s nothing that exemplifies that more than May in Central Oregon! From sunny and in the 80s to rain, hail, snow and wind, we’ve gotten quite the smorgasboard of weather, often all in one day. We hope you’ve gotten a few of your favorite types of weather lately!

We’ve been most excited for the precipitation that has arrived, both in the mountains and in the high desert. Milkweed is starting to peek out in our gardens, wildflowers are making a show at Whychus Canyon Preserve and our creeks are filling up with what they can. It’s such a renewing time of year. There’s truly nothing like the smell of fresh rain in our sagelands.

Walks + Hikes Highlights

Have you joined the Land Trust for one of our Walks + Hikes this year? From wildflowers to geology to watercolor painting, there’s something for everyone! Upcoming highlights include:

  • Get inspired by the beauty of the outdoors while Plein Air Watercolor Painting at Indian Ford Meadow Preserve on Friday, May 20.
  • Learn how a once dry meadow has been transformed on a Restoration Tour at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve on Saturday, May 21.
  • Deepen your sense of place while also watching for warblers in the willows during Birding and Sense of Place at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve on Friday, May 27.
  • Slowly wander and connect with nature on a Forest Bathing outing at the Metolius Preserve on Friday, June 3.

All walks and hikes are free. Registration is required and opens 1 month prior to the outing. See our full schedule and sign up today!

More Wood at Metolius River Preserve

The Land Trust is partnering with the Forest Service to add more wood to the Metolius River at our Metolius River Preserve. Crews were on site in late April adding whole trees along the riverbank at the Preserve. The project is a continuation of larger Forest Service restoration efforts on the Metolius River to improve habitat for fish and wildlife.

Trees and wood play an important role in the health of the river. For decades, removal of trees and snags (dead standing trees) in rivers and streams was seen as a helpful process to clear waterways for navigation, property protection and flood control. Over time, research has shown that removal of these trees, called large woody debris, has been detrimental to fish populations and the overall health of our rivers and streams. Read more and see a video of the process.

Juniper Thinning Begins at Priday Ranch

The Land Trust has begun work to thin some of the junipers at Priday Ranch. Like many parts of Central Oregon, juniper trees grow at Priday Ranch in a greater abundance than they would have historically. This past month, around 250 acres at Priday Ranch were thinned. Older trees were strategically left to resemble a more historical landscape.

The juniper thinning project at Priday Ranch provides many benefits. It will increase the amount of available water for native grasses and wildflowers. It will also help reduce fire danger, and, if a fire does occur, improve the land’s ability to bounce back afterwards. The older trees left at Priday Ranch also provide important cover for Rocky Mountain elk and mule deer. Learn more and watch a short video of the tree thinning.

Land Trust Invests in Social Impact Pool

The Land Trust recently changed how we invest our stewardship funds to better align with our organization’s mission and values. These funds have been held by Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) for many years and are for the long-term stewardship of our protected lands. OCF will still hold the funds, but they have been moved into a Social Impact Pool.

The Social Impact Pool at OCF seeks to invest in companies that have strong records in three areas: environment, social and governance.

“The Land Trust is committed to sustainability in our operations and we try our best to minimize our impact on the natural world and our community in all areas of our work,” said executive director Rika Ayotte. “Our financial investments are no exception, which is why we are excited to be participating in OCF’s Social Impact Pool.” Read more.

Fish Reintroduction Efforts Continue

The Land Trust continues to participate in the long-term partnership for the reintroduction of salmon and steelhead in the upper Deschutes River region. This year we were able to once again help with spring Chinook and steelhead releases into Whychus Creek, Ochoco Creek and beyond!

At Camp Polk Meadow Preserve, a large acclimation tank hosted smolts (one year old fish) for several weeks before their journey downriver. Meanwhile, at Ochoco Preserve, there were two large, temporary screened boxes (called live cars) where smolts acclimated ahead of their journey.

Acclimation is when smolts are placed in a holding facility that contains water from the stream or river the fish would naturally return to for spawning. Smolts are particularly sensitive to the smell of the water from their home creek and use this time in their lives to store the smell in their brain. Then, they use this clue to help find their way back to the same area to spawn.

The acclimation tank at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve hosted 20,000 spring Chinook smolts and 50,000 summer steelhead this spring. The release of these fish included a new tactic in reintroduction efforts. Learn more.

Saving Skyline Forest Recording Available

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our Saving Skyline Forest virtual event with executive director Rika Ayotte. Rika was able to provide a thorough look at the Land Trust’s efforts to protect this iconic forest in Central Oregon.

For those who weren’t able to join (or those who would like to see parts of it again), you can watch the recording on our website. You can also find more resources, including our efforts to build a community vision for Skyline Forest, frequently asked questions and an aerial map of Skyline Forest that you can share with friends and neighbors.

Getting Outdoors with Kids

Spring has arrived and with it comes a desire to get outside and savor the beauty of our forests, grasslands and canyons. But what about the kiddo in your life? You might not be summiting South Sisters like you used to (or maybe you are!), but there are plenty of ways to make sure your kids are enjoying the outdoors as much as you.

First, let’s encourage our kids to explore and develop a sense of wonder in the outdoors so they can one day help nature thrive (just like you!). Getting outside regularly to play together, whether it’s in your backyard, your local dirt pile, or a nearby park is the first step. Learn more about Encouraging a Sense of Wonder in Children.

Then, for the little ones in your life (or those who are new to hiking), check out our guide to Land Trust Hikes for Kids. From a short 1/4 mile loop that’ll have you pointing to woodpeckers in trees to a 3.4 mile hike with scenic views of the Three Sisters, we hope you’ll get out with your little ones and enjoy your Land Trust Community Preserves!

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