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Thursday
Oct122017

Cavness Ranch restoration

The 655-acre Cavness Ranch was put under conservation easement in 2005 and has seen strong restoration gains since. The ranch has had a varied history of logging, cattle farming, Christmas tree production, and agriculture, and the conservation easement extinguished further development rights attached to the title. Landowners Otis and Arline entered into the agreement to keep the ranch as a ‘place for the animals.’ The ranch is indeed a place for the animals, with many habitat types including oak woodland, riparian wetlands and drainages, upland prairie, and forested uplands and balds. Golden Paintbrush (Castileja levisecta), a federally threatened plant, now has a population on the site that is reaching recovery objectives, and as the prairie conversion continues this number is expected to grow. Pollinator monitoring at Cavness has found bumble bees, multiple species of sweat bees, and leafcutter bees, as well as a variety of syrphid flies and other flower-visiting flies. Pollinators are most diverse in the early to mid-season period, and are concentrated in the areas where forbs have been sown. We have observed Cavness leafcutter bees very actively harvesting recently-seeded native Clarkia amoena petals to line nests, so pollinators are certainly utilizing the native vegetation. Regular visitors to the ranch also include elk, deer, bear, bobcat, cougar, turkey, and many species of birds.

Oregon Sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum), a native wildflower.

The ranch abuts a Skookumchuck tributary and Scatter Creek, and the upland prairie remnant is approximately 180 acres of historic Frost prairie. Restoration of the site proceeded slowly at first, focused on removing non-native and invasive species, returning native prairie plants to the ranch, and enhancing the 50-acre oak woodland. Species targeted for removal included Scotch broom, tansy, poison hemlock and blackberry. Prairie remnants along the oak woodland were planted with hundreds of plugs- the common method at the time. The oak woodland, adjacent to Scatter Creek, was treated for conifer encroachment by felling and girdling Douglas firs. In 2013, a 50-acre portion of Christmas tree production was released, and around this same time seed production greatly increased, allowing hundreds of acres to be seeded annually. Prairie restoration then proceeded quickly, with the prescribed burning and subsequent seeding of the unit with hundreds of pounds of native prairie species, including the now thriving Golden Paintbrush.

A patch of Golden Paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta).

Continued cycles of weed control, prescribed burning and seeding will eventually result in 180 acres of high quality native prairie on the site, with habitat suitable for the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly and Mazama pocket gopher. 

Restored prairie habitat on Cavness Ranch.

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