December 18, 2009
9-Year Project in Oregon Secures Habitat, Access
MISSOULA, Mont.—A nine-year land conservation project has been completed near La Grande, Ore., permanently protecting habitat and securing public access on nearly 850 acres. The parcel, now part of Ladd Marsh Wildlife Management Area, has been transferred to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
The area, known locally as the Glass Hill winter range, is prime elk habitat. An estimated 120 elk use the area throughout the year. In winter the herd can swell to more than 500. Upland birds, deer and several sensitive species also inhabit the area.
“Back in the late 1990s, RMEF and ODFW identified this tract as important habitat threatened by future recreational and residential development. That prediction held true. Today realtors are marketing subdivided properties on neighboring lands and no doubt the same thing would have happened here,” said Bill Richardson, RMEF lands program manager for Oregon and Washington.
RMEF purchased the 848.98-acre parcel in 2000. The goal was to hold the property while ODFW gathered funding for a conveyance.
In the meantime, the two partners signed an MOU committing the agency to manage the property for wildlife and public access, including hunting. Over the years, ODFW expended more than $150,000 and RMEF volunteers donated countless hours of labor on restoration and habitat activities, perimeter fence maintenance, interior fence removal, planting trees, spraying weeds, reseeding and more.
“In the past nine years, and through four different agency directors, we made several attempts to put a purchase package together and close this transaction. This year we got it done. It’s great to see a long-term commitment come to fruition,” said Craig Ely, ODFW’s Northeast Region manager.
The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the transfer at its October meeting. RMEF sold the property to ODFW at a bargain price and donated the balance of the appraised value to ODFW to match federal grants that funded the transaction. The donation will result in $420,000 in matching funds being available for future land projects benefiting elk and other wildlife.
RMEF paid property taxes to Union County annually and ODFW will continue to do so.
Richardson said, “This project took longer than expected but RMEF is in this for the long haul. We understand that it can take years or even decades to conserve an important piece of habitat. The complexities of administrative changes and strained budgets will always be surmounted by dedicated partners who never give up.”
He added that stewardship never totally concludes. Successful projects always lead to more collaboration, partnership and efforts to expand the conservation footprint, he said.
Since 1986, RMEF and its partners have completed 611 projects in Oregon, conserving or enhancing about 675,000 acres, including more than 38,000 acres of permanent land protection.