2019 Holiday Office Closures

Happy Holidays everyone! Our office will be closed Tuesday, December 24 and Wednesday, December 25. We will reopen with normal business hours (9 am to 5 pm) on Thursday, December 26.

Understory Seeding Project Update

Two of our conservation staff – Michael Ahr, Forest Conservationist, and Laura Taylor, Conservationist and Education Coordinator – are in the second year of a forest understory seeding pilot project that kicked off in September of 2017. We are working on trial sites with eight landowners in the Tualatin Watershed to look at the effectiveness of establishing native understory plants from seed. We hope to learn which species perform best, which species are suited to certain growing conditions, and if so, what are those conditions.

Biodiversity is important for wildlife habitat and ecosystem health, and native plants are under constant pressure from invasive plant species like ivy (Hedera species), garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), and invasive geraniums. And in cases where we have helped remove invasive plants from forest understory, we want to be sure to replace them with native plants. Planting from seed offers a number of benefits over planting seedlings. It would be less labor intensive, seeds more quickly replace the herbaceous layer of the forest compared to seedlings or shrub plantings that would grow into a much different forest layer, and finally with seeding, we have a better chance of not introducing new pests that might come along with soil from a nursery.

Seedlings on forest floor

So far, establishing native understory plants from seed appears to be working, especially on test plots where the ground was cleared of dead leaves and sticks. Of course, raking the forest is not a realistic activity nor recommended on a large scale as it disturbs soil structure and wildlife — salamanders, newts, insects, and other macro invertebrates in particular. However raking small patches would be helpful for germinating seeds. Landowners looking to establish native seed plots can cast seed into areas where bare soil is already exposed, or consider raking 3-foot by 3-foot areas here and there to create pockets of native understory that would hopefully spread.

The pilot will continue through September 2020 and beyond. We hope to learn which seeds are the most successful, so we can incorporate use of those seeds into future forest restoration projects, and eventually also find a source for seeds. Many of the seeds used in the pilot are very difficult to find commercially, so another long term goal will be to encourage nurseries to cultivate more of the desired native species for seed collection.

This project is funded by a Conservation Innovation Grant of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Learn more about the project in this presentation.

Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project Dedication

In June, alongside many partners in the Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project, we celebrated the completion of the decades-long project to reconnect Sturgeon Lake to the Columbia River.

West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District and partners restored a stream system that allows natural flow from the Columbia River through Dairy Creek channel into the lake and out the Gilbert River. This hydrologic connection will increase water quality in the lake and wetland.

Past efforts to restore a direct hydrologic connection between Sturgeon Lake and the Columbia River were thwarted by a flood in 1996 that deposited sand and woody debris at the mouth of Dairy Creek and blocked the flow of water from the Columbia River. The solution was to replace two failed culverts under Reeder Road with a new bridge, remove the sand and debris plug from the mouth of Dairy Creek, and create a permanent channel for low flow and high flow water levels, planted with native trees, shrubs, and grasses.

At the celebration, we heard a heartfelt presentation from our Zone 4 Director, Brian Lightcap, who has been involved with the project from the beginning. We are pleased and honored to share a transcript of his presentation here.

Good afternoon. This a good day for West Multnomah SWCD, the public, salmon, sturgeon, waterfowl and lamprey.

I had to ask myself, “Why am I standing here?” Well, you will be spared from all the unsavory adventures of my efforts to restore the lake. But, I’ve an intimate connection with water adventures for 60 years. I came to Portland in 1970, married in 1971 and built 2 canvas kayaks with Alaska yellow cedar ribs in 1973. My late wife, Christine, and I explored rivers and lakes together.

Guilds Lake was long gone, and Smith and Bybee Lake lost 50% of its wetlands as I watched from my kayak and also in my official duties with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). I saw tidal influence snuffed out with a small dam to control botulism, which still occurs under the watchful eye of grass carp. The study I required of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and contractor Paul Fishman, was to study existing fishery conditions, which revealed that during the Columbia River spring freshet, millions of juvenile salmon used these lakes for several weeks, then swam out. That turned out to be important new knowledge.

Vancouver Lake is a whole other can of worms as apparently the complex structure to allow water to flush the lake eventually had problems. That left only Sturgeon Lake which had been impacted by dikes built in the 30’s.

I was asked to be on the SWCD board in 1982. I was known because I was a farm cooperator and also apparently valued as I worked for the USACE and actually I got some funding and work done by the Corps and Port of Portland to add to the EPA Clean Lakes grant.

Today, we, especially thank Joe Lucas and Frank Newton (need to add affiliations here), who got much of the backing from many other financial contributors, enough to finalize studies, especially how the tidal and river flow could positively influence the lake by gradually flushing out sediments. There were many voices close to this project that advocated for dredging and even having gravel sales to pay for the work.

The project began with the U.S. Forest Service Spider (equipment) that removed logs debris. We got quite delayed when a 150-foot-long ship was found. It apparently was the foundation for a barn over Dairy Creek! The ship was built with Alaska yellow cedar. Project got completed and the rest is history. The creek began flushing the lake in ’93, and then the 96′ flood plugged it up again.

Mark Nebeker (of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife) and I worked our tails off seeking funding. Later our new District Manager, Dick Springer, put his shoulder to resurrecting forward progress, especially trying to find the right person at Bonneville Power Administration to work with. And, finding a dedicated lawyer, Fritz Paulus. Dick knew a lot of people. For years, it was tough sledding to get my conservation district colleagues to believe in this project that had a scary price tag.

I went to a salmon summit at Skamania Lodge around 2010 and learned not all the salmon pros were on the same page. They didn’t believe in the significance of “off channel” lakes in the downstream migration of salmon.

Well, at one time there were 4 major lakes: Smith & Bybee Lakes, Vancouver Lake, Guild’s Lake, and Sturgeon Lake. Guild’s is history, partially filled with sediment from hydraulic blasting of the hillside, Smith & Bybee was blocked by improvements to North Portland Road after the Vanport flood, and Vancouver Lake was dredged for recreation with minimal consideration of salmon use. It now has a serious toxic, algal bloom issue.

But, today, I’m proud of the dedication of our many partner agencies, organizations, and private donors who were determined to believe that Sturgeon Lake, the fourth lake would be the one lake left standing, in spite of all the doubt from fishery and hydrology professionals. We all saw this through and will stand together as the destiny of Sturgeon Lake unfolds.

August Board meeting update

Due to weather, the meeting will be held in Suites 452 A & B, at the Montgomery Park building, 2701 NW Vaughn Street.

Are you ready for fire season?

Hot and dry summer weather will be here before we know it, so here are a few tips for keeping your property free from fire hazards. Practicing good vegetation management near the home is an important first step, taking care of trees and shrubs, and keeping the lawn mowed. Prune back any branches that hang over the roof, and remove dense blackberry that grows within 30 feet of the house.

Take a look at what kind of shrubs you have planted. Species like ornamental juniper can be highly flammable. When planting within 30 feet of your house, we encourage you to choose from our list of locally available, fire-resistant native plants. Fire resistant plants tend to be low in volatile oils and resins and they’re also known for readily shedding dead leaves and branches.

Your top priority may also be to clean gutters and sweep leaf debris away from the house. Also be sure to store firewood at least 30 feet from the house. This time of year, it’s important to be thoughtful of fine fuels building up in cracks on the roof or wood decks. Burning embers could land and ignite a fire.

Map of a portion of western Multnomah County with phone numbers for fire management agenciesThe best way to find out what fireproofing steps you can take for your property is to talk to your local fire department about a home-wildfire risk assessment. Depending on where you live, Oregon Department of Forestry (Columbia City: 503-397-2636; Forest Grove: 503-357-2191), Portland Fire & Rescue (503-823-3700), or Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue (503-697-9418) will come out to do a checklist and consultation.

Learn more about preparing for wildfire on our website. Also view publications from the National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise USA® program: How to Prepare Your Home for Wildfires, or Oregon State University Extension Service: Keeping Your Home and Property Safe from Wildfire. Both guide residents on how to maintain three zones of defensible space around homes: the Immediate Zone: 0 to 5 feet around the house; Intermediate Zone: 5 to 30 feet; and the Extended Zone: 30 to 100 feet.

2018 Water Quality Monitoring Report

Since 2009, West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District’s (WMSWCD) has been monitoring water quality in the rural part of western Multnomah County on perennial streams that flow directly into the Multnomah Channel. This report focuses on sites where we performed continuous temperature monitoring between May 18th and October 10th, 2018, including Crabapple Creek, Miller Creek, Sheltered Nook, and McCarthy Creek. (To be consistent with past monitoring years, data presented in our report cover the period of May 22nd through October 7th, 2018.)

This summer 2019 will be the 10-year anniversary of the first sampling on McCarthy Creek, and we’re excited that we are getting close to having enough data to see trends. We’re watching for increases in-stream temperature that affect water quality and organisms that live in or depend on the stream for part of their life cycle. This is particularly true for salmon and other fish species that depend on cold water habitats. Warm water also contributes to the growth of algae. Tracking in-stream temperature trends informs future conservation planning for waterways and helps us assess the potential success of efforts to shade and cool streams with streamside tree canopy cover.

2018 weather summary:

The summer of 2018 was another hot and dry one, marking the second such summer in a row. Air temperature was above the average for the study period, including 29 days over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (U.S. Climate Data, 2018; Weather Underground, 2018).

Precipitation was below normal for the study period. Only 22 out of the 139 testing days reported a precipitation event, totaling only 2.89 inches of rainfall throughout the study period (Weather Underground, 2018).


The warm air temperature and lack of precipitation from just prior to May through October of 2018 likely resulted in the higher water temperature we measured in McCarthy and Crabapple Creeks. Changes in water temperature during the sampling season are directly correlated to precipitation events; the water temperature plummets at times when there is precipitation to cool the stream down (Figure 1).

Data continues to point towards relatively cool water in the headwaters for McCarthy, which has abundant forest cover and steep slopes that keep the water moving quickly. Conversely, in the mid-section of McCarthy Creek we see significant warming, likely from inadequate forest cover and riparian vegetation on both the mainstem creek and tributaries. WMSWCD has performed riparian restoration work on this middle stretch of creek to provide shade and habitat, and of all the sections of the creek that we are monitoring, it is the only section that shows temperatures lower than the average temperatures measured to date. Measured temperatures in the lower sections of McCarthy Creek are also high, likely due to a change in stream character with slower flowing water with more pools where water surface temperature tends to heat up.

For more detailed findings, download the full report. For more information on the water quality monitoring program, methods used, and the watersheds in the study area, please visit our Water Quality Monitoring page.

Introducing our 2019 Conservationist Interns

We are pleased to introduce Indi and Sam, our 2019 Conservationist Interns! They will be with us through the fall of 2019, working alongside and supporting the work of our staff conservationists. Our six-month internship program is designed to provide experience and learning opportunities in the areas of field monitoring, invasive species management, habitat restoration, water quality data collection, stormwater management, forest stewardship, agricultural best management practices on private land, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping.

photo of intern IndiIndi Keith, Field Conservationist Intern

Whether she’s in the field or the office, Indi is excited to be supporting the District’s work and the success of local collaborative resource management as a Field Conservationist Intern. Indi grew up in the Willamette Valley and has backpacked, built trails, and pulled weeds across the Pacific Northwest. She studied economics and organized for gender equity at the University of British Columbia for two years before returning to the University of Oregon, where she graduated with a B.S. in Planning, Public Policy, and Management, concentrating in environmental policy. In between classes, she spent two seasons in the field with Northwest Youth Corps, leading crews of youth on projects that ranged from invasive species removal to backcountry trail maintenance to developed recreation reconstruction. In her free time, she loves to camp, cook, and scuba dive.


Sam Mularz, GIS & Field Conservationist Intern

Sam’s love of the natural world and environmental stewardship began during childhood when he spent much time playing and learning in the mountains of southern Oregon. He has a BA in Environmental Science from Willamette University. Sam highly values learning about multicultural and international perspectives on natural resource management, and he has also studied at Tokyo International University in Japan. After graduating, he volunteered at a marine protected area in Naples, Italy, where he used his language skills and passion for environmental history to educate visitors about natural and cultural resources. Before coming to WMSWCD, Sam pursued his love of service by joining a Northwest Service Corps conservation crew, traveling around the Pacific Northwest to manage invasive species and restore native vegetation. When not at work, he can often be found volunteering at Hoyt Arboretum or studying languages.

Do you have native oak on your property?

We have funding for oak habitat!

And the deadline to apply has been extended. Contact us by April 10, 2019 to find out if you are eligible for funding.

If you have native Oregon oaks on your property, you have something special. Oak woodlands and mature trees are increasingly rare in the Willamette Valley – less than 10% remains of what we had in 1850.

West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District seeks rural landowners with native oak woodlands who wish to restore or create healthy oak habitat on their land.

If you have 10 or more acres that can support Oregon white oaks, we have funding to help create or enhance oak habitat. If your oak trees are being overtaken by conifers like Douglas fir, your land is highest priority for funding. Average funding for 2- to 5-year projects is $500 to $1,500 per acre per year. Projects may include weed control, and planting more oaks along with native shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers.

We can assess your property’s potential, identify possible funding, and create a plan for your oak. Contact us for more information and to schedule a site visit: Kammy Kern-Korot, Senior Conservationist, West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District , (503) 238-4775 ext. 108 or kammy@wmswcd.org

Learn more about oak habitat.

Got turtles?

If you have turtles in your pond, wetland or other slow-moving water on your property, lucky you!

Both species of Oregon’s native turtles are uncommon, and it’s hard for them to find suitable habitat. You’ll want to make sure the conditions you provide for them stay suitable or even improve.

The Oregon Native Turtle Working Group has resources to help you!

What kind of turtles do you have?

In Oregon, we have two species of native turtles, the western painted turtle and the western pond turtle, and several species of non-native invasive turtles. Visit the Oregon Native Turtle Working Group website for turtle identification information.

Don’t have turtles, but want them?

It’s illegal to capture/relocate or buy turtles and turn them loose in your pond. Focus instead on providing suitable habitat – the “build it and they will come” approach. Turtles are very capable of and are known to make long-distance treks to newly created and enhanced habitats. In any case, improving habitat in and around your pond will make it more attractive to songbirds, dragonflies, frogs and other awesome creatures. You can’t lose!

See turtles? Report them.

Biologists are tracking locations of turtles (both native and non-native) in Oregon. Let us know if you spot turtles, whether they are on your property or somewhere else. You can report your turtle sighting at www.oregonturtles.com/report.html or www.inaturalist.org/projects/western-pond-turtles-in-oregon. The first step in making sure turtle populations remain stable is knowing where they are.

Get more information.

An abundance of information on how to help Oregon’s native turtles can be found in a free, downloadable publication by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife: Guidance for Conserving Oregon’s Native Turtles including Best Management Practices.

Ask for help.

If you have turtles on your property and want help improving conditions for them, email oregonturtles@gmail.com and someone will get in touch with you.

Western Painted Turtle on a log in the water

Western Painted Turtle, Photo by Port of Portland

Learn more about creating turtle habitat.  

Turtles have fairly simple needs, which you can help provide:

  • Basking areas

After spending the winter hibernating, turtles need to haul out of the water in spring and early summer to warm up in the sunshine. They often select downed trees or large tree branches that have fallen into the water. If there is no natural downed wood in your pond or wetland, consider adding some. Turtles like to bask on wood as they can quickly drop into the water to avoid predators.

  • Nesting areas

When it’s time to lay eggs, female turtles look for sparsely-vegetated areas that get plenty of afternoon sun, since the sun’s rays incubate the eggs. Suitable turtle nesting habitat has compact soils, usually with a high clay content to help the nest keep its shape and make it harder for predators to dig up the eggs. You can enhance nesting areas by providing patches of sparsely vegetated or bare ground in sunny areas close to your pond.

  • Food and hiding cover

Young turtles conceal themselves from predators in rushes, sedges, duck weed and other vegetation at the shallow edges of the pond. Turtles eat worms, aquatic bugs, fish and other high protein items that help them grow. All turtles snack on aquatic vegetation, so it’s important to have a healthy plant community in your pond. Native plants attract a variety of invertebrates which in turn become food for turtles. Some shrubby/forested habitat nearby is ideal as some turtles over-winter on land.

  • Minimal disturbance

Turtles, turtle nests and hatchlings, and even hibernating turtles, are sensitive to disturbances like pet dogs swimming in ponds occupied by turtles, kayakers getting too close to basking turtles, or mowing equipment coming too close to nesting turtles. Turtles will be more likely to use your pond if basking and nesting areas are a little more private and away from areas of regular disturbance.

This information was provided by the Oregon Native Turtle Working Group and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Download a fact sheet.