OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Meetings to explore new prairie strategy in McDonald Forest

01/12/2007

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new strategy for restoring native prairie and oak woodlands in McDonald-Dunn Forest north of Corvallis will be discussed at two public meetings in January.

The plans have been outlined by the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, which actively manages the forest for the purposes of education, research, timber production and public recreation.

Native prairies and oak savannas that once dominated the Willamette Valley and foothills have largely disappeared, victims of agriculture, urbanization, roads, and a halt in the traditional fire management that helped maintain these ecosystems. Recently, there has been considerable public and scientific interest in learning how to conserve or restore these ecosystems and the many plants, insects and other wildlife that are unique to them.

“The oak/prairie strategy developed for McDonald-Dunn Forest is the work of an interdisciplinary committee that has studied these issues, and will be the beginning of a long-term commitment by the College of Forestry to nurture this type of ecosystem,” said Brad Withrow-Robinson, an Extension Forester. “This should create new educational, ecological and cultural opportunities, and we expect a lot of public interest in this topic.”

The two meetings will be:

• OSU Campus: Tuesday, Jan. 23, 1:30-3 p.m. in Richardson Hall, Room 107;

• Corvallis Public Library: Thursday, Jan. 25, 7-8:30 p.m., main meeting room.

A presentation of the new strategy will be made at the meetings with time for questions and discussion. The meetings are free and open to the public, and no registration is necessary to attend.

Prior to European-American settlement, much of McDonald-Dunn Forest was prairie and oak savanna, especially at lower elevations. Researchers have noted that native prairie ecosystems in Oregon, and all of the plant and animal life associated with them, are a historical link to the past and a type of “legacy habitat” that is now far more rare than old growth forests.

For thousands of years, local Kalapuya Indians in the Willamette Valley area encouraged frequent fire on prairies and oak savannas to help prevent the invasion of conifer trees. This maintained ample grass for game animals as well as staple foods such as camas bulbs and acorns.

However, traditional fire management of these regions stopped with European-American settlement about 150 years ago, allowing forests of conifers and hardwoods to take over the land.

In the work ahead, collaboration is planned with Benton County, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and Confederated Tribes of Siletz.

Among other initiatives, the new plan will conserve open-grown oak trees, preserve high-quality or “biological hot-spots” of open prairie, and develop a range of research, teaching and public outreach sites.

The ecosystems protected in the new strategy will be incorporated into the educational plans of some courses at OSU, local colleges and K-12 schools, Withrow-Robinson said. The oak-prairie strategy is an appendix to the overall McDonald-Dunn Forest Plan, and can be viewed on the web at http://www.cof.orst.edu/cf/forests/mcdonald/plan