Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board votes to protect over 6,800 acres of ecologically significant land in Oregon


April 26, 2017

Salem, Oregon: At their April board meeting on Wednesday April 26, the 16-member Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) approved nearly $1 million in grant funding for three projects to protect over 6,800 acres of fish and wildlife habitat for future generations.

“OWEB is a critical partner for landowners, land trusts and communities that are working to voluntarily conserve some of our state’s richest landscapes,” said Kelley Beamer, executive director of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts.

Lower Nehalem Community Trust received funding to acquire the 33-acre Botts Marsh in Tillamook County.

OWEB administers funding authorized by Measure 76 passed by voters 2010, which directs 7.5% of lottery revenues each year for fish and wildlife conservation. A portion of these funds is dedicated to working with landowners, land trusts and local governments to permanently protect lands with high conservation values, either through conservation easements or fee title acquisitions.

The three projects OWEB funded represent landscapes that could otherwise be lost to development or conversion. The properties include Canyon Creek Ranch Conservation Easement in the John Day Basin, Botts Marsh in Tillamook County and Ecola Creek Wetlands in Clatsop County.

The Northwest Rangeland Trust received funding approval to purchase a conservation easement on the 6,785-acre Canyon Creek Ranch to prevent subdivision and protect ecologically significant habitat. This active cattle ranch includes tributaries to the John Day River, as well as riparian, floodplain, and upland habitat. The landowners have done restoration work on their property for 15 years, and the conservation easement will protect these restoration efforts.

Botts Marsh, a 33-acre estuarine marsh in Tillamook County, will be purchased by the Lower Nehalem Community Trust for the benefit of sensitive species, including coho salmon, chum salmon, green sturgeon, great-blue heron and Townsend’s big-eared bat. The property was threatened with development, but now will be conserved and improved as habitat for the community, a vision endorsed by the city of Wheeler and Tillamook County.

OWEB also funded the City of Cannon Beach’s application to purchase the Ecola Creek Wetlands, 28-acres of forested wetlands adjacent to the City’s existing 1,040-acre Ecola Creek Forest Reserve (ECFR) in Clatsop County. City management and restoration actions will benefit priority species such as coho salmon and steelhead.

In addition to the three properties above, the OWEB board also gave the green light to advance four projects to either apply for, or receive federal funding through, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) 2016 National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program. As the state partner for this USFWS program, OWEB must approve requests to apply for Coastal Wetlands funding.

“I applaud the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board for their commitment to long-term conservation,” Beamer explained. “Their understanding and support of permanent protection of critical lands, from the Painted Hills to the Oregon Coast, is essential for our state’s ability to conserve what we love for future changes in Oregon.”

With this recent funding approval, OWEB has now helped conserve over 70,250 acres through its history, granting $45,000,000 in lottery funding and leveraging $90,000,000 in match funding.