You can create reptile habitat in your small forest

Photo by Pat Welle, Western painted turtle

Article by Michael Ahr, Forest Conservationist, West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District

Woodland owners are increasingly being encouraged to build brush piles for wildlife. At West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District, we often discuss their importance for an array of wildlife. Mammals can live in the piles. Songbirds feed on insects and other organisms in brush piles. Amphibians will seek shelter under the brush and you’ll also find them being used by reptiles…the class of wildlife that we often don’t talk about nearly as often in our forested uplands.

Perhaps we have some bias. Frogs and salamanders (which are amphibians) have a certain charisma and even a level of cuteness. Reptiles like snakes and lizards don’t conjure that feeling for many of us, and might even startle us in the woods. Reptiles, however, are an important part of the woodland ecosystem. They eat many of the rodents that crawl through our woodlands and end up being prey to raptors and larger mammals.

In the Tualatin Mountains, our common snakes include various garter snake species, rubber boas, and ringneck snakes. We have alligator lizards and skinks, and if you have enough sun around a pond on your property, you may find western painted turtles.

To encourage these species on your property:

  • Build brush piles with the slash from the trees you cut. Start with larger piece on the bottom of the pile and work your way up to finer branches, and even conifer branches that still have needles, near the top to create a roof.
  • Maintain downed wood and snags. We often hear about snags relative to songbirds, but reptiles may use them too.
  • Minimize disturbance around any known hibernation sites.
  • If you have a pond, provide basking structures for turtles.
  • We don’t have much exposed rock in the Tualatin Mountains, but if you do have some, you can try to expose it so the sun warms it more for reptile basking in the summer.

For more information, view the newest publication “Reptiles in Managed Woodlands” by the Woodland Fish & Wildlife Group. To find many other wildlife publications for family woodland owners, visit

Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project update, June 2020

By Scott Gall, Rural Conservationist

It has been over a year since the completion of construction on the Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project. After a decade of partnership building, planning, fundraising, and engineering, and just over four months of construction over the summer and fall of 2018, led by Columbia River Estuary Study Task Force (CREST), the Dairy Creek channel reopened to tidal flow between the Columbia River and Sturgeon Lake on Sauvie Island in fall of 2018.

What started with a few shovelfuls of sand, resulted in the replacement of two failing culverts with a 96-foot channel-spanning bridge, restoration of a half mile of channel by removing 22,000 cubic yards of sand and sediment, installation of a debris boom at the mouth of the creek to prevent logs and other large objects from floating into the creek, and planting of over 40,000 native plants and shrubs across 15 projects sites that encompass the restoration project.

As the second full winter winds down, the complete effects of the tidal flow from the Columbia River on Dairy Creek and Sturgeon Lake are just starting to become evident. With the reopening of Dairy Creek, after 30 years of being blocked from tidal flow, the tide has once again become an influence on the channel and the lake, changing the flow direction of the creek on a daily basis during low Columbia River levels. Both of these conditions have had an obvious impact on the elevation and shape of the Dairy Creek channel.

Data on channel elevation – the elevation of the channel bottom relative to sea level – collected in 2017, 2018, and 2019 have shown that while the excavated channel has changed from the design configuration, it is simply moving towards an equilibrium. For the most part the average elevations and widths of the bottom of the channel have stayed relatively consistent. Meanwhile, along the stretch of creek between the bridge and the lake, a section not touched during construction, sediment has moved out, lowering the creek bottom 6 to 12 inches in most spots. This new, lower elevation is roughly the same as the excavated channel which would be expected in a tidal system that flows both directions.

Observation of changes within Sturgeon Lake have been harder to come by. The 3000 acres lake has few roads that reach the shoreline. This is a great feature for wildlife and quiet recreation but it makes monitoring the lake much more difficult. West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District and CREST are employing aerial drones to cover larger areas than would be possible by foot. But each drone flight only covers about 50 acres, so even these are just snapshots. Initial data has been relatively inconclusive, showing neither an increase nor decrease in sediment in the areas monitored. Our hope is to see a flushing out of lake sediment over time. We intend to take drone photos every year to see the incremental change over time, and our next flights are scheduled for this fall.

Work on vegetation restoration began a year before channel construction, and in these past three years, we have successfully helped reestablish 40,000 native plants throughout the 15 project areas, including Alder, maple, willow, snowberry, red-flowering currant and many other native trees and shrubs. With this focus on restoring native plants, grasses, and forbs, we are now seeing native plants covering 80-90% of the ground in most places along Dairy Creek. As a result, there is more evidence than ever of wildlife utilizing the site. Prominent wildlife trails have popped up all along Dairy Creek with evidence of tracks from otter, beaver, deer, skunk, and raccoon. Additionally this spring, a platform installed at the mouth of Dairy Creek is now home to its first pair of nesting osprey.

Next steps include installation of a fish monitoring device known as a Passive Integrated Transponder, or “PIT” tag array at the site of the new bridge, though this has been slowed in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supplied $40,000 for equipment, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff intend to install it this summer, hooking into a power supply we recently installed. Our goal is to have the array up and running by this winter.

At this time, all signs and data point to a very successful project. Staff at WMSWCD and CREST will continue to monitor Dairy Creek and Sturgeon Lake for years to come, and the lake appears to have a bright future.

view of a creek from a kayak

Facing the mouth of Dairy Creek and the Columbia River

Update on restoration of Lower McCarthy Creek wetland and oak habitat

By Kammy Kern-Korot, Senior Conservationist

McCarthy Creek flows from NW Skyline Boulevard to Multnomah Channel across from Sauvie Island. This creek is unique to the area in that it is considered essential salmonid habitat, especially for coho and Chinook salmon. At the bottom of the watershed is 121 acres of privately owned land — most of which is wetlands and within the 100-year floodplain — protected by a conservation easement. West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District (WMSWCD) manages the land on behalf of the landowner and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the federal easement holder. We continue to actively restore native wetland and oak habitat on this site.

This project site is important because it hosts an array of wildlife species and because it is large and adjacent to an even more significant wetland complex, called Burlington Bottoms. A primary ecological goal for both properties shared by the owning and managing partners is to return more natural flooding to portions of the site(s) and, in so doing, create additional aquatic habitat and displace the incredibly dominant and invasive reed canary grass with native wetland vegetation. Species that benefit from this restoration include fish, salamanders, frogs, beavers, waterfowl, herons, bald eagles, turtles, songbirds and insects. WMSWCD’s objectives also include restoring native vegetation along the creek, as well as the upland areas that don’t flood, to a diversity of native wildflowers, grasses, shrubs, and trees, most notably Oregon white oak.

The District secured funding in 2015 from NRCS to improve approximately 5 acres of riparian (streamside) area and 3 acres of uplands. Since then, we’ve been treating invasive blackberry and reed canary grass, Canada thistle, and other weeds to restore riparian areas and create Oregon white oak savanna and native plant “hedgerows” for pollinators and other wildlife. We took 2 years (2017 – early 2019) to plant 12,000 woody and herbaceous wetland plants along the creek and followed with upland plantings. We did this with the help of paid crews and area native plant nurseries. The total NRCS project is valued at $123,000, which includes $100,000 of NRCS funds and contributed District staff time.

2 people in a field planting tree saplings

Photo by Pat Welle: Crews planting alder saplings and willow and dogwood cuttings.

We had the good fortune to find additional partners and funding that allowed us to embark on a new phase of restoration, which was begun in 2017 and completed in February 2020. In this project phase, we removed two culverts that were no longer needed, one of which impeded fish movement; added habitat features such as basking logs for turtles and structures to encourage and mimic beaver dams; and performed 4.8 acres of “marsh plain lowering” which greatly enhances wetland habitat. Invasive reed canary grass and more than 15,000 cubic yards of soil were scraped away to lower the surface elevation 2 to 3 feet in key wetland areas and to make the streambanks less steep. The areas lowered will now be inundated with more water and for longer periods than before, which provides better access and habitat for juvenile salmon and facilitates establishment of native wetland plants such as wapato, bulrush and bur-reed. The excavated soils were redistributed to cover invasive grass and replanted with native plants in both adjacent wetlands and the uplands.

wetland creek with vertical sticks in water to mimic a beaver dam

Photo by Pat Welle: A newly installed beaver dam analog, which is designed to saturate the site with more water and encourage beavers to create and maintain natural beaver dams, outcomes which better support native plant communities and make for healthier wetlands.

For this latest stage of restoration, we planted more than 8,000 new native trees, shrubs, and forbs (wildflowers), including over 30 species of forbs. We also seeded 100+ pounds of over 20 different species of native grasses and forbs in almost all areas of disturbed soil, both wetland and upland. Finally, we planted more sedges and rushes near the creek, to supplement earlier plantings there. More than $250,000 was invested in planting, maintenance, and wetland enhancement by Bonneville Power Administration via our partner Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce, which facilitated the engineering and construction work.

The restoration work described here expands upon and connects to other restoration projects upstream, which are part of our Healthy Streams Program that aims to improve water quality and restore habitat along more of McCarthy Creek. The restored riparian forest keeps the water cool for fish, provides a corridor and connectivity for wildlife to move uphill where air temperatures are cooler and where habitat is available, and it helps keep the climate cool for us humans, too!

After 10 years of District involvement, the landowner, our staff and board, and all of the project partners are thrilled with the progress we are seeing on the property. Native plant communities are getting established where we’ve done weed control, enhanced the water levels, and added new native plantings. While monitoring project progress on-site this spring, we observed beautiful blooms on the lupines and heal-all (prunella vulgaris), and strong presence of meadow barley and American sloughgrass, among the many species we seeded. We’re even seeing additional native plants, such as sneezeweed, beggar’s tick and native buttercups, already returning and expanding on their own. We look forward to more good things to come!

Visit our YouTube channel to see what the site looks like and to learn more about this project in a video featuring Senior Conservationist, Kammy Kern-Korot.

A few of the plants and flowers now growing on the restoration site:
4 photos in a grid: 2 purple flowers, 1 yellow flower, creek with green plants

My First Garlic Mustard Season (during quarantine)

By Cole Carr, GIS & Field Conservation Intern 

A global pandemic hits, putting the world in quarantine. The streets of Portland are at a standstill, minus the occasional bicyclist. What does that mean for a soon-to-be college graduate? Three months of doom, doing homework, staring longingly out the window?

There’s no time for that, not with all of the Garlic mustard that has spread around Multnomah County.

The internship I had just started with the West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District (WMSWCD) had saved me from the COVID-19 lockdown. After getting used to Zoom-based meetings and trainings, it was time for me to head out into the field for essential work of helping manage Garlic mustard, as part of WMSWCD’s Early Detection Rapid Response (EDRR) program.

Wait…outside? During quarantine? Sounds good to me! Now, what’s Garlic mustard?

Admittedly, as a geographic information system (GIS) intern, who knows way more about orthorectifying aerial imagery and geospatial analysis than plant identification, I was a little overwhelmed at first. But, after seeing the plant in person, and writing an essay for my biogeography class, I began to understand Garlic mustard quite well, and developed a keen eye for it.

Garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata, is an invasive plant that is found all over North America, including Oregon. Like other invasive species, Garlic mustard negatively impacts the health of forests and water resources. It dominates shaded woodland areas, reducing the ability for native plants to thrive while also decreasing biodiversity and impacting available food supplies for native foraging animals.

I was able to learn about Garlic mustard and all of its phenological stages. My first day out in the field, I was taught how to spot Garlic mustard seedlings and rosettes.

Wait… that’s Garlic mustard? How would I be able to spot it when it looks so much like other small plants?

After even a few days in the field, I began to get the hang of it. The particular leaf pattern, heart/kidney shapes, the lack of leaflets, the purple tint by the roots, the special garlicky smell… Seedlings and rosettes quickly became more familiar and easier to find and remove.

Spotting Garlic mustard got even easier once the plants started flowering. Garlic mustard is biennial, meaning that the plants don’t seed until the second year. The second year, flowering plants are tall with easy to recognize white flowers with four petals. They would show up sometimes in large patches,  and this was the key time to remove the plants, before they set seed. The plant’s tiny pepper flake sized seeds can lie dormant in the soil for up to 10 years, leading to greater infestations.

I am so grateful for all of the time outside this spring, even during the spell of very warm weather. I’m grateful for the opportunity to foster friendships with my co-workers and also to be friendly with the district residents that we served this season. I feel like there is a world out there beyond my bedroom window, and I’m grateful to have had the chance to be out and part of it, of course, while also practicing safe distancing and other precautions during the time of COVID-19. I’ve gotten to hike, to exercise, to meditate, to laugh and joke with others, to drive through beautiful landscapes, and to make a difference by removing some of the most invasive plants in the region.

The EDRR program has done amazing work to remove Garlic mustard within the district. To date this season, we have removed 1820 pounds of Garlic mustard across 10 acres! To be able to participate in the program has been a wonderful privilege that I will never forget. It has given this stressful, difficult time in quarantine purpose and inspiration. A special thanks to West Multnomah SWCD for allowing me an opportunity to be their GIS intern, to the wonderful staff for being my friends and “partners in crime”, and to the residents that have made this work possible! Stay safe out there!

Notice of Election for District Directors

Notice is hereby given that on November 3, 2020, Multnomah County will hold a general election including several West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Director positions: Zone 1, 4 years; Zone 2, 4 years; Zone 3, 4 years; At Large 1, 4 years

Zone boundaries, eligibility requirements, and copies of the required elections forms may be obtained by sending a request to the WMSWCD office located at 2701 NW Vaughn Street, Suite 450, Portland, Oregon 97210, by calling 503-238-4775, or by emailing WMSWCD at Please note, there may be a delay in response to mailed requests at this time, due to office closures during COVID-19.

Election forms and information may also be found at:

Each candidate must file a “Declaration of Candidacy” and a “Petition for Nomination Signature Sheet” with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Division. The filing deadline is 5:00 p.m. on August 25, 2020. A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) sheet can be found here. Topics addressed include obtaining and verifying signatures for the Petition for Nomination Signature Sheet, write-in candidacy, and appointing directors after the election.

Notice of Budget Hearing

A public meeting of the West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District will be held via conference call on Tuesday, June 16, 2020, at 6:00 PM. Any person may attend the meeting by calling 1-800-309-2350. A conference ID will be required to access the conference call. Interested attendees may request the ID by emailing with the subject line “Request for Conference ID” or by calling 503-238-4775 and leaving a voicemail message at extension 100, no later than 5:00 PM on Tuesday, June 16. A summary of the budget is presented here. The budget summary may be mailed upon request by calling 503-238-4775 and leaving a voicemail message at extension 100, no later than 5:00 PM on Tuesday, June 9. This budget is for an annual budget period. This budget was prepared on a basis of accounting that is the same as the preceding year.

Gearing up for Garlic mustard

Conservation staff are getting ready for this season’s invasive weed field work. Garlic mustard is at the top of our list again this year for special attention.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is an aggressive invasive species in the Pacific Northwest. Originally introduced in North America for culinary uses, it has escaped cultivation to become a very serious invader in many states. Garlic mustard is a groundcover that can grow in established forests, wetlands, disturbed soil, and people’s yards.

Garlic mustard has few known locations in the Pacific Northwest and urgent action is needed to prevent it from gaining a foothold.  The key to controlling garlic mustard is to attack infestations early in spring before the plants have a chance to go to seed.

Garlic mustard is a priority for control because it quickly invades shaded woodland habitats, displacing other plants by monopolizing light, moisture, nutrients, soil, and space. Once established, it also hinders natural forest regeneration by releasing chemicals into the soil that are toxic to other plants and are particularly harmful to soil fungi that are vital to native plants. That makes the woods less hospitable to our native plants and dramatically decreases forage for native animals. This noxious weed impacts sensitive natural areas as well as suburban landscapes, and all known populations in our district are targeted for removal.

We offer FREE assistance to help manage this invasive plant before it becomes established and too difficult to contain. And we are asking local residents – important stewards of the land – to help us locate and manage this invasive plant by allowing us to come to your property to remove or kill all known infestations. Without immediate attention, this noxious weed will become a very serious threat to our native ecosystems.

During the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, we are putting extra precautions in place to carry out time-sensitive garlic mustard control work by relying on phone/text communication with landowners and by practicing social distancing. As we begin the 2020 Garlic mustard treatment season in a couple of weeks, we will share updates and frequently asked questions on our website:

If you think you have Garlic mustard in your yard, or if you have any questions or concerns about treatment, please contact Michelle Delepine, Invasive Species Program Coordinator, at 503-238-4775 x115.

Are you able to identify Garlic mustard?

Garlic mustard is a biennial plant with two different forms in its first and second years. The first year it forms a small rosette of round, kidney-shaped leaves, with scalloped edges. In the second year, an elongated flower stalk appears (growing 12- 48 inches) with alternating leaves along the stem. These leaves are different from the first year growth in that they are toothed with a triangular shape. Plants have long, flowering stems with several white flowers. Each flower has 4 white petals in a cross shape. When crushed between the fingers, the plant gives off a distinct garlic smell, distinguishing it from look-alikes. Garlic mustard stems and leaves lack the tiny hairs of similar looking native plants.


fringecup green plant next to similar looking garlic mustardGarlic mustard resembles a number of native plants, including wild ginger (Asarum caudatum), the piggy-back plant (Tolmiea menziesii), and fringecup (Tellima grandiflora). It also looks like the ‘money plant’ (Lunaria annua) or ‘creeping Charlie’ (Glechoma hederacea) when it’s young. Make sure to check for the garlicky smell, smooth stems, and the white flower to confirm garlic mustard.

When to Remove

The most important consideration when dealing with garlic mustard is to prevent flowering plants from going to seed. Hand-pull plants that have bolted and stop before the seed pods harden. Handling garlic mustard when seed pods are opening will scatter seeds; avoid pulling at this stage. First year growth will generally not produce seed and may be removed any time the soil is moist. Second year growth must be removed by late April or May.

Contact us for help

Contact Michelle Delepine, Invasive Species Program Coordinator, at 503-238-4775 x115 to get started on treatment.

Spring Forest Maintenance in the Tualatin Mountains

(Photo: Ivy vines cut from a tree.)

By Michael Ahr, Forest Conservationist

Spring inevitably brings on the urge to get outside and work the land. Our forest and habitat restoration work often encompasses invasive species control, planting of native trees and shrubs, and control of any competing vegetation that might threaten our desired plants. This spring, we encourage you to get outside and here are some tips for making your projects a success.

Invasive weeds and competing vegetation

You may encounter invasive weeds recurring in your planting areas, or invading new areas of your property. The first step is to identify them and then determine the best time of year to tackle what you have.

  • Spring is an ideal time to treat many weeds and grasses before they go to seed and disperse into other areas. Controlling grasses around new plantings at this time of year allows the spring rains to benefit the new plants rather than weeds and competing plants.
  • Don’t apply herbicides if the weather is cold. Temperatures should be above 45F and ideally the temperature would get above 50F later in the day. A hard frost is not conducive to herbicide uptake, nor the consistency of herbicide in the tank.
  • Always follow the guidelines and restrictions on herbicide labels and wear personal protective equipment.
  • If you find any new weeds that you cannot identify, please contact the Multnomah County Master Gardeners.
  • In the spring, we have less fire risk than in the summer. However, it is still a good idea to check Oregon Dept. of Forestry regulations before beginning work.
  • Birds are beginning to nest, and you should be careful when performing any vegetation management during the spring and early summer. We are currently in the early nesting season (Feb 1 – April 15). Late nesting season is from April 15-July 31 and disturbance should be avoided if possible, with steps taken to minimize impacts when appropriate. Find more guidance on protecting nesting birds at

Grasses and forbs: Grasses and various weeds can steal moisture from your newly planted trees and shrubs. You can control this competition by hand pulling, mowing or cutting. Adding mulch or wood chips can help as well. Another option is herbicide treatment within about 3’ of each plant. Different herbicides are formulated for various kinds of vegetation. Contact us for guidance on herbicide selection and best practices.

High priority weeds – Garlic Mustard, spurge laurel, and other weeds that are new to our region:

Certain weeds are a very high priority to control because of the rate at which they can spread or their toxicity to people or other native plants (or other reasons).  Contact us if you have Garlic mustard, spurge laurel, Giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed, Orange hawkweed, American pokeweed, or False brome. We can help control many of these weeds at no cost to you, and we want to know where these weeds are growing.

Himalayan (Armenian) & Cutleaf (Evergreen) Blackberries: Although fall is often the best time to control invasive blackberry, there is some work you can do in the spring as well.

  • Dig up small patches when soil is moist and easier to work, particularly in areas where digging won’t lead to erosion or jeopardize slope stability. Once the main rootwad has been extracted, the blackberry cane should not return.
  • For larger patches, following a fall cutting, herbicide is an option for treating new spring growth. If you wait until the fall to treat this growth, you’ll undo much of the benefit of the cutting. Contact us for guidance on herbicide selection and best practices. Utilize only aquatic formulations when spraying near waterways. Plan to treat when no rain is forecast for at least 24 hours.

Scotch broom: This can be treated similarly to blackberry. Don’t mow it in the spring or it will sprout vigorously and you might stir up the seed bed. Disturbance can lead to a great deal of new growth from seed.

English & Irish Ivy: Focus efforts on vines that are climbing up trees to prevent the spread of mature fruits which typically only form when the vines reach sunlight. Sever vines from the roots by carefully cutting an 18” section out of each vine at about chest height. Pull back the rooted vines to at least 6’ from the base of the tree, uprooting them if possible, to create a “life saver” ring around each tree. For more ivy removal techniques, see this Best Management Practice Guide. Alternatively, apply 50% triclopyr, (e.g. Garlon 3a or Vastlan), or 50% glyphosate immediately to the freshly cut rooted vine.

Shiny Geranium and herb-robert: These two plants are actively growing right now. Keep an eye out for new patches and handpull small areas. Large infestations can be treated in the spring before flowering.

Thistle, teasel, poison hemlock, and tansy ragwort: Every spring and summer we get questions about these weeds and they could be encroaching on your property, especially in cleared areas. In general, a 1-2% mix of triclopyr can work well on these weeds before they flower, or just as they’re beginning to flower. This timing is also good if you’re planning to cut the weeds rather than use herbicides.

Tree cutting

If you have hazard trees that may be at risk of damaging property, falling into a road, or hurting desirable vegetation, I recommend that you deal with these as soon as you identify the risk and can remove them safely. Often times this means hiring a trained arborist to assess the risk or remove the trees.

Otherwise, I would encourage you to focus on tree cutting in the fall. Two main reasons for this:

  • Many species including Douglas-fir are more sensitive and more prone to damage in the spring while they are actively growing. Summer can be too hot and risky for tree cutting. Oregon Department of Forestry or your local rural fire department may have restrictions on using power driven machinery during this time when wildfire risk is high.
  • Much of the tree cutting occurring in the West Hills is restoration based. This can often mean that a landowner is cutting hardwoods to provide space for conifers. It is best to cut trees in fall when they are less likely to sprout from the stump and surrounding roots.

But wait, a logger just told me that we should do our logging job in the summer?!?! Smaller scale tree cutting described above is best for fall, however if you’re hauling logs away, summer can be a good time. In the Tualatin Mountains, we often don’t have adequate forest roads for log trucks to perform winter hauling, so we have to work in the summer when the ground is dry.

Caring for New Native Tree and Shrub Plantings

If you’ve recently planted new trees and shrubs, watering can be very helpful. If you can get a hose or a sprinkler to a planting, go for it. You only need to do this a few times over the summer when temperatures have become hot and we’re not getting rainfall. When you water, give the plants a thorough dousing where the ground around the plants is visibly wet. If you aren’t able to water don’t worry too much. Many of our restoration sites with native plantings are not near a water source.

In all situations, weed control around new plants is very important, even if you’re able to water. The watering is helpful for the first couple years, and then you should back off and let the plants grow on their own so they can establish root systems that are adapted to the natural moisture available on site.

Contact us for help or guidance!

Good luck with your spring forest work! I’m available to answer any of your questions. Call me at 503-238-4775 x109 or email me at

An Interagency Partnership to Reboot Two Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Tax Incentive Conservation Programs

Guest post by Derek Palmore, ODFW Wildlife Habitat Conservation Management Program Intern, July-November 2019

West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District (WMSWCD) partnered in 2019 with other Lower Willamette Valley conservation districts in an intergovernmental agreement with the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) to assess the current status and future viability of two private landowner tax incentive programs administered and regulated by the ODFW.

The first program, Riparian Lands Tax Incentive Program (RLTIP), created in 1981 (ORS 308A.350-.383), offers an incentive for improving or maintaining qualifying riparian lands. The Wildlife Habitat Conservation Management Program (WHCMP) passed legislation in 1997 (ORS 308A.400-.743) and is aimed at rewarding landowners for stewardship of native wildlife and habitat on their own land. Both programs provide soil and water conservation districts with an additional set of tools to encourage landowners to proactively manage their land for conservation benefit.

The challenge was ODFW had lost the capacity to implement and regulate the programs due to a loss in staff funding, which had left the current status of both programs uncertain. Records for how many enrollees were in either program or if the conservation plans were being adhered to had become outdated. This meant that ODFW was unable to accept new enrollees in the WHCMP program and many conservation opportunities were being lost. The first step in getting these programs back online was to reconcile the paper trail.

My internship began in July of 2019 when I was tasked with assisting ODFW North Willamette Watershed District with discovering and rectifying their WHCMP plans; another intern was tasked with the RLTIP plans. Headquartered in the ODFW Clackamas Regional office, I compared hard-copy files to an internal database looking for errors and duplicates, updating the physical files with newer information from the database, and entering new information into the database from physical documents. I then worked with tax assessors from seven counties to audit last known owners, discover current enrollment status, and correct discrepancies between the WHCMP plans and the respective county tax assessor records.

Not all of my time, however, was spent digging through files and data. I had the opportunity to participate in outdoor conservation work like helping with biological sampling, bird count surveys, bear trapping, rescuing deer from Willamette Falls, and scouting potential beaver relocation habitat in a remnant old-growth stand. I also had the unique opportunity to watch the different federal, state, regional, municipal, and non-profit agencies work together on these programs.

By October, enrolled plans in both tax incentive programs had been mostly accounted for, dusted off, and placed back in orderly fashion for review.

The interagency group of Lower Willamette Valley SWCDs and ODFW have now finished the discovery phase of their agreement and are in discussions for the next phase, including what options there are for a permanent position to manage the programs.

Editor’s Note: Both interns – The ODFW Wildlife Management Conservation and Management Program Intern (Derek Palmore) and the Riparian Lands Tax Incentive Program Intern (Jake Lovell) – were temporary employees of the West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District.

Photo credit: Western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata) by Jerry Kirkhart;

Our response to COVID-19 (coronavirus)

The health and safety of our community and staff is of the utmost importance to us. Given the situation with COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the Portland area, and our strong desire to do our part to keep people safe and healthy, we have closed the West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District Office until further notice.

Our District staff is working remotely during this time, and are focusing on completing essential top priority contract-committed work, following strict social distancing practices. They can be reached by email or by leaving a voicemail message. See the staff page for emails and phone numbers.

Read our social distancing policy.

If you have questions about your Garlic mustard treatment services this season, please find more information on our Garlic mustard containment page.