Juniper garden boxes

West Multnomah SWCD Forest Conservationist Michael Ahr works with local woodland owners, some of whom find it challenging to find a market for small trees that are cut during thinning projects. Build Local Alliance, a partner organization, will assist in this process. Recently, Michael built an 8’ x 4’ raised bed in his backyard out of restoration juniper which is rot resistant.  The wood was milled by “In the Sticks” sawmill in Hines, Oregon and then shipped to a local provider who sells it to Portland homeowners.

Across much of eastern Oregon, juniper encroachment is a problem to native ecosystems.  After years of fire suppression, the tree is much more abundant, and uses a great deal of the scarce soil moisture on our vast range lands.  The situation can damage sage grouse (a candidate for the Endangered Species List) habitat by degrading the local sagebrush resource.  Juniper is often cut, but then left on the ground to decompose since there is not a strong market for the wood.  In the Sticks Sawmill mills juniper that comes almost exclusively from these restoration projects while creating a small market to pay for the restoration.

Check out the Build Local Alliance and visit the website for In the Sticks Sawmill for much more information.



We love bats

Small Yuma MyotisWhite Nose Syndrome has killed more than 6 million bats since 2006, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. It reported on a study that predicts the syndrome will virtually annihilate endangered Indiana bat populations throughout most of the bats’ range within the next decade. Learn more at Aside from disease, bat populations are also suffering from habitat loss, something we can all help with at home.

Bats play an important role in Oregon’s ecosystem eating nuisance insects that often disturb humans (think mosquitoes) and economically hinder farmers by damaging crops. Bats eat between 600-1000 bugs in an hour!

Here are a few things you can do to help bats on your land:

  1. Provide them a water source.
  2. Be sure they have lots of food available to them by having a thriving garden. Bugs need plants. And bats need bugs!
  3. Give them roosting habitat by leaving snags (dead trees) or installing bat boxes.
  4. Reduce your use of chemicals so that bug populations are high enough to sustain a healthy bat diet.

For more information on Oregon’s 15 bat species, click on the “Batty for Bats” Fact Sheet courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife:

Bats Poster

Other resource:

Center for Biological Save Our Bats Campaign

Feel free to share any bat stories or photos with us in our comments section, on our Facebook page or via Twitter.

Hoo, who do you want in your tree?

 Barn owl
 Barred owl
 Great horned owl
 Northern pygmy owl,
courtesy of Greg Gilson
 Western screech owl

Helpful tips for supporting owls via artifical nesting habitat:

1. Owls eat rodents for the most part.  Every habitat seems to be rodent habitat to some extent so there’s not much you can do to increase the food resource.  If you have some edge habitat with trees growing next to open grass, that can be a good place to see owls hunt.  They’ll rest in the forest, and then move to the edges to hunt the open ground at dusk.   They will eat small birds sometimes, but typically birds are inactive at night when the owls are hunting.

2. Common owls in our region: great horned, barred, barn, and western screech.  Barred, barn, and screech owls nest in cavities often.  Owl boxes can be good for these species, but if the box has a big hole, that may be good for barred owls but not screech owls.  A small hole could be good for the screech but not the barred, so some variety  in hole size may help your chances of getting owls.  The owls would likely have been using these boxes over the last couple of months and could still be using them to raise young right now.  Great horned owls will use next boxes some, but they also frequently nest in abandoned hawk and squirrel nests – so they don’t always focus on the cavities.  Barn owls really like the nest boxes, but if there are numerous barns in the area, they truly do use the rafters as habitat too and may not be looking for natural or artificial cavities in the forest.  Even a small hole in a barn can allow the barn owl to enter and exit the barn.

3. If you have lots of large dead trees or snags, the owls may find cavities in those and use them instead of artificial boxes.

4. You can monitor the boxes to make sure raccoons are not using them instead of the owls.

5. Try changing the orientation on boxes.  Example, if they face north now, try facing them south to see if that changes anything.  Not sure about owls, but bats are more likely to use SE facing boxes because they warm up more quickly in the morning.  Facing boxes towards clearings and away from prevailing winds can help.

6. Plant some conifers if you don’t have many.  Douglas-fir and western redcedar can be good trees for owls because they can find cover and hide out a bit in the winter when the deciduous trees have no leaves.

7. Attracting songbirds or owls to nest boxes can be difficult and sometimes just requires a bit of luck.  They are territorial, so if a neighbor mentions having owls, you may not have any on your property just because they are giving another breeding pair some space to avoid altercations.

For more information on Oregon owls, please visit Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife:

I spy… a trillium!

Small TrilliumSmall TrilliumMichael, our Forest Conservation, spent the morning near the Holbrook Community searching the forest for English ivy. This invasive canopy weed if very prevalent throughout the region. Michael received a pleasant surprise when during his walk he spotted his first western trillium of the season. The white blooms serve locally to announce the arrival of spring. A salmonberry was also starting to bloom near a creek on the property.  

Click here for more information on invasive weeds.

Click here for more information on native plants.