Grants help Deschutes Basin, areas in Southern Oregon By Hilary Corrigan / The Bulletin Published Sep 20, 2016 at 12:01AM
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday announced nearly $45 million of Endangered Species Act grant program funding for projects in 20 states. The competitive grants help states work with private landowners, conservation groups and other government agencies on projects that protect federally listed species and their habitats.
In Oregon, the Deschutes Basin Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan got $700,000; the Rogue River Recovery Land Acquisition got $500,000; and the Mountcrest Working Forest Conservation Easement, near Ashland, received $1 million.
The Deschutes Basin effort is part of a long-running conservation plan that eight irrigation districts and the city of Prineville have worked on for years. The plan looks to maintain and improve habitat for the Oregon spotted frog, plus bull trout, steelhead and salmon in the Upper Deschutes Basin.
The grant money will support work among the irrigation districts, Prineville, state and federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations in the Deschutes Basin. With matching funds, the irrigation districts can use the grant money to pay for studies and other work related to developing plans for conservation and mitigation projects, for instance.
“We’re all trying to achieve the same thing,” said Mike Britton, president of the Deschutes Basin Board of Control and general manager of North Unit Irrigation District, referring to the irrigation districts’ efforts to continue operating while preserving protected species.
The Rogue River Recovery Land Acquisition aims to help the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy acquire a 352-acre property in Jackson County. The site includes a 2-mile stretch on the Rogue River. The property connects with other protected areas; includes landscapes like forest, flood plain, vernal pools, oak woodland and chaparral; and hosts hundreds of bird and plant species.
With the $500,000 grant, the conservancy now has about $2.5 million toward a $3.5 million goal it aims to reach by the end of the year. That total includes the property purchase and funds to manage it, according to Diane Garcia, executive director of the conservancy.
The Mountcrest Working Forest Conservation Easement effort looks to purchase an easement from the family owners of a 2,000-acre tract south of Ashland. The land provides habitat for the northern spotted owl, federally listed as threatened. It also links the Cascades-Siskiyou National Monument and the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
The land would remain privately owned and operated, including existing timber production. But Pacific Forest Trust seeks a permanent easement to ensure intact habitat and a management agreement to guide the land’s future, according to Connie Best, co-CEO of the trust.
A portion of the Pacific Crest Trail runs through the property, and that part would remain open to the public. Pacific Forest Trust has not finished appraising the easement but estimates a cost of around $2.5 million. With the new $1 million grant, the organization has nearly $2 million and aims to finish fundraising this year so it could acquire the easement next year.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., supported grant funding for Mountcrest in a letter last month to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in which he noted the lower cost of a conservation easement compared to outright purchase. Wyden also emphasized the benefit of ensuring critical habitat for the owl, the Pacific fisher, salmon and a gray wolf population.
Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., praised all three efforts in a news release Friday.