Woodlands Stewardship Project

WoodlandsProject_Pano

UPDATE ON TRAIL CLOSURES: AS OF 10/18/2016, THE MULKEY RIDGE TRAIL IS NOW OPEN!

Last summer (2015) Greenbelt Land Trust launched a multi-phased ‘Woodlands Stewardship Project’ to enhance the health and biodiversity of the Mulkey Forest on Bald Hill Farm. The second phase of this project will take part this summer (2016). Learn more about this restoration project below, and plan on attending a tour to visit the project site with us this summer!

History

Oak woodland and savanna covered thousands of acres in the Willamette Valley from the distant  past until the mid-1800s, when Euro-American settlement led to dramatic land use changes. Fires that indigenous peoples had used to manage oak habitats for food were stopped and agriculture and development increased throughout the region, leading to a steep decline in oak habitats and changes in other ecosystems. Since 1850, oak habitats have declined by 90% in the Willamette Valley, with less than 7% of oak woodlands and savannas remaining. Small pockets of oak habitat exist in locations like Bald Hill Farm Conservation Area and surrounding natural areas. Remaining oak savannas and woodlands are often degraded by invasive plants, densely stocked young oaks, and tall over-topping conifer trees that eventually shade and displace legacy oak trees.  Local oral history and historical aerial photos document that within the last few decades, this rare oak savanna has filled with young oaks or overtopping conifers. As recently as 1998, woodlands were thinned to promote oak growth and decrease fuel loads on Bald Hill Farm Conservation Area.

Significance

Oak habitats are a part of our Willamette Valley identity. They provide homes for 200 species of wildlife and birds, are more resistant to fire than many of the dense coniferous ecosystems that have displaced them, and provide beauty and cultural resources to diverse communities.

The oaks savannas and woodlands at Bald Hill Farm Conservation Area are in the midst of conversion to conifer forests.  Without active management the conversion will continue, conifers will dominate with non-native invasive plants in the shrub and herbaceous layers, and the savannas and woodlands will be lost.

Restoration and future

Greenbelt Land Trust, a non-profit and the owner of Bald Hill Farm Conservation Area, is working on a Woodland Stewardship Project with Trout Mountain Forestry to restore oak habitats and steward interconnected forests on the property. A detailed forest stewardship plan within the Bald Hill Farm Management Plan lays groundwork to restore and steward woodland habitats throughout the conservation area.  Primary goals of this project are to prevent the loss of existing oak woodland and savanna, increase the extent of oak woodland and savanna, remove invasive species, increase habitat quality and diversity, release viable legacy oaks, and reduce fire risk.

Through the Woodland Stewardship Project, oak habitats will be managed to protect the health of large legacy trees, promote mature oak woodlands, and develop additional oak savannas.  Invasive species such as non-native blackberry, English hawthorn, and false brome will be removed when feasible. Where young oaks are too dense to thrive, select trees will be removed to improve growth of larger, older trees while maintaining a range of age classes. In habitats where oaks are dominant, conifers will be removed to prevent shading and loss of oak habitat.

Riparian and conifer-hardwood stands will be stewarded to decrease invasive species and protect habitat for wildlife.

Conifer dominated areas will be managed for conifer forest with long rotation schedules while retaining habitat values by protecting viable legacy oaks, removing invasive species and leaving snags and downed wood for wildlife. Any income generated from these activities will be used for stewardship and restoration of the Bald Hill Farm Conservation Area.

Timeline

The 2016 phase of the Woodland Stewardship Project will commence in the summer (estimated timeframe: August through September). Maintenance and control of invasive weeds will be ongoing and the thinning of conifer-dominated stands will occur every 10-15 years. Ongoing work will adapt to use new information and improve stewardship.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is in charge of the project?

  • Greenbelt Land Trust stewardship staff and Trout Mountain Forestry will direct subcontractors to complete the Woodland Stewardship Project.

What kinds of activities can I expect to see?

  • During the Woodland Stewardship Project, neighbors and trail users may see or hear log trucks and equipment during daylight hours on weekdays between July and September 2016. Greenbelt and our contractors are taking every step to minimize inconveniences and minimize impacts for people and wildlife. Licensed, insured and experienced natural resources contractors will carry out the work under supervision of Greenbelt Land Trust and Trout Mountain Forestry.
  • Trail users on the Mulkey Ridge can expect some temporary trail closures during peak activity. Trail closures will be indicated by trail signage.
  • In addition to the Mulkey Ridge, a new trail just for non-motorized uses was built in the Summer, 2015 on a portion of the Farm, near Oak Creek Drive.  This new trail increased safety for people and pets on the trail as the people who work and live here drive vehicles and equipment on the road.

How will views and trails look afterwards?

  • Visitors and neighbors will see a more open viewshed looking west towards Mulkey Ridge, some decrease of tree density along portions of the trail up the ridge, and decreased invasive weeds.

How will the environment be protected during the project?

  • This Project will be timed for activities to occur after peak nesting season to protect birds.
  • Trees will be maintained near fish-bearing streams to shade water and protect habitat for fish.
  • We will minimize erosion and protect waterways by using best management practices for site access on limited roads and select use of equipment and methods for removing trees.
  • Invasive weeds will be controlled inside the project area to prevent their spread.

How will people be protected during the Woodland Stewardship Project?

  • For visitor safety, trails may be temporarily closed for short periods. Safety of trail users is of utmost importance to Greenbelt Land Trust and our partners at Benton County who manage the trails. Temporary trail closures will occur summer-fall 2016. Please respect closure signs due to extreme danger from equipment at work. We at Greenbelt apologize for any recreation inconvenience and thank you for adhering to the trail closure signs.
  • A reroute of some trail segments was completed in early summer 2015, increasing safety by separating trail users and vehicles.
  • Dust abatement applied in key locations will decrease dust experienced by trail users and neighbors.
  • During fire season activities will follow the Industrial Fire Precaution Levels provided by Oregon Department of Forestry Industrial Precaution Levels.

What happens to cut trees?

  • Merchantable timber will be sold with proceeds going solely to stewardship of Bald Hill Farm Conservation Area.
  • Select trees will be retained as snags or downed wood for wildlife habitat.

How can I learn more about the Woodland Stewardship Project?

  • We welcome the opportunity to talk! See our Events Page for more information about tours of the restoration site.
  • Trail closure announcements will be displayed at trailheads.
  • During Woodland Stewardship Project activities, informational brochures will be available at trail kiosks on Bald Hill Farm.

Who should I contact if I have questions?

  • Elizabeth Records, Stewardship & Volunteer Specialist, Greenbelt Land Trust; 541-752-9609; elizabeth@greenbeltlandtrust.org

To view maps of the Woodlands Stewardship Project area, as well as anticipated trail closure locations, click on the map images below, or download the pdf links.

What’s Happening on Bald Hill Farm in 2015/2016 Map (pdf HERE):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Trail Route on Bald Hill Farm (pdf HERE):