As the North Santiam River flows around a bend behind a dense stand of oak, cottonwood, and maple trees, a bald eagle soars above the tree-line towards one of a handful of nests along this reach of the river. On a bluff overlooking the river below, Greenbelt Land Trust’s Executive Director, Michael Pope, pauses to reflect on the rich diversity of forests, prairie, and wetlands on this 406-acre property just outside of Stayton. “There are few places in the Willamette Valley where you can find such a complex mixture of native habitats providing sanctuary for wildlife. Protecting this special place will have lasting impacts for generations to come,” says Pope.
And protect it is just what Greenbelt Land Trust has done.
This month, through a partnership with landowners who were committed to leaving a legacy on their land for future generations, Greenbelt Land Trust acquired the 406-acre Santiam Kingston Hills property. The acquisition of this dynamic property was provided through funding from the Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program, a joint conservation fund administered through Bonneville Power Administration and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In addition, earlier in the month, the Land Trust assumed ownership of the adjacent 155-acre Kingston Prairie Preserve – expanding Greenbelt Land Trust’s footprint in the area to 561-acres. Kingston Prairie was transferred from The Nature Conservancy as part of a collaborative partnership designed to align conservation partners and priorities across Oregon. The Kingston Prairie Preserve protects some of the best remaining native prairie in the Willamette Valley.
“Oregon’s land trusts play a critical role in our state’s future,” says Derek Johnson, Director of Protection and Stewardship for The Nature Conservancy in Oregon. “After many years of partnership with Greenbelt Land Trust throughout the Willamette Valley, we are proud to place the long-term care of Kingston Prairie Preserve in their capable hands.”
These two properties join an expansive conservation corridor of 1,000+ acres along the North Santiam River, including lands managed by the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, the City of Stayton, and the Bureau of Land Management. The region has also been a hub of private land restoration projects through partnerships with area nonprofits and state agencies.
“Kingston Prairie and Santiam-Kingston Hills are key puzzle pieces in this region. Their addition to this conservation corridor creates opportunities for large-scale habitat management for fish and wildlife, and brings together partners who are working on regional resiliency plans,” says Claire Fiegener, Greenbelt Land Trust’s Conservation Director. “Conservation is dependent on collaboration.”
Greenbelt Land Trust, a nonprofit formed in 1989, has protected 3,662 acres across the Willamette Valley by working with private landowners on the permanent preservation and management of ecological, agricultural, and historically significant lands and waters. The land trust works strategically to secure significant natural areas in accordance with a thoughtful regional plan, and is committed to leaving a legacy of clean water and resilient lands for generations to come.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, The Nature Conservancy creates innovative, on-the-ground solutions to the world’s toughest conservation challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. To learn more, visit nature.org/Oregon.
Funding for Santiam Kingston Hills provided by:
The Bonneville Power Administration contributed funding for the purchase and long-term stewardship of the property. Land purchases such as this are part of the 2010 Willamette Wildlife Habitat MOA – a 15-year agreement between the State of Oregon and BPA that provides stable funding for more than 26,000 acres of wildlife habitat acquisitions in the Willamette Valley. The property purchases help to offset the impacts of federal flood control and hydroelectric facilities on the Willamette River and its tributaries.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program manages the funds dedicated to the state by the Bonneville Power Administration.