One of the more exciting projects I have been doing over the past couple years, is working with a group of mid-valley farmers to improve fish and wildlife habitat on their farms.
The participants are 3rd, 4th and 5th generation farmers making their livings growing a diverse mix of crops including vegetables, fruits, nuts and grass seed and specialty seed.
Most farm along the Willamette or a major tributary, and have some substantial piece of land which is not being cropped – some legacy native habitat, such as bottomland riparian gallery forest, slough, wetland or oak woodland – which their family has kept over the years. So their farms generally have some highly functional elements of habitat, while also having many opportunities to conserve and enhance others.
All think that farming and wildlife are compatible, are investigating that, and are interested in finding ways to integrate the two more effectively.
These landowners – farmers- have a lot in common with the family forest landowners I work with in the foothills and mountains on each side of the Valley. Both groups are generally trying to manage their property in a sustainable way, for a diverse set of multiple objectives (income and wildlife habitat and a place they live, etc) and want to leave it as a legacy for another generation.
Although the details differ, many approaches to effective management and stewardship apply in both settings. After all, managing a riparian forest involves many of the same concepts, tools and practices as managing a mixed upland forest. Much of we have learned “upslope” about planning, vegetation management (including invasive weeds), the selection, handling and planting of seedlings, can be adapted and applied to the situation on the valley floor, no need to reinvent it, thus saving time, money and effort.
My interest in the project (which includes this blog) is to help landowners and the groups they work with explore ways to make wildlife part of viable, sustainable family farm operations, and maybe even find ways in which improved habitat management can make a positive contribution to farm operations.