Turtle Flats protected in perpetuity
Friends acquire 62-acre natural area at confluence of Coast and Middle Forks of Willamette
On October 13, 2015, Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah announced its purchase of the 62-acre “Turtle Flats” property, an important natural area at the confluence of the Coast and Middle Forks of the Willamette River, just outside Eugene. The land will be restored to improve water quality and fish and wildlife habitat. The purchase is a milestone in a multi-phase floodplain restoration project along the Willamette.
View KVAL coverage of this important milestone.
The property is a vital link between floodplain lands owned by Oregon State Parks and The Nature Conservancy. “We will restore and steward this beautiful haven for salmon, turtles, and river otters as a legacy for future generations,” said Chris Orsinger, Friends of Buford Park Executive Director. (See map.)
Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) provided $324,000 to the Friends to buy the land from Lane County. Lane County then dedicated $284,000 from the sale proceeds to the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) to help fund restoration work on the property. A conservation easement held by BPA will protect Turtle Flats’ floodplain habitats in perpetuity.
The property, a former gravel-mining site, is the first to be owned by the Friends. To date, the Friends have successfully advocated for or facilitated acquisitions totaling over 1700 acres now protected and owned by partner agencies. This includes The Nature Conservancy’s 1305-acre Willamette Confluence Preserve. Over 4700 acres (including Lane County’s 2300-acre Buford Park) have now been protected in the greater Mt. Pisgah area.
“Over the years, we have partnered with numerous land trusts, public agencies and private landowners to protect and improve the health of native wetlands, prairies and rivers,” said Orsinger. “The need arose, and we decided to step up and take responsibility for one of the vital pieces,” explained Orsinger. “Turtle Flats is that special piece.”
River Restoration Planned in 2016
The purchase and protection of Turtle Flats advances a major river restoration project at the confluence of the Willamette’s Coast & Middle Forks, near Buford Park. The Friends are partnering with two adjacent landowners, The Nature Conservancy and Oregon Dept. of Parks and Recreation, to restore nearly 200 acres of riverine habitats across three continuous parcels of land at the confluence.
Turtle Flats and the wider confluence already provide good habitat for a diversity of wildlife such as western pond turtles, river otter and waterfowl. Its willow wetlands provide habitat for migratory songbirds. Restoring the floodplain will improve water quality and expand side channels and backwaters to help reverse declining populations of salmon, steelhead and trout. Restoring native plant communities will improve habitat for many more wildlife species, such as eagles, osprey, and herons. The perpetual protection and restoration of Turtle Flats will also help improve water quality for EWEB’s future drinking water intake facility, planned less than a mile downstream.
“Growing support from community members and volunteers makes this possible,” said Orsinger. “Community stewardship is a key strategy, and we will need more members and volunteers to help us steward Turtle Flats.”
Donations to support the Friends can be made online or by mail to:
GUIDED TOURS & VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
The Friends offer guided tours and volunteer work parties to help citizens learn about and care for Turtle Flats. Individuals as well as businesses, churches, school groups & other organizations are getting involved! If interested in a tour, please contact Catia Juliana at [email protected]. To volunteer, please contact Mieko Aoki at [email protected].