Unparalleled for the extent, quality and diversity of its native grassland and shrubland habitats, the Boardman Grasslands harbor Oregon's largest viable population of the Washington ground squirrel, listed as endangered under the Oregon Endangered Species Act.
Ecologists have long viewed the native grasslands found on federal and state lands southwest of the town of Boardman as the most extensive of their type in Oregon. Since 1978, the Navy's 4,750-acre Boardman Research Natural Area has been the site of extensive studies on native prairie wildlife and grassland restoration strategies.
South of the Columbia River, in north central Oregon
The preserve harbors at least seven globally rare grassland habitat types characterized by needle-and-thread grass, bluebunch wheatgrass, thickspike wheatgrass, Sandberg's bluegrass, bitterbrush and sagebrush.
The rich habitat diversity supports an array of wildlife species recognized as sensitive or vulnerable in Oregon, including the Washington ground squirrel — listed in Oregon as an endangered species — white-tailed jackrabbit, burrowing owl, ferruginous hawk, Swainson's hawk, loggerhead shrike, long-billed curlew, grasshopper sparrow, sage sparrow and northern sagebrush lizard.
In 2001 the Conservancy accepted a management sublease that runs until 2040, the remaining term of the original lease. The farm agreed to pay the Conservancy for management, research and restoration costs.
Conservancy ecologists have conducted biological inventories and mapped the habitats, weed incursions and natural features of the conservation area. A long-term management plan was developed in partnership with Threemile Canyon Farms and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Working with state agencies, elected officials and conservation groups, the farm and the Conservancy are pursuing options to purchase the entire site from the state, including the conservation area.
Volunteer teams work at the preserve each field season to control invasives, collect native seed and plant vegetation.