The former Wildish property at the confluence of the Middle and Coast Forks of the Willamette River will be subject to extensive habitat restoration work over the next decade, The Nature Conservancy announced today.
The property features extensive habitats that are increasingly endangered in the Willamette Valley, including six miles of river corridor, floodplain forest, wetlands, upland oak woodlands and native prairie. More than 30 species of fish and wildlife considered at-risk will benefit from restoration efforts including Chinook salmon, northern red-legged frog and western meadowlark.
The Conservancy will develop a management plan for the 1,270-acre property over the next year, consulting with local and regional project partners. The plan will address strategies to reconnect the river to its historic floodplain, control invasive species, restore oak and prairie habitats, implement controlled burns, and accommodate public access compatible with habitat restoration.
“The Willamette Confluence provides a chance to begin reversing the valley’s declines in habitats and species that we’ve seen over recent decades,” said Dan Bell, Willamette Basin conservation director for the Conservancy. “It’s a very exciting opportunity, and we’re looking forward to working with many partners to make it happen.”
“There is no other property like this left in the Willamette Valley,” said Russell Hoeflich, Oregon director for The Nature Conservancy. “It’s literally an ecological crossroad where water and wildlife come together in tremendous diversity. Our children and grandchildren will be eternally grateful to the Wildish family and the many other partners for their foresight and commitment to protect this special place.”
The Conservancy purchased the property from the Wildish family for $23.4 million on October 29, with major funding from the Bonneville Power Administration and Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. BPA provided $20.8 million and OWEB provided $2.5 million. Both agencies hold conservation easements over the property requiring that management and restoration plans meet their approval. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife must also approve. The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation contributed an additional $100,000 to the acquisition.
The Willamette River Floodplain Restoration Study done by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers includes concepts for the Willamette Confluence property that will guide the extensive floodplain engineering and restoration work to come.
The property is adjacent to Lane County’s 2,363-acre Howard Buford Recreation Area around Mt. Pisgah, as well as to Oregon state park and Willamalane park lands, enabling partners to coordinate habitat protection and restoration across more than 4,700 acres.
Once major restoration work has been completed, and following consultations with project partners to determine the best fit, the Conservancy will turn the Willamette Confluence property over to public ownership. Management plans will also eventually identify opportunities to create trails and other public access on the property, compatible with habitat protection objectives.
For the time being, public visitors are welcome to see the property through guided tours led by the Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah. Volunteer work parties organized by the group are also an opportunity to visit the property and lend a hand to its restoration. To sign up, go to www.bufordpark.org.
Today’s announcement was made at a celebration and briefing attended by community leaders and project partners at the Mount Pisgah Arboretum. In addition to the Conservancy and Wildish family, speakers included leaders from the Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Northwest Power and Conservation Council, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Lane County Government.
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.