Oregon FNAWS
News - Deschutes Habitat
OR-FNAWS' Deschutes Habitat Project
The Lower Deschutes Management Area (LDMA) was established in 1983 and encompasses nearly 8000 acres within the lower 18 miles of the Deschutes River. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), has management responsibility for the area, and since LDMA's establishment has been attempting to restore and improve habitat conditions within the wildlife area where upwards of 450 California Bighorn sheep reside. Control of noxious weeds is one of the primary tasks for management of LDMA. Over the past 15 years one of the primary focuses has been on Scotch thistle, a native of Europe that thrives within the river corridor. Scotch Thistle gets an "A" rating on Oregon's noxious weed list and has the capability to grow up to 12 feet tall. When left unchecked, this plant dominates riparian and important spring seepage habitats and chokes out native vegetation. This aggressive plant can form stands so dense that they are impenetrable to wildlife. ODFW has battled thistle along the eastern shore of the river, keeping the plant in check and allowing for the re-establishment of native riparian vegetation. The western shore has proven to be a greater challenge, primarily due to accessibility. Area managers can access the eastern side of the Deschutes via an old railroad bed that now serves as an access road. The only access to the western bank is by boat.
In 2005, a group of dedicated volunteers from Oregon FNAWS decided to assist ODFW in starting on the ground control activities for Scotch thistle along the western bank of the river. With shovels in hand and a fleet of rafts and drift boats, this group chopped thistle by hand for a weekend in June. The camaraderie was great, the work hard, and the progress slow. For three years, OR-FNAWS dedicated a weekend in June to chopping thistle, floating the river and looking at sheep. Everything was great, except that little progress seemed to be made in reducing thistle populations along the river. For 2008, a new approach was taken. OR-FNAWS applied for and received a grant from the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) Weed Board. The purpose of the grant was to hire a contract herbicide applicator to float the river and hand spray out the major infestations of Scotch thistle. In that first year, the contractor spent three weeks on the river and was able to spray the majority of state owned lands along the west side of the river. Another change was the addition of a partner group for the project, Oregon Trout (now Freshwater Trust). When the June project volunteer weekend came around, what was seen by volunteers looked extremely different than in years past. Volunteer numbers were doubled, and instead of cutting thistle forests, workers were left hunting out the small areas and individual plants that were skipped by the chemical treatment. This gave our volunteers the ability to cover twice the ground, and more time to look at sheep in the evening!
In 2009, OR-FNAWS and Freshwater Trust were again successful at acquiring a grant from ODA; in addition monies were secured from the Bureau of Land Management, allowing the group to expand the project to cover most of the state and federal lands from Mack's Canyon (river mile 24) to the mouth, as well as begin reseeding heavily impacted areas. For the coming year, another grant is being sought and the hope is to make even greater progress in getting a handle on invasive weeds within the Deschutes River canyon, and ultimately improve , enhance and protect the natural resource areas along the river for sheep and all other creatures that call this home. It has been great to see this project grow as a collaboration not only between conservation groups and State and Federal Agencies but also as a partnership between fish, clean water and wildlife interests. From the nine of us that started the project in 2005, to the 30 that joined us this last year, this is an annual project for the membership to be very proud of!
Deschutes Habitat #01 Volunteers tackling a thistle forest across from camp
Deschutes Habitat #02 What we are trying to defeat
Deschutes Habitat #03 Closeup of what we are trying to defeat
Deschutes Habitat #04 A group of die-hard thistle choppers
Deschutes Habitat #05 Preparing to put on the river
Deschutes Habitat #06 Helping a boat ashore after a long day on the river
Deschutes Habitat #07 Enjoying an evening in camp
Deschutes Habitat #08 Looking upriver on the Deschutes from above camp
Deschutes Habitat #09 One of the highlights of the day is the good food waiting at camp
Deschutes Habitat #10 Looking at a nice group of rams
Deschutes Habitat #11 Volunteers looking for sheep
 
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