Willamette Valley Oak and Prairie Cooperative

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Willamette Valley Oak and Prairie Cooperative (WVOPC) is an emerging partnership with a long-term vision to conserve and maintain prairie and oak habitats within the Willamette Valley ecoregion through a regionally-focused, collaborative, and sustainable program. Focused investment in conservation and coordination of efforts will benefit the biodiversity within oak and prairie ecosystems, including numerous species of conservation concern such as western meadowlark, Oregon’s state bird, and will also sustain momentum for recovery of rare species such as Fender’s blue butterfly and Kincaid’s lupine.

WVOPC Working Group Tour
WVOPC Willamette Valley Oak and Prairie Cooperative

Why Oak and Prairie Habitat is Important to Us

Oak and prairie habitats in the Willamette Valley Ecoregion are some of the most iconic, culturally important, and imperiled in Oregon. Early settlers to the Valley described wide expanses of prairie interspersed with scattered oaks, maintained in an open condition by fires set by Native Americans. Over many centuries, those oak and prairie ecosystems thrived, and native people and over 200 species of wildlife came to depend on these habitats. The last 170 years have brought dramatic change to the Valley. Settlement resulted in conversion of many native ecosystems to urban and agricultural land use and regular burning was halted, allowing woody vegetation to move into prairies and savannas.

Today, it is estimated that oak habitat in the Valley is found on less than seven percent of its pre-settlement area while prairie is found on less than one percent. Much of what remains is fragmented, isolated, and heavily impacted by fast-growing conifers and invasive species. Despite 170 years of loss and fragmentation, significant and timely habitat conservation opportunities are still before us. These opportunities, if acted upon, will have essential and lasting benefits both to Oregon’s natural and human communities. Without swift action, however, the window will close, and additional species added to the endangered species list, complicating conservation and creating new barriers to economic development.

 

WVOPC Willamette Valley Oak and Prairie Cooperative Mulkey Forests Oak Restoration

Mulkey Forests Oak Restoration, Willamette Valley / Nicole Maness

WVOPC Planning Area Map

The Planning Area

The planning area for this effort includes all lands within the Willamette Valley Ecoregion, minus the Portland metropolitan area, which is currently being addressed in a parallel planning effort. In total, our planning area encompasses approximately 2.4 million acres, almost all of which is in private ownership. It is estimated that only 113,000 acres of this land area (less than 5%) is currently managed by public or non-profit organizations for habitat conservation purposes or is otherwise in a permanent conservation status (protected by conservation easements on private lands).

Click to expand the planning area map

 

Strategic Action Planning Process

The WVOPC is overseeing the development of a Strategic Action Plan with a target completion date of September 2019. The project is funded by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (Focused Investment Partnership Program), Greenbelt Land Trust, Willamette Partnership, City of Eugene, Institute for Applied Ecology, and Pacific Birds Habitat Joint Venture. The overarching ecological outcomes of the Plan will be to protect, restore, and maintain a functional, resilient network of oak and prairie habitats in the Valley through a regional strategy coordinated by a partnership of nonprofits, tribes, landowners, and federal, state, and local natural resource agencies.

Development of the Plan will be the catalyst for partners to coordinate their work under a unified and focused strategy for oak and prairie conservation. The Plan will guide long-term actions that will result in the conservation and restoration of a connected network of oak-prairie habitats capable of supporting native plants and wildlife while being resilient in the face of climate change, land use changes, and invasive species.

For More Information

For More Information on the WVOPC or the ongoing Strategic Action Plan process, please contact:

 

Banner Photo of Howard Buford Recreation Area / Ed Alverson