The Monthly Plan-it: Updates from the Conservation Planning Program – November 2017

Topics in this November issue

  1. How We Help Landowners Become Active in Conservation
  2. Clackamas SWCD Bringing Oregon White Oak Resources to Clackamas County
  3. Conservation Planners Help Corral Creek Landowners Deliver Habitat on Their Streamside
  4. Urban Update: Backyard Habitat Certification Program
  5. What Happens When You Work With a Conservation District Planner?
  6. Assistance with Mud and Manure Issues Is Just a Phone Call Away

1 – How We Help Landowners Become Active in Conservation

Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has a variety of tools, information, and resources to help folks who believe that conservation and good stewardship of our lands is a critical function to protect our way of life.

We encounter many people with a wide range of resource management experience, from very little experience on the land to those who rely on it for their livelihood. No matter where you are on that continuum, we can provide resources to help you realize your goals for conservation.

This newsletter

This newsletter uses updates, stories, and links to resources to help illustrate the what, when, where, why, and how of the Clackamas SWCD’s efforts to conserve resources in Clackamas County. Our work occurs in partnership with willing landowners like you. Through your commitment to improving your natural resources, we are able to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

Without that commitment of time and effort to understand the information we present and to then make decisions about managing your land, it becomes impossible for us to help you realize your goals for your land. You are the critical piece of the puzzle.

How we work with customers

With that, here are a few links to resources on our website explaining how we work with our customers.

  • Techncal Assistance – Get help with general questions and smaller issue on your land.
  • Conservation Planning – Work with the Clackamas SWCD to develop a more comprehensive plan for all or a large part of your property
  • Start Your Own Conservation Plan – For those who prefer to work through issues on their own or with limited Clackamas SWCD involvement, this is a resource to help get you started
  • Our Programs – In addition to conservation planning, we have several programs to help you address specific goals

No matter where you are on your road to good stewardship, Clackamas SWCD has much to offer to guide you along the way. Contact the conservation planning program and we can help you get moving in the right direction.

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2 – Clackamas SWCD Bringing Oregon White Oak Resources to Clackamas County

Oak and grass understory

Oak and grass understory

Oak conservation needed

Clackamas SWCD has been focusing on Oregon white oak habitat in Clackamas County since fall of 2016. Historic and more recent oak mapping data show that several oak-prominent areas in Clackamas County are not as large as they once were. There are many oak conservation opportunities present in Clackamas County.

Special funding for oak in some areas

Last spring, we partnered with West Multnomah SWCD to apply for NRCS Conservation Implementation Strategy (CIS) funding to complete oak habitat work with private landowners. NRCS awarded funding for the resulting Clackanomah Oak CIS for the next three years to complete oak habitat work in the Molalla River and Rock Creek Watersheds of Clackamas County and on Sauvie Island and in the Tualatin Mountains of West Multnomah County.

Oak becoming more scarce in the Willamette Valley

Oregon white oak (hereafter, “oak”) habitats are becoming increasingly rare in the Willamette Valley, with less than 10% of historic oak habitats remaining.

Some oak habitat loss is due to population growth and urban development. However, some of the most valuable oak habitat is in rural areas and some of that habitat is threatened by competition from native conifers (e.g. Douglas-fir), competition from invasive species (e.g. Himalayan blackberry, Scotch broom and English ivy), and clearing for agricultural purposes, aesthetics or safety concerns. In addition, few young oak trees are allowed to mature and get established, nor are they planted in rural areas.

Working cooperatively with private landowners is critical to the protection and restoration of many habitats. This is particularly important for oak because of a lack of regulatory protection for these habitats, difficulty in restoring oak, lack of familiarity with how to successfully restore oak, and the fact that the majority of remaining oak habitat is on private lands.

In addition, population in the greater Portland Metro area is projected to increase in coming years. This will likely result in additional pressure to degrade or convert oak habitat to other uses. Clackamas SWCD is increasing our investment in education about the value of oak and in incentives to protect, restore, and expand remaining habitat.

We also work with the Intertwine Alliance

Many natural resources organizations have been collaborating through the Intertwine Alliance’s Oak Working Group to energize work on this high priority habitat. Clackamas SWCD is actively involved in the Oak Working Group. We have also provided financial support for oak conservation tools that can improve our technical assistance to private landowners, including the urban oak landscaping guide.

Oakscaping Guide-July2017
Oakscaping Guide-July2017
Oakscaping_Guide-July2017.pdf
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Through our participation in the Oak Working Group and through discussions with other SWCDs and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), it was clear that the time is right to move this important work forward on private lands. We are excited to bring the Oak CIS resources to residents and are actively working to protect and increase the abundance of these important habitats in Clackamas County.

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3 – Conservation Planners Help Corral Creek Landowners Deliver Habitat on Their Streamside

This month our planners began implementation on a new riparian project on Corral Creek west of Wilsonville. These particular landowners, who were new to rural living and had learned of the Clackamas SWCD from an adjacent neighbor’s project to remove an old concrete weir on Corral Creek, received assistance from the SWCD shortly after experiencing their first flood on the creek.

Overwhelmed culvert prompts request for help

In this case, the landowners were concerned about a double culvert on the creek under their driveway that provides access to the house. When a significant storm event happened in December 2015, water from the creek overwhelmed the culvert and road, prompting them to request a site visit to assess the culvert and stream area.

Invasive species observed

During the initial site visit, we provided recommendations for the road crossing. However, we also observed several invasive weed species in the riparian area, including Japanese knotweed. Japanese knotweed can be incredibly difficult to control. Cutting and digging is ineffective and can actually spread the knotweed. After the District provided information regarding Japanese knotweed control, a carefully timed herbicide application was conducted.

Conservation plan developed

Subsequent interactions with these landowners resulted in the development of a conservation plan to address their streamside (riparian) areas. While there was a good diversity of native riparian trees and shrubs, there were also open spots infested with Japanese knotweed, invasive blackberry, and Reed Canary grass.

As part of the riparian conservation plan development, we assessed the entire area for concerns, allowing us to recommend a menu of actions to solve those concerns. In this instance, a lack of continuous native habitat along the stream was the major issue. We found that the existing site vegetation was not providing adequate shade on the stream. Soil erosion can also pose a concern when invasive weeds are present in greater abundance than desirable native plants.

With their conservation plan in hand detailing weed control tasks and planting recommendations, the landowners had the tools to implement their plan over the course of the next two years.

Work will improve water quality and habitat

Implementation of this riparian project will improve water quality in Corral Creek and also provide improved habitat for local fish, birds, and wildlife. As a result of that public benefit, Clackamas SWCD is able to help the landowners fund the work. We will also help coordinate a contractor for the more difficult knotweed control, ensuring the best chance of success.

Working with Clackamas SWCD, these landowners will be able to enact meaningful changes on their land, meeting their vision for the riparian area while providing benefit to wildlife, fish, and people in the Clear Creek watershed.

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4 – Urban Update: Backyard Habitat Certification Program

Some of you may have heard of the Backyard Habitat Certification Program (BHCP) because it has been around the Portland area for several years and also covers the City of Lake Oswego in Clackamas County.

Site assessments with recommendations

The BHCP provides site assessments, for a fee of $35, to urban landowners on properties ≤1 acre in size to restore native wildlife habitat on their properties. After the initial site assessment with a BHCP technician, the landowner is provided with a site report providing guidance to restore native wildlife habitat by:

  • reducing invasive weeds
  • increasing native plant cover
  • reducing pesticide use
  • improving stormwater management
  • implementing wildlife stewardship practices and
  • participating in volunteer and educational efforts for native habitat

Urban landowners are enthusiastic about BHCP and so is CSWCD, as it provides an excellent tool to serve our urban landowners for a variety of natural resource concerns.

We are working to expand this program

Clackamas SWCD has been working closely with the BHCP Program Coordinators for several years to expand BHCP into the rest of the Clackamas County Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). District funding allowed for the expansion planning of BHCP over the past two fiscal years, culminating in the beginning of the program expansion into West Linn, Milwaukie, Oak Grove and Jennings Lodge last spring. Clackamas SWCD funding will continue to facilitate the successful expansion of the BHCP into the rest of the Clackamas County UGB by the spring of 2018.

More expansion is planned

Our Conservation Outreach department is meeting with Susie Peterson, the BHCP Coordinator for Clackamas County, to coordinate outreach plans for increasing interest in the newly adopted BHCP Clackamas County urban areas and to plan for upcoming outreach to the rest of the Clackamas County UGB expansion (Oregon City, Gladstone, Wilsonville, Happy Valley and Damascus) this coming spring.

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5 – What Happens When You Work With a Conservation District Planner?

When the Clackamas SWCD gets a request for conservation planning or technical assistance, our first task is to make sure we are the right resource for your needs. Once we understand your needs and determine we are able to help you, we’ll assign a conservation planner with the experience to best assist you.

If we can’t help you, we’ll try to find help for you

While we wear many hats, we can’t address every issue. In those cases where we aren’t the resource you are looking for, we will do our best to find the resources or agencies that may be more suited to assist you. We take pride in doing our best to help people find answers their natural resource questions.

We’ll talk with you about your goals

If we are in a position to help you, we connect you with one of our conservation planners.

One of the first steps we take is to generate basic maps to help frame a conversation about your goals and operation in the context of the characteristics of your property. For example, some areas represent important wildlife habitat value, some areas in cultivation may be best suited to continued crop production or as managed forests meeting multiple objectives.

Your soil affects many aspects of your property’s potential

An example of an important tool we use help you understand your property’s potential is to generate a soils map and report. Soils are broken into eight Land Capability Classes, ranging from Class I soils having virtually no limitations for agriculture to Class VIII soils that are so severely limited that cultivation is unlikely to result in viable crop production.

There are also four subclasses that groups soils by their limitations: (w) for wet soils, (e) for erodible soils, (s) for soils with rooting zone limitations, and (c ) for soils with climatic limitations, such as temperatures too cold for farming.

We rely on you

We rely on our cooperators to work with us to assess their management, identify problems, and describe the resources they may have to achieve their goals. Once we gather this information, we often perform a site visit to see the property. We find it is beneficial to walk a majority of a property to better understand the systems in place and identify and discuss any natural resources problems observed.

Information gathered at site visits, coupled with an understanding of the existing management systems provide help us formulate realistic and achievable alternative management strategies that, if adopted, address any natural resource issues identified.

You make any needed management choices

From that point the decision to move forward rests with you, and once you choose which strategies to implement we can help you develop a project and budget to get work done on the ground. Where the District can identify a public benefit related to your conservation project, we may be able to help you seek funding for the work either through the Clackamas SWCD or with other partners whose missions support or fund conservation. Clackamas SWCD may also be able to provide low interest loan funding to help spread upfront costs over a longer time span.

In order to protect your investment of time and resources, we’ll provided you with an idea of the next steps and important maintenance requirements. This last step helps us close the loop and helps to ensure that your project will be successful well past the implementation phase.

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6 – Assistance with Mud and Manure Issues Is Just a Phone Call Away

Fall is the time of year when many livestock owners on the rainy side of the Cascades discover, or rediscover, issues relating to mud and manure on their farms. We’ve been working recently with several Clackamas County landowners to assess the causes for their more impacted areas and to identify solutions.

Livestock infrastructure is stressed in winter

Turnouts, barn and shed entrances, and watering and feeding locations can all take a beating in our wet winters. These high traffic areas quickly degrade, leading to animal health issues, pollution of nearby streams, and management nightmares.

Causes of degraded conditions

Many of our landowners are sick of the mud and look to the Clackamas SWCD. Common causes for degraded conditions include:

  • overgrazed pastures
  • poor drainage
  • confinement areas with unsuitable footing
  • missing, failing, or undersized gutters and downspouts on buildings
  • uncovered or oversized manure piles

Appropriate management reduces mud and manure problems

Management of livestock during the winter is critical in reducing mud and manure problems. By restricting access in the winter or during rainy weather to only the most durable areas, much of the damage to pastures can be avoided.

Poor drainage can be caused by compacted soil or being in a depression or flat area where the water has no place to go. The heavy hooves of large animals compact the soil, especially in the winter, and prevent water from draining through naturally.

Sometimes a heavy use area is needed

Often times, overgrazing and poor drainage can be mitigated by installing Heavy Use Area (HUA) protection, a practice that involves site grading, laying down non-woven geotextile fabric, and finishing with course and fine layers of surface material suitable to animal hoof traffic. Clackamas SWCD can provide HUA specifications to ensure they work properly.

Control water around barns and paddocks

Gutters and downspouts on your barn or animal shed are essential to prevent mud issues. During our rainy season, a tremendous amount of water is collected and runs off the roof surfaces. This often happens in high traffic areas where animals are moving in and out through the day.

Manure management is key

Manure buildup can exacerbate these other issues and has health and environmental concerns. It is always recommended to collect manure from heavily trafficked areas and store it in a covered, dry area. A simple and cost-effective solution is to pile it away from areas where surface water flows, and to throw a tarp over the pile in the winter, weighting it down against strong winter winds.

Clackamas SWCD can assist with these projects, protecting water quality and helping landowners in the process.

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