In an effort to restore the Western Oregon landscape to what it looked like in the mid-1800s, the Benton County Natural Areas and Parks Department is removing plant species such as conifers that have invaded and taken over what was once an expansive
meadow of native grasses and spreading oak trees, known today as oak savanna.
At Fort Hoskins, five acres of Douglas fir, blackberry and brush will be cleared to make more room for the existing Oregon white oaks. The area will be reseeded with native grasses and flowering plants.
It’s just one of several park projects under way in Oregon this summer, covering an area of approximately 90 acres.
Mark Miller of Trout Mountain Forestry is consulting forester for the projects. “Fir grows faster than oak, and left untended it eventually overtops and shades out the oak,” Miller told the Gazette Times in Corvallis. “We’ve lost 95 to 98 percent of the oak savanna and oak woodland habitat that there was historically – pre-settlement – and only 1-to-2 percent of that (which is left) is in good condition. That’s the really compelling reason to do this kind of restoration.”
The nonprofit Greenbelt Land Trust is planning a similar project on about 100 acres of its Bald Hill Farm property just west of Corvallis. “Mainly what we’re trying to do is preserve the oak habitats that are already there,” Jeff Baker, Greenbelt’s stewardship manager, told the Gazette Times. “We want to take out a lot of the conifers so the oak can thrive and in some cases thin out the oaks so the (remaining) oaks can thrive.”