Beginning in mid to late June, contractors working for The Nature Conservancy will begin removing trees and brush from its property at Big Creek, just north of the Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park. Some of the activity will be visible from Highway 101.
The goal is to restore open meadow habitat for the imperiled Oregon silverspot butterfly, a federally protected species that thrives in only a few remaining Oregon coastal grasslands.
“We are very excited to expand the native prairie at Big Creek,” said Debbie Pickering, Oregon Coast stewardship ecologist for The Nature Conservancy, “and to help protect this part of Oregon’s natural heritage for future generations.”
The restoration is based on historic aerial photos from 1943, said Pickering, which show that approximately 100 acres of coastal prairie at the site have been lost since then to encroachment by trees and shrubs. Other parts of the property that were covered with forest historically will remain so.
Located on the central coast between Yachats and Florence, the 193-acre Big Creek property was purchased by the Conservancy in 2009 and funds have been awarded by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and others to cover the cost. Much of the property is designated as critical habitat for the butterfly.
The U.S. Forest Service provided funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the prairie restoration project. Clearing trees and brush that have grown into the former meadows is the first step. Smaller woody material left behind will be removed using controlled burns in 2012. Then the cleared areas will be planted with native prairie plants that support the butterfly.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
Oregon Coast Stewardship Ecologist