Water Quality Depends on Farmer’s Willingness Not Regulations

On the national level, the Federal Clean Water Act regulates pollution flowing out of pipes, known as point source pollution. But contaminants flowing off of farm fields — non-point source pollution — are exempt from regulations. With little authority to compel farmers to adopt clean water practices, state and federal agencies rely on a voluntary approach. As a result, farming practices can be dramatically different from one field to the next.

Read more at http://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/05/17/water-buffalo-red-river-agriculture-erosion


Cover Crops Prevent Erosion

After all the rain we’ve had…Sauvie Island Organics reports that the cover crops they planted kept their soil and plants in place through it all!  And that wasIMG_1540 17 inches of rain since December first!

Oregon white oaks are a giving tree…

Did you know… If you find Oregon white oaks on your property, consider removing trees that  surround the  oaks.  They need lots of light to grow and will reward you by enticing several  wildlife species to  visit.  

 Learn about oaks and more at Rural Living Field Day!

Why did the red-legged frog cross the road?


Most rainy nights this year, volunteers have stood on guard at the edge of Highway 30 near Linnton.

TLC helps frogs cross busy Highway 30

By Allan Classen, NW Examiner, MARCH 2014 / VOLUME 27, ISSUE 7

Their mission? Save northern red-legged frogs, who are driven by nature to cross the four-lane highway to reach spawning ponds along the Willamette River. Without help, the frogs’ chances of evading traffic and getting across the highway are slim. That tendency, plus the fact that nearly every type of predator is after them, has led to their inclusion on the Oregon “sensitive species” list, one step above endangered.

Shawn Looney saw what could happen last winter and couldn’t take it. On her way to an evening meeting, she drove over clusters of frogs on Harborton Road, which leads to the highway.

“When she arrived, she was a little bit hysterical,” said Rob Lee, who like Looney is active in the Linnton Neighborhood Association. When they returned together to assess the damage, “She was even more hysterical. There were frog bodies all over the road.

“We counted 60 dead frogs on Harborton the next day,” he said. “They were just being slaughtered.”

If that could happen on Harborton, a narrow side road, what about Highway 30? Lee checked it out and found more of the same. He counted at least 100 in close proximity on the pavement.

“They were all being squished by vehicles,” he said.

A plan of action was needed. Last fall, Lee met with state of Oregon wildlife biologists, the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services and the West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District.

The chair of the WMSWCD, Jane Hartline, organized volunteers for the next breeding season, which runs roughly from early January to mid-February. The frogs don’t move until it’s dark, rainy and at least 45 degrees, they learned. This winter, a crew of crossing guards was ready for them. Hartline recruited about 35 volunteers, and many were on duty Jan. 7 when a huge migration—365 were counted—made their move. The volunteers soon learned that the frogs were “surprisingly compliant” and could easily be picked up and dropped in 5-gallon buckets.

“Mostly, they jump out on the road and just sit there,” said Hartline.

Alex Dolle gives a helping hand; photo by Jane Hartline

Alex Dolle gives a helping hand; photo by Jane Hartline

Still, when they come in waves, “It can be nerve wracking if you don’t have enough people,” said Lee.  “When it really happens, there are frogs all over the place.”

The loaded buckets were driven to a marina near the river’s edge, where the frogs lay their eggs. The tadpoles hatch and spend a few months growing before heading to the forest. Like salmon, they return as adults to lay their eggs in the place they were born. Some nights are too cold for the frogs, and on many nights, only a handful try to cross. But whenever weather conditions are right, volunteers gear up for a long wet night—sometimes for a few hours, sometimes past midnight. By mid-February, Lee said he had been out 23 nights. Getting the frogs to their spawning pools is one thing; getting them back come to the forest is another. Lee said he now sees frogs making the return trip.

Ultimately, a better way might be found. The volunteers, who include state wildlife biologist Sue Beilke, are carefully collecting data to understand their amphibious friends. A breeding pond on the forest side of the highway would be ideal, but finding a flat, open space to build such a pond may be easier said than done. A tunnel under or bridge over the highway seems far too expensive. So against all odds, rain or cold, the volunteers soldier on.

Hartline is particularly touched by the dedication of Beilke, who is out almost every night.

“Every time a frog is squashed, she says, ‘Oh no!’ which I love about Sue,” said Hartline.

Lee understands how the little creatures can grow on people.

“The frogs are very interesting and quite beautiful,” he said. “I’m amazed at how much personality they have.”

Their cause is also growing.

“I had no idea it would become anything like this,” said Lee. “It does touch a nerve with people. It’s been kind of inspiring.”

Neighbors know what’s going on and slow down near the crossing zone. He also gets plenty of ribbing about the frog migration assistance project, and he gets it. Some have suggested it could make a Portlandia episode.

“It’s pretty hilarious,” he said, “standing out in the cold and rain and waiting for frogs.”


Your Plants and The Snow

Salal_2_ES_Jan_2013Now that the cold winter months are here, we wanted to allay your concerns regarding the safety of your plants whether newly planted or well established in this, and future, snaps of snow.

The effects of the cold weather can be an issue for any plants (potential cell damage on herbaceous plants and if this was a prolonged soil where the soil froze roots uptake can become inhibited) – especially new plants that have been recently through the shock of being replanted, however the snow can actually be more of a benefit when weather dips down below freezing.

The benefit of snow is that it acts as an insulator, protecting plants from the cold and frost, so this snow should help shield our plants from the cold – also when it melts it will help water the newly plants which is very helpful when establishing plantings!

Because bare root plants lack a rooting media that supplies water to the plant (i.e. soil), they must be stored in a dormant state with temperatures slightly above or below freezing, and high (95%) humidity levels.  In other words, these temperatures are ideal for storing the plants before planting so long as they do not freeze, so this may be a benefit…the bigger concern was moisture due the winds.

Generally the biggest concerns we had on planting day was the wind drying out the plant roots and freezing the roots overnight before planting – both of these issues were not a problem since we were able to store the plants in a garage and dip the plants in water before planting and were protected from the high winds by the forest cover.

Preventing Soil Erosion

Dust_Storm_TexasHow to Help Prevent Soil Erosion This Spring
By Rural Conservationist Scott Gall

“A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.”  Franklin Roosevelt wrote those words in a letter to all State Governors in support of the act that created Soil & Water Conservation Districts.  That was in 1937 and the nation had just passed a series of laws in response to the devastation caused by the Dust Bowl.

Eighty years later we’ve have come a long way in our understanding of the strength and fragility native soils.  Yet erosion will always be a concern.

Soil erosion is the detachment and movement of soil particle most often caused by water and wind, gravity and even ice.  Since it may take 200 years to form one inch of soil, erosion occurring on your land is usually bad thing.  While soil erosion is of most concern on farms, steep hillsides or along a stream; erosion around a house can compromise foundations, clog drains, undermine garden plants and depending on where the soil goes – lead to liability issues.

In most instances, soil erosion occurs when the surface is not adequately covered, which allows wind, rain, and flowing water to dislodge the soil and carry it away. Some of the best ways to stabilize soil and slopes is by planting grass, shrubs and trees.  Their root systems, and the fibrous mycorrhiza fungus that attach to it, literally hold the soil in place.  The roots can also create holes, known as pores, which allow water to seep into the ground so that it doesn’t pond on the surface and wash soil away. That plants themselves also pull water up out of the soil, through the process of transpiration, prevents soil in steep areas from getting too saturated and heavy.

The roots of plants also pump organic matter deep into the soil. Organic matter, formed from the breakdown and composting of living material, is one of the most important parts of soil. It is literally the glue that holds soil together.  Organic matter also helps water to seep deep into the soil while providing nutrients for crops, trees and even ornamental plants in the garden.  While mulches, composts and other organic amendments can add organic matter to soil, plants are the most efficient way to get it deep into the soil and help prevent soil erosion.

For more information on soil, soil erosion, or other conservation practices, contact West Multnomah SWCD or attend Soil School

Aquatic Invasive Species Tags Available Online

Attention Paddlers!

Aquatic invasive species prevention permits for paddlers expire December 31 and the Marine Board has several purchasing options that are perfect to take advantage of when the weather is less-than desirable. Purchasing is easy from the comfort of your home through the Marine Board’s online storefront. An annual or two-year Tyvek tag costs a flat, $5 or $10, and the Marine Board does not charge an online processing fee.

The revenue that is raised from permit sales directly benefits Oregon’s efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species and deter introduction of new species into the state. In 2013, funds from the aquatic invasive species program were used to build a first-of-its-kind boat wash station at Tenmile Lakes, expand inspection stations around the state and keep the stations open longer.  Any areas with standing water are capable of transporting mussel larvae and weed fragments that can easily contaminate a water body. Law enforcement partners reported a range from 70% to 90% compliance, depending on the region of the state, for people carrying their AIS permit.

Other changes include more signage at boat ramps with the “Clean, Drain, and Dry” message, and completion of a statewide rapid response plan
(with practice exercises) for a detection scenario of quagga or zebra mussels.

To order your annual or two-year Tyvek tages, visit http://www.oregon.gov/osmb/Pages/index.aspx.

What’s the dirt?

Healthy soil is at the core of everything we do…but how do you make soil healthy? Of the many resources out there, USDA/NRCS provides this great infographic on what you can find if your soil is healthy.


So how can you get soil that is teeming with life?

  1. Add organic matter. Compost! Mulch! Manure! Healthy soils typicall have a 3-5% layer of organic matter on top.
  2. Disturb the soil as little as possible. Tilling and other activities harm microbiota in soils that are necessary for nutrient uptake.
  3. Grow many different species of plants through rotations and diverse mixture of cover crops. Biodiversity is key to a healthy ecosystem whether above or below ground. Not only does this provide habitat for a variety of microbiota, but an assortment of plants with varying root depths help to create pore spaces for soil to take up air, water and nutrients. Also, these roots act as natural tillers.
  4. Plant cover crops around harvest to keep living roots growing in the soil for as much of the year as possible. Cover crops, or green manure, feed soils following vegetable crops and provide coverage from the elements.
  5. No bare soils. Keep the soil surface covered year round. Soil that is uncovered is likely to suffer from compaction from feet or paws, and nutrient leaching from heavy rains.
For more information on building soil health, check in our library for these great resources and more: