Conservation Compass: Management Report – June 2018

Dear Conservation Friends,

Welcome to the June edition of The Conservation Compass. This monthly report covers the management and operation of the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District. The Clackamas SWCD district operations team provides the support needed for the District to effectively serve customers and to implement conservation practices.

Water is on my mind.

In Oregon, we likely don’t have quite enough of this precious stuff this year. Meanwhile, our peers on the other side of the country have been getting inundated with too much.1

What’s the situation here at home?

Clackamas County background

Clackamas County covers 1,879 square miles (1.2 million acres) and extends from Mount Hood to the Willamette Valley floor. Over a third of the county is in forestry and is made up of national, private, and non-industrial private forests (NIPF). Clackamas County also has specialty crops and is ranked first in the state for acreage in nurseries and Christmas trees and is ranked second in berries. As a part of the Portland metropolitan region, much of the county faces pressure from urbanization and has one of the highest densities of small non-commercial farms in Oregon.2

Average precipitation in Clackamas County ranges from 40 to 50 inches a year in the valley bottom to 122 to 131 inches along the crest of the Cascade Mountains.3

Snowpack and drought

The snowpack on Mt. Hood appears to be less in recent years than it was in the previous several decades.4

The Oregon snow water equivalent for our part of the Willamette Basin was recently estimated at 58% of normal by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.5

Fortunately, the drought prediction for the Willamette Basin is for a relatively normal year, unlike basins to the east and south of us.6

As of May 6, the Hood, Sandy and Lower Deschutes basins are holding onto 95 percent of their normal snowpack for the season. Nowhere else is even close to average, with the John Day and Owyhee basins at 2 and 5 percent, respectively.7

Agriculture and climate

Even while we look at conditions in the current water year, we also ponder impacts on our local economy that may ripple into future years. To be successful, farmers have to prepare as best they can for a multitude of uncertain conditions, chief among them rainfall and temperature.

Agriculture in Oregon is a varied as the climate that sustains it. Although annual precipitation ranges from less than 10 inches to more than 60, the principal crop areas have one thing in common – their very predominate winter rainfall climate. There are years when the combined July and August total over the entire State averages only a quarter of an inch or less and the normal in the eastern part of the State for these two months is less than an inch. Despite this, a very wide range of crops is grown here. Because of the frequency of dry summers, agricultural crops and practices are planned accordingly.8

You can bet that many of the folks who make a living from their land are watching the weather. They are certainly thinking not only about this year but about future changes in weather patterns and how those changes could affect their business.

Warm summer forecast this year

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is predicting that temperatures will be warmer than average in June and July.9

Last month I contemplated whether we would have a fire season like we’ve seen in the last few years. We started the water year with good amounts of precipitation. As winter waned, water banked in the mountain snowpack dwindled. We’ve had some warm weather that kick-started spring growth, to be followed by warmer and drier months in June and July.

I’m not a climatologist or a weather specialist. But from where I sit, conditions look like they may favor another dramatic wildfire season this year.

Protect yourself

Before wildfire strikes in your community, consider what you can do to protect your home, such as increasing the defensible space around your home. This is particularly true for folks who live in forested parts of Clackamas County, but as we’ve seen in other parts of the country, other places can be susceptible to catastrophic wildfire. For example, wildfire recently swept through much of Oklahoma, devastating entire communities.10

And it’s not just homes that are susceptible to damage or loss from wildfire – it’s also animals, businesses, and community infrastructure.

Fire season is quickly approaching, which means it’s time for all of us to start thinking about protecting our homes and communities as well as the things we can do to prevent human-caused wildfires. Let’s make 2018 a fire season NOT to remember. Be part of the solution and help us all Keep Oregon Green.11

Our neighbors to the south have published a great website to help people Prepare For Wildfire, including their page specifically about Defensible Space. (Thank you to CalFire for providing this resource.)

I encourage everyone to prepare now for the possibility of a wildfire near their home or business.

Yours for conservation,

Tom Salzer, General Manager

WEBSITE POSTS:

New posts

We had a productive month with quite a few articles published on the Clackamas SWCD website. Find the May 2018 articles here.

New privacy and cookie policies

Speaking of the website, something new emerged in May: new European Union data protection rules, known as General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. We’re in Oregon, so why is Clackamas SWCD paying attention to this? Since our website is served worldwide we need to comply with GDPR.

In the past few weeks, you’ve probably been receiving emails from many of the companies where you have subscribed to a newsletter or purchased something. Those entities are contacting you because they have to comply with GDPR, too.

Thus, on the Clackamas SWCD website, you’ll find new policies on privacy and cookies. You’ll also see opt-in checkboxes on some forms, and you may see a banner about cookies. Being more clear about how we use your information is not a bad thing. We welcome the clarity that GDPR helps us provide.

BUDGET:

The Board of Directors held a public hearing on May 15, 2018, and then adopted the budget that had been previously approved by the Budget Committee on May 1, 2018. Download the budget for the next fiscal year (July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019) here:

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EAGLE CREEK ACQUISITION PROJECT:

Context

Through the Eagle Creek acquisition project, Clackamas SWCD seeks to protect and improve important habitat for fish and wildlife. Secondary purposes include providing habitat-friendly recreational opportunities and generating revenue through occasional timber harvests. The 318-acre property connects to Clackamas County’s Eagle Fern Park and is sandwiched between old growth forests on land owned by Portland General Electric.

Clackamas SWCD is partnering with The Trust for Public Land on this acquisition.

What’s new since last month?

  • An option agreement has been executed that provides time to complete an appraisal and perform other due diligence related to the acquisition. Now that it is in place, we can share that the seller is Weyerhaeuser and a corner of the property touches the corner of Eagle Fern Park near Estacada. We are talking with PGE about the idea of a community forest, and are currently reaching out to the BLM. Read more about the property in this brochure (PDF download): Eagle Creek Community Forest Overview – TPL
  • In May, the Board of Directors selected a lender. We are working with the lender to develop a final package for the Board to consider.
  • The Board of Directors selected a land use attorney to assist Clackamas SWCD in the acquisition process. He is reviewing a draft purchase-and-sale agreement.
  • Also in May, Clackamas SWCD chose to go ahead with seeking a US Forest Service “Community Forest” grant to help support this project. Partners are being contacted to gain local support for this effort.

What’s next?

CONSERVATION RESOURCE CENTER PROJECT:

Context

A long-held vision of the Clackamas SWCD is to provide a combined office, meeting, and education center on land where we can walk out the door to show conservation practices to customers. We have named that new facility the Conservation Resource Center.

Clackamas SWCD bought the Beavercreek Farm in 2013. Since then, planning has been underway for how to turn the dream into reality. This calendar year, we expect to obtain the funding needed to finish the design of the facility and to begin construction. Our plan is to occupy the Conservation Resource Center by January 2020.

The Conservation Resource Center will combine our headquarters office with a meeting and education facility, and over time we will develop demonstration projects on the property.

What’s new since last month?

  • The Clackamas SWCD Board of Directors accepted a proposal for Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) services at the May 15 Board of Director’s meeting. Contract negotiations were underway at the end of May.
  • At the May 15 meeting, the Board of Directors decided to auction the old farmhouse and associated garage. Part of this arrangement will be a requirement that the successful bidder removes the farmhouse and garage from the site by a date to be determined. It is the District’s hope that someone in the community will be able to use these buildings.
  • A contract with an architectural firm is being negotiated.
  • We raised the flag for the summer!

What’s next?

CONSERVATION EASEMENT ACQUISITION:

Context

Clackamas SWCD is planning to acquire a conservation easement on forest land near Molalla, Oregon. This acquisition will be funded through the Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program.

What’s new since last month?

  • We are working with project partners and the funding agency to finalize details concerning the easement language.

What’s next?

  • Clackamas SWCD will hold a public hearing on June 19 about acquiring this easement.
  • Clackamas SWCD needs to craft a monitoring plan to assure compliance with easement terms and conditions.

FEEDBACK:

We welcome your feedback. You can reach the management team through this contact form:

FOOTNOTES:

  1. Source: Rounds of gusty storms to threaten damage in northeastern US this week
  2. Source: NRCS: Clackamas County – Information for Partners and Participants
  3. Source: Clackamas County GIS Online Atlas
  4. Source: Mt. Hood snowpack, 1980-2018
  5. Source: Oregon braces for low water supply season
  6. Source: United States Drought Monitor
  7. Source: Farmers in many parts of Oregon brace for low water year
  8. Source: Climate of Oregon
  9. Source: ODA Seasonal Climate Forecast issued May 17, 2018
  10. Source: NPR – Wildfires are spreading across Oklahoma. Here’s what you need to know
  11. Source: ODF – May is Wildfire Awareness Month

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