In the summer of 2015 Greenbelt Land Trust launched a two year, multi-phased ‘Woodlands Stewardship Project’ to enhance the health and biodiversity of the Mulkey Forest on Bald Hill Farm.
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.
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.
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 are being 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 were removed to improve growth of larger, older trees while maintaining a range of age classes. In habitats where oaks are dominant, conifers were removed to prevent shading and loss of oak habitat.
Riparian and conifer-hardwood stands are being stewarded to decrease invasive species and protect habitat for wildlife.
Conifer dominated areas were being 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 is used for stewardship and restoration of the Bald Hill Farm Conservation Area.
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.
Who is in charge of the project?
What kinds of activities can I expect to see?
How do views and trails look now?
How was the environment protected during the project?
What happened to cut trees?
How can I learn more about the Woodland Stewardship Project?
Who should I contact if I have questions?