Oak and Prairie Conservation Business Plan Offers Hope
It may not be too late for the Oregon vesper sparrow and for other species that depend on the rapidly disappearing oak and prairie habitats of the Pacific Northwest for their survival. A newly released report by six conservation groups called, “Prairie, Oaks and People: A Conservation Business Plan to Revitalize the Prairie-Oak Habitats of the Pacific Northwest,” is a blueprint for reversing the current trend. Willamette Partnership’s Resilient Habitat Program Manager, Nicole Maness, who worked on the plan, tells you more.
“Native prairie-oak species are at a crossroads,” is a phrase we hear a lot, often substituting “prairie-oak” for another kind of habitat. And for the most part, we know why we are at these particular crossroads: the effects of development, the conversion of natural cover to agriculture, the suppression of fire, and the increase in invasive species—all of which have a cumulative, negative impact on native habitat and the species that depend on it. This time, however, that somewhat dire statement is accompanied by both a call to action and a strategy to guide that action in order to stem the loss of species’ populations and their habitat.
For the native prairies and oak woodlands of northern California up to British Columbia that strategy is the released in, “Prairie, Oaks and People: A Conservation Business Plan to Revitalize the Prairie-Oak Habitats of the Pacific Northwest.” The plan, co-authored by the Cascadia Prairie-Oak Partnership, American Bird Conservancy, Center for Natural Lands Management, Klamath Bird Observatory, Willamette Partnership, and Pacific Birds Habitat Joint Venture, identifies specific protection, restoration, and management actions that will need to be undertaken to save these imperiled ecosystems and provides a guide for agencies, conservation organizations, tribes, researchers, foundations, and private investors to help focus our conservation efforts.
The recommendations outlined in the plan build the case for long-term investments—more than $83 million over the next 10 to 15 years—to restore a signature feature of the region’s historic landscape and to ensure species, such as the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, Oregon vesper sparrow, Lewis’s woodpecker, Kincaid’s lupine, and western pond turtle, survive into the future.
It also makes the case that success is possible. That with strategic, coordinated action, we can actually meet our goal of restoring a resilient network of oak woodlands, savannas, and prairies in ways that benefit both the economic and social wellbeing of people throughout the Pacific Northwest region.
As the manager of Willamette Partnership’s Resilient Habitat Program, it has been exciting to be part of this effort, and the opportunity to work with such strategic and forward-thinking partners has been especially rewarding. My vision for this document is that it serves as a guiding light to those of us who care deeply about these ecosystems and species and who recognize the need for getting something done soon. Because ‘later’ will be too late.
The fate of the Oregon vesper sparrow (bottom photo) hinges on the fate of prairie and oak savannas in the Pacific Northwest. A new conservation business plan identifies actions and investments that can help protect these critical habitats in economically and socially beneficial ways. Photos: (Top) Laura Wood; (Bottom) Simon Wray / Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife