Preserving Pristine Environments

By Don MacGillivray


The Nature Conservancy is an organization taking climate change seriously. The Conservancy has revised its activities across 23 million acres in Oregon to ensure that priority conservation sites reflect the characteristics of the most resilient landscapes. With all their property at risk, they are rewriting their conservation plans to preserve their investments as much as possible.

Oregon has 3,773 species of native plants and vertebrates, placing it eighth in biodiversity among all the states. Ten percent of these organisms are considered at risk.

Our state with its great diversity of habitats gives the organization challenges with coastal habitats, mountain areas, the western rain forests and a variety of rivers, lakes, wetlands and eastern high desert conditions.

The 27 acre Camassia Natural Preserve was the first land obtained in Oregon. It sits perched on the bluffs overlooking the Willamette River in the city of West Linn. Soon it will be surrounded by suburban development. The preserve is open to the public year-round with hiking trails and a self-guided interpretive tour.

Named in honor of the Camas Lily (an important food source for the Native Americans that covers many meadows with their blooms in the spring), it is maintained and managed to be the same as the historical conditions of 150 years ago.

Care of the Sandy River Gorge Preserve is included in the group’s mission. The Preserve is six miles of wild river, upland terraces, and canyons that provide excellent habitat for fish, wildlife and old-growth forest.

It’s all within 20 miles of Portland where 70 percent of the region’s population live and it is the last undeveloped western Oregon river near a metropolitan area. The work to preserve and restore this unique treasure began in 1970, when 156 acres were donated to the Conservancy.

Today, after years of planning, coordination and many public and private conservation organizations, most of the Sandy River Gorge is protected and managed for its unique characteristics with the designation of an Oregon Scenic Waterway and a federal Wild and Scenic River.

Within the Gorge lies the best remaining low-elevation, old-growth Douglas-fir forest in Oregon and it includes trees over 500 years old.

The Sandy River provides some of the best spawning habitat for native runs of salmon and steelhead trout and the forest is home to the Oregon slender salamander found only in northwestern Oregon. It is also home to the black-tailed deer, river otter and osprey.

The Conservancy owns a total of 536 acres in several properties in the Gorge. Ecologists monitor stream-side habitats, wildlife populations and water quality.

Volunteers and youth corp teams remove non-native invasive plants such as Scots broom, Japanese knot-weed and Himalayan blackberry. Volunteer naturalists lead the public on interpretive field trips. In the fall the Salmon Festival at Oxbow Park is an educational event enjoyed by the Portland metro area.

There are 76 employee working at four Nature Conservancy offices in Portland, Bend, Medford and Enterprise. Their 46 preserves in Oregon are divided into 5 eco-regions to protect forests, deserts, grassland, marine habitats and fresh water areas.

The Conservancy is the largest conservation organization in the world and is a collaborator with many like-minded organizations. In addition to the properties they own and manage, they work to negotiate easements with others to protect lands they don’t own. They use about 700 volunteers per year out of a larger pool of donors, members and interested individuals.

The Oregon Chapter of the Nature Conservancy maintains a high standard for  financial sustainability. Their private contributions helped to leverage $14 million in public funding for their conservation activities in partnership with federal, state and local governments.

Eighty-nine percent of all expenditures are used for conservation programs and the Oregon Chapter’s assets are valued at $88.9 million with over half invested in conservation lands held in perpetuity.

In October of this year the Nature Conservancy will be hosting a volunteer event in Mount Tabor Park jointly with Portland Parks and Recreation. The three hour morning work party will be on the east side of the Park to remove invasive species and perform maintenance on the native plantings.

Columbia Gorge view from Dog Mountain
Columbia Gorge view from Dog Mountain

After the work party, volunteers are invited to attend an afternoon party with local food, beverages, and music to celebrate the Nature Conservancy’s efforts in Oregon.

The public is invited to share in this event with Portland Parks and Recreation at Mount Tabor Park. Save Saturday October 4, 2014 from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm at Mount Tabor Park, SE 60th Ave. and Salmon St.

If you plan to attend please register by contacting the Conservancy at: or call 503.802.8100.

The work of the Nature Conservancy will help insure the health and vitality of many of Oregon’s most wonderful natural areas into future.

Preserving Pristine Environments

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