Two new properties along the Tualatin River totaling 286 acres will be conserved and restored, offering prime habitat within the Portland metropolitan area.
Columbia Land Trust today announced the conservation of two properties along the Tualatin River in Washington County, Oregon. The purchases will protect riverside forest habitat and allow for the restoration of rare, native wet prairie.
In late August, the Land Trust acquired a 210-acre tract of farmland dubbed Atfalati Prairie. The property includes more than two miles of river frontage and is prone to seasonal flooding, which limits its agricultural value. Once restored to wet prairie and oak savannah, the land will offer vital habitat for fish and wildlife species including Pacific lamprey, winter steelhead, western pond turtle, red-legged frog, and many sensitive bird species, particularly the western meadowlark.
“The Atfalati property is ideal for conservation for the same reason that it’s less suitable for farming,” says Conservation Director Scott McEwen, “restoration projects like this are far more likely to succeed in flood-prone, marginal environments like historic river floodplains.”
Eight miles downriver from Atfalati Prairie, the Land Trust also acquired a 76-acre property known as Rainbow Farm. The area includes one mile of riverside forest and 51 acres of fallow farmland. The Land Trust plans to lease the land to a local farmer who will grow crops, control weeds, and fix the soil, so that the field can gradually be converted to native wet prairie.
The Land Trust sought to protect wildlife habitat along the Tualatin River in a manner that respected and helped maintain the rich farming culture throughout Washington County’s Tualatin Valley. When possible, the Land Trust works with local landowners throughout its service area to keep farms working. In this instance, both conserved properties were acquired from willing sellers after spending substantial time on the market.
In recent years, regional organizations, including the Tualatin Soil & Water Conservation District, Metro, and Clean Water Services, have responded to habitat loss and water quality concerns with coordinated restoration efforts along the Tualatin River. As the region’s local land trust, Columbia Land Trust saw an opportunity to contribute to these watershed revitalization efforts through the conservation of Atfalati Prairie and Rainbow Farm. Both properties add stepping stones of habitat in a 1,500-acre complex of conserved lands between the Tualatin Wildlife Refuge and the Wapato Lake Wildlife Refuge.
“Securing green infrastructure near urban environments is crucial for both wildlife and people,” says McEwen. “With the growth of the Portland metropolitan area, properties like these ensure safe havens for plants and animals while also preserving access to nature for people in an increasingly urban environment.”
The Bonneville Power Administration contributed more than $1.8 million in funding for the purchases and long-term stewardship of the properties. Property purchases such as these 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 to offset the impacts of federal flood control and hydroelectric facilities on the Willamette River and its tributaries.
Together with urban initiatives like the Backyard Habitat Certification Program*, conservation projects such as these, fit into the Land Trust’s larger vision to protect a diverse range of meaningful lands and waters across the Columbia River region.
*The Backyard Habitat Certification Program is a joint partnership between Columbia Land Trust and the Audubon Society of Portland.