Pine Creek Conservation Area

Steve Vidito

voices

Terry Butler, 2018 Volunteer of the Year

Terry Butler, 2018 Volunteer of the Year

“If I have to pick a favorite place in Oregon’s high desert, it would be Sutton Mountain, but I’m excited about all of the Wilderness Study Areas,” says Terry, adding, “Each is a gem to explore, and I hope they all get protection someday… I love the scale of the physical beauty of the desert.”

success

Spring Basin Wilderness

Spring Basin Wilderness

Spring Basin Wilderness

With 10,000 acres of undulating terrain, secluded canyons and spectacular vantages of the John Day Country, Spring Basin is magnificent to explore This public treasure, forever protected as Wilderness, offers a profusion of desert wildflowers in the spring and year-round recreational opportunities for hikers, horseback

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fact

Western Rattlesnake

Western Rattlesnake

Also known as the Great Basin Rattlesnake, these pit vipers have buff-tan coloring and small, oval blotches to blend into their arid surroundings. Small heat-sensing indentations on each side of the snake’s snout detects warm-blooded prey for better striking accuracy in the dark. Source: The Oregon Encyclopedia

Latin name: Crotalus oreganus lutosus

Goal

Work in cooperation with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to restore fish and wildlife habitat

Timeline

Project Start Year: 2001
Anticipated Completion: 2030

Acreage

35,000 acres


About this place

Pine Creek Conservation Area was purchased by the Bonneville Power Administration beginning in 1999 for the mitigation of lands flooded by the John Day Dam on the Columbia. It is now managed by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs for the benefit of fish and wildlife. While the area is closed to recreational vehicles, its rugged landscape is open to non-motorized recreational use.

With land claims dating back to 1869, the original ranches that make up PCCA have had a long history that has left its mark on the landscape. While many strongholds of native flora and fauna survived, the conservation area presented the common suite of issues in eastern Oregon: eroded streams denuded of vegetation, weeds, widespread derelict fencing and juniper expansion.

Our efforts

ONDA’s conservation objectives and abilities line up directly with the conservation area’s needs to address these four main issues. Shared goals include:

1) Reestablish beaver habitat in the stream valleys within PCCA. Beavers act as a keystone species, and, if given enough water, vegetation and space, can re-engineer the missing processes in the riparian areas that hundreds of native species (including humans) depend upon.
2) Remove all internal fencing to allow for the free movement of wildlife, and remove a significant source of mortality. Maintain PCCA’s boundary fence to prevent cattle trespass and the damage associated with it.
3) Assist in the removal of juniper encroaching on riparian areas for the benefit of hydrological function in streams and the reduction of competition with other high-value plant species.
4) Reduce the competitive advantage of weeds by maintaining PCCA as grazing free, and helping reestablish a more natural balance in plant distributions and processes to remove the competitive advantages previously enjoyed by weeds.

Project history

For two decades ONDA volunteers have been critical to achieving conservation objectives at PCCA.

Over the course of that time, ONDA volunteers have been the single leading force in dismantling and removing more than 82 miles of derelict fencing. We have also had work trips aiding in the mapping and repair of the boundary fence.

ONDA volunteers have also left a lasting mark on the riparian areas thanks to dozens of weekend trips planting tens of thousands of native plants. Volunteers have also helped install dozens of beaver dam analogues (BDAs) which temporarily provide the benefits of actual beaver dams until beavers can take over. In the meantime, the BDAs allow us to “jump start” processes that establish the growth and expansion of beaver habitat. This effort is bearing visible fruit in an expanding resident beaver population.

With simple hand tools, volunteers have swarmed up the conservation area’s valley’s and cut down, or girdled juniper trees. This targeted work has been instrumental in helping change the habitat along streams at Pine Creek.