Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Oregon that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Acquisition of adjacent lands at the Table Rocks and landscape conservation in the Willamette Valley are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. John Kitzhaber and the state of Oregon, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Oregon and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Oregon highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
The Table Rocks are twin volcanic buttes that rise above the north bank of the Rogue River. These lands are managed by The Nature Conservancy (3,584 acres) and the Bureau of Land Management (1,280 acres). More than 30 years ago, The Nature Conservancy purchased land on the Table Rocks and created their first preserve in the Rogue Valley. In 1984, the BLM designated 1,280 acres as the Table Rocks Area of Critical Environmental Concern to protect critical habitat for special-status plant and animal species and unique geologic and scenic values and to provide environmental-education opportunities.
The people of Oregon, especially those in the Rogue Valley and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, have an enduring relationship with this special place. The 7.5 million-year-old landforms have been important to pioneers, residents, and visitors to the Rogue Valley and to Native Americans who called this area home. Every year some 45,000 visitors hike through oak savannas to reach the open grassland and vernal pools on the mesa summits and to look over the Rogue Valley toward the Cascade Range and Siskiyou Mountains. In the spring, BLM-led field trips to the tops of Table Rocks are a staple of the outdoor education and science curriculum for more than 4,000 Rogue Valley school children.
In 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board invested $1.8 million in protecting the Table Rocks by supplying funds to buy additional lands from The Nature Conservancy. The state needs funding to acquire additional land to guarantee public access for hiking; to provide educational opportunities; and to protect the special biologic, geologic, and cultural values of the Table Rocks.
The BLM, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and The Nature Conservancy recently signed an agreement to coordinate resources and pursue funding for acquiring key lands from willing sellers, to help protect the values of the Table Rocks, and to cooperatively manage these lands as the Table Rocks Management Area.
Willamette Valley Conservation Plan
The Willamette Valley Conservation Study Area is a landscape-scale habitat-conservation effort that protects and restores rare habitats, aids the recovery of threatened and endangered species, and connects people with nature by providing wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities.
Though it still supports a diverse assemblage of native species, the Willamette Valley has experienced tremendous changes as human populations have increased. The valley's population is expected to double within the next 50 years, which adds a sense of urgency to conservation-planning efforts.
The valley is also an important agricultural production area, and the federal government needs to find a balanced approach to improving the health of the basin and to engage the agricultural community as a partner. One significant challenge is the goose depredation of farms.
The valley's refuges and grasslands, which farmers provide under cooperative agreements, cannot sustain the increasingly large populations of geese. To address this challenge, the Willamette Valley Conservation Study Area will use community-based collaboration, with many stakeholders from both public and private sectors, to develop conservation alternatives.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Oregon, for example, the Department could provide funds to buy adjacent land to protect the cultural, historical, educational, and recreational values of the Table Rocks.
In the Willamette Valley, the department could work with the state of Oregon, and other public and private stakeholders to develop a balanced plan for the Willamette Valley Conservation Study Area. Once completed, the department could work with partners to implement the recommendations of the plan.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.