Wetlands are vital to urban areas, like kidneys absorbing, filtering and recirculating our water and providing places for birds and wildlife to feed, rest and nest. Yet historically people did not recognize the value of wetlands, regarding them as “wastelands,” and barriers to development. Consequently, many wetlands, especially those in urban areas have been drained, filled, and paved over for other uses.
The greater Portland region has retained a variety of different types of wetlands, from freshwater marshes to wet prairies. TWC’s involvement in protection of urban wetlands began in 1981 when a group of citizens used the Clean Water Act and conserved the 56 acre Hedges Creek Marsh in Tualatin Oregon. Now 16 properties and 133 acres later, our urban preserves are cleaning the storm water run-off from surrounding buildings and parking lots, filtering the water before it enters our rivers and streams, acting as sponges during large rain events and providing safe haven for birds and amphibians. As our cities expand the work and importance of wetlands grows exponentially.
Our urban program is expanding, using our preserves to better understand the role and functions our wetlands play in overall watershed health. Through data collection and analysis of amphibian use and water quality above and below our preserves we will be able to set goals for desired future conditions of our urban wetlands and identify and implement new enhancement and restoration opportunities.
Over the past ten years, The Wetlands Conservancy has been building partnerships and acquiring and enhancing lands to support a Central coast vision to conserve 10,000 acres between Waldport and Newport within and across the lower Yaquina, Beaver Creek and Alsea watersheds and estuaries. The Central Coast has lost approximately 70 percent of its historic estuarine marshes. The remaining tidal marshes provide habitat critical for species listed in the Endangered Species Act including coho salmon, brown pelicans, bald eagles, and marbled murrelets, as well as sea-run cutthroat and steelhead trout which are ESA candidate species. Conservation of the remaining habitats will additionally protect key habitat for state-sensitive anadromous species: chum salmon and Pacific lamprey. The remaining estuarine marsh habitat supports high waterfowl use including a diversity of migratory shorebirds.
Through the acquisition of properties, TWC has been able to restore waterways and wetlands for fish, return agricultural land to wetland habitat and preserve old growth forest. The economy and land use of the central coast is changing. Identifying the critical areas and building a diverse base of support will assure the conservation of these critical resources.
Bounded on the west by the Coast Range and on the east by the Cascade Mountains, this eco-region encompasses 3,397,106 acres (in the Willamette Valley and adjacent foothills). The Valley is a long, level alluvial plain with scattered groups of low basalt hills. The Willamette Valley once was covered by extensive wetlands. Since the 1850’s, approximately 98% of wet prairies and 67% of emergent marsh habitats have been lost. Most, if not all, remaining wetlands have been degraded to some degree by altered water regimes, pollution, and non-native plants and animals.
TWC’s Willamette Valley wetland prioritization has been used as the foundation for a variety of federal, state and local agency and NGO conservation and wildlife plans . Our partnership between the Mud Slough Wetland Mitigation Bank has become the model for successful long-term stewardship of wetland banks in Oregon. TWC will be holding easements on 2 additional wetland prairie banks in the Willamette Valley in the coming year. Involvement in these wetland banks is conserving one of the most threatened wetland types in Oregon.
The habitats and vegetation communities of the Oregon north coast vary in response to geology, elevation and proximity to the ocean. However, similar to the rest of the Oregon coast range the dominant habitat is temperate forest except for the immediate coastline that includes sand dune systems and beaches, headland grasslands and valley bottom wetlands.
TWC’s Arch Cape and Doris Davis Beaver Marsh Preserves are part of the Lower Nehalem/ Ecola Creek watersheds. The two small wetlands provide habitat for a variety of wildlife as well as water filtration and storage that benefit the local communities.