Willamalane Park and Recreation District and the Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council are working in partnership to restore the oak woodland and prairie habitats at Thurston Hills Natural Area. This project is funded through a grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board with technical support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Why restore oak habitat?
We are doing this work to protect these increasingly rare habitats in the Southern Willamette Valley. Presently less than 1% of savanna and prairie habitats remain in the Willamette Valley. As these habitats disappear, so do the over 150 species of animals, insects, birds and plants that depend on them. Nearly all of the locally-rare species use prairie and oak habitats.
By opening up the oak woodland and removing invasive species in the understory and the prairie, this project will enhance native wildflowers displays, reduce fire danger, and provide better bird nesting habitat for grass-nesting species such as the Western Meadowlark, Oregon’s state bird. The Oregon white oaks will have more space and light to grow larger and develop more complex canopies that will support native insects, wildlife and plants. Native plant species will become dominant in the understory, providing better habitat for locally-rare fauna species.
Where is this happening?
The above map shows the location of this work within the Thurston Hills Natural Area. The area in gray is the project area for the summer of 2018 and covers approximately 21 acres.
What does the work entail?
This work involves several elements, the main ones include:
- Controlling non-native invasive understory plant species such as false brome, Himalayan blackberry, Scotch broom, Canada thistle and cutleaf teasel.
- Removing non-native trees such as English hawthorn and bird cherry.
- Releasing oak trees by using logging equipment to remove Douglas-fir that are encroaching on the oak woodland. We will also create some snags for wildlife habitat by killing but not removing them.
- Mulching some branches that are left after removing the Douglas-fir and leaving some on the ground to support small mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
- Monitoring project results.
- Maintaining and managing the understory vegetation for several years.
When will this happen?
Removal of invasive species began in March 2018 and will continue for several years. Oak release will take place beginning in early August 2018 when the soils have dried out, native plants have completed their life cycle, and nesting birds have fledged their young. During this portion of the project, access on the west side of the natural area via the Camas Crest Trail and access to the top of the Upper Mossy Maple Trail will be limited or restricted. Please pay attention to signage and respect trail closures. Restricted access will occur on these roads and trails during the duration of the project (August–September) and during working hours from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Need more information about why it is so important to restore oak woodlands and prairies? Learn more here.