Would you like to enhance Oregon white oak habitat on your land?

row of oak trees with grass and partly cloudy sky

(Photo by RJ Cox, creative commons)

Do you have one or more native Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana) trees on your property? If so, you have something special! Oak woodlands and mature white oak trees are increasingly rare in the Willamette Valley with less than 10% remaining of what we had in 1850. Oregon white oaks grow nowhere else in the world outside of the Pacific Northwest and parts of California.

map of WMSWCD district with portions circled in yellowIn an effort to sustain and replenish dwindling rare oak habitat, funds are available to private rural landowners  for habitat enhancement, including removing competing vegetation from oak stands or adding more native plants. West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District is focusing this work currently on oak rich areas of our district on Sauvie Island, along Highway 30, and in the rural West Hills. (See areas in yellow in the map to the right.)

Those interested in the benefits of oak habitat with close to 10 acres or more of existing or potential oak habitat in this focus area likely qualify for special funding from our federal partner, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). And locations with oak trees being overtaken by conifers like Douglas fir are particularly high priority for funding and we’d like to work with you!

In case you don’t already know the benefits of oak trees and habitats, they include:

  • Fire hazard reduction – Oak leaves and wood are less flammable than conifers.
  • Wildlife habitat & biodiversity – Over 200 native wildlife species use oak savannas and woodlands for nesting, shelter, perching, and food, especially high-calorie acorns. Many oak habitats support a unique and diverse community of native plants and animals.
  • Property value – Mature oak trees are among nature’s greatest art masterpieces. Oaks add beauty and shade to homes, sheds, barns and landscapes, and raise land values.
  • Climate benefits & resiliency – Oaks, like most trees, cool and purify the air and store carbon. Oregon white oak trees and associated “upland” native plants are drought tolerant and well suited to a warming climate.
  • Livestock shade & pest control – Oak tree canopies offer a respite from the sun, as well as perching for raptors that hunt for rodents that may be considered farm pests.

Final year of this program

This is the final year that funds for oak habitat will be available through the current Clackanomah Oak Habitat “Conservation Implementation Strategy” program, which has been in effect since 2018. It was developed in partnership with Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District and NRCS. Funding comes with conservation planning and project implementation support from WMSWCD and typically involves some labor and/or cash match from the landowner. “Cost-share” funds are available to help pay for invasive weed control, removal or girdling of competing trees, and planting of additional oak trees and related shrubs, grasses and wildflowers – to support pollinators, song birds and more. Landowners with funded projects can also get funds to help pay for bird boxes, wildlife brush piles, fencing to separate livestock from plantings or to do rotational grazing, livestock watering, mulching around new plants to prevent moisture loss and weed completion, caging to protect plantings from browsing or grazing animals, and even cover cropping.

NRCS will be accepting applications for funding through mid-November, so contact us soon to see if you are a good fit for the program and to schedule a site visit: Kammy Kern-Korot, WMSWCD Senior Conservationist, kammy@wmscd.org   We will work with eligible landowners over the next 2-3 months to prepare a conservation plan and funding application that the landowner will submit to NRCS for ranking.

Learn more about this program

Find details on project ranking.

Cost-share funding amounts depend on the work involved but can average $500 to $1,500 per acre and projects and contracts typically last 2 to 5 years. Recent, successful applications developed with WMSWCD have received approximately $15,000 in cost-share funding. See examples of payment amounts for different conservation practices. Let us know if you need help understanding what’s listed here.