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ONDA volunteers plant 700 aspens, restoring meadows at Silvies Valley Ranch

































Copyright© 2012 by Robert Speik. All Rights Reserved.


From our Calendar of interesting events:
Friday to Sunday, June 1-3, 2012, ONDA's Volunteer Stream and Meadow Restoration Weekend at Historic Silvies Ranch in Eastern Oregon
We will be planting native aspen trees and shrubs - restoring a meadow at about 5,400 feet among native Ponderosa pines, along the meandering water course of a high tributary source of the Silvies River, on the 140,000 acre/60 square mile Silvies cattle ranch in cooperation with the Owners. The purpose of the work is to enhance the habitat for the restoration of a population of native beaver and to regenerate the historic wetlands meadow. We will base at a modern ranch-family hunting cabin, plant more than 600 five gallon aspens and native shrubs in pre-dug holes and then enjoy camaraderie among twenty ONDA volunteers and six Silvies Ranch folks, have a hosted ranch cookout on Saturday night and tour the state of the art stream restoration and stock management activities on Sunday. Meet in Burns, caravan to the Ranch where the cars will be power washed of noxious weeds. Interested? Call ONDA at 541-330-2638. See our photo essay, to be uploaded a few days after the weekend!

"Nature doesn't observe boundaries. Public resources like fish and wildlife, and clean water, are impacted by activities on public and private lands. Conservation efforts must blur these boundaries as well, in order to truly be able to holistically address the issues that are effecting the health of high desert ecosystems. For these reasons, ONDA must work both on public and private lands. Our new partnership on private lands with the Silvies Ranch north of Burns offers rewards and results with far-reaching consequences.

The 60,000 acre Silvies Ranch has come under new ownership, and the business plan calls for shifting the focus away from cattle grazing, and towards eco-tourism and an eco-resort. The management plan for the watershed includes extensive riparian restoration efforts to reverse the effects of decades of over-grazing and erosion.

ONDA has been invited to help guide some of the restoration efforts and to serve as an impartial monitor to assess the effectiveness of a novel approach to accelerating the process of natural restoration. If the plan works, the impacts could be far reaching.

Riparian systems on the ranch have been denuded of woody vegetation and have eroded themselves deep in the fragile soil. The result is a water table drop that prevents any riparian vegetation from growing in the former floodplain. What before grazing was a wide swath of damp ground full of trees and birds on either side of a clear, occasionally flooding stream, is now left barren, high and dry, right up to the edge of an eroded mini canyon. Sadly, this is a common story throughout the west.

The objective is to stop the stream from eroding deeper, and to raise the water table again to re-connect it with its old flood plain resulting in that broad green corridor of trees, willows and other critical riparian habitat features that have been lost.

ONDA has taken part in many efforts to restore similar ecosystems (Cherry Creek, Robinson Creek) by planting thousands of trees. These trees provide erosion control, and construction materials and food for beaver in future years that can dam the stream and raise water tables. On Bridge Creek we are helping beaver create stronger dams by placing anchor posts in the stream to help keep their dams from washing away until the planted trees grow big enough to serve as anchors.

A problem with these approaches is that it can takes years and years for an ecosystem to visibly improve and change. At Silvies Ranch we will be able jump start the process by creating artificial dams: this will raise the water tables right away, and provide a large floodplain allowing replanting and recovery. The reason we are able to use this technique on these test streams is because they have eroded to the point that the native redband in the watershed are no longer using these streams (and therefore we are not destroying native habitat by creating dams) and the landowner is financing the extremely expensive dam work, and our monitoring of the project's success.

By being a partner in this project we will have access to the streams for accurately monitoring the project's success, and the credibility to teach others, both private and public land managers about the intricacies of the technique to improve their own streams."


More information about Silvies Valley Ranch

The Silvies Valley Ranch is a large working cattle ranch with a rich history in Eastern Oregon dating back more than 120 years. Founded in 1883, the ranch is located along the Silvies River, and extends into both Grant and Harney Counties. It consists of thousands of acres of mountain meadows, pastures and forest, and miles and miles of rivers and streams. Aside from raising grass fed cattle, the ranch is highly focused on reconstruction ecology and has many riparian and wildlife habitat restoration projects in various stages of completion. After much study, Dr. Scott Campbell has pioneered various stream restorative techniques to stabilize and then fully recover streams that have been accidently damaged in the past, in a shorter period of time and more completely than has been done previously on a large scale.

All current and future ranch improvements fully embrace the significant commitments to successful livestock management, ecological enhancement, and conservation of natural resources that are a hallmark of Silvies Valley Ranch’s core philosophy. The ranch’s vision is “A profitable livestock ranching and guest operation with abundant, healthy wildlife that helps set a new standard in best ranching and environmental practices.”

Ranch History
“Silvies” is the result of misspellings of the name of the first French trapper to enter the valley in the early 1830s. According to historical records, he was employed by the Hudson Bay Company which ultimately trapped over 200,000 beaver out of the Silvies Valley! Silvies Valley Ranch was homesteaded and the first water rights patented in 1883. Over the years, hardy pioneers and cowboys worked the meadows, valleys and surrounding mountains –many found the country too rugged and hard and moved on. One who came and stayed was John “Jack” Craddock who bought up many of the smaller places by the late ‘20s when the railroad was put through the valley. He was followed by his son Chet Craddock who put the ranch together much as it is today, according to his family.

Starting in the late 1950s, the ranch passed from the Craddocks and for the next half-century was in the hands of a series of eight different owners who were neither ranchers nor native Oregonians, but instead Californians, insurance companies, a grazing association, an investment broker, and even a restaurateur. These people harvested the timber, crops, livestock and wildlife, and subjected the ranch to many schemes including bankruptcy twice and turning the ranch into exotic wildlife hunting farms, buffalo refuges, dude ranches and even wild horse sanctuaries – but they did little to build or even maintain the ranch as a working cattle ranch with valuable natural environmental assets and wildlife. The streams, river, forest and pastures all slowly degraded.

In 2007, the ranch was purchased by Silvies Valley Ranch, LLC., a private company founded by the Campbells – a family with pioneer roots in Eastern Oregon even older than the ranch. The name of the ranch, which had been changed to “The Ponderosa” in the 60’s, was returned to its historic name of “Silvies Valley Ranch” and a rendition of one of the earliest ranch brands was recorded to help write a new chapter in the ranch’s long history. Keith and Katie Baltzor and Robb Foster joined the ranch as owners in early 2008.

The ranch finalized a Multi-Year Plan to return Silvies Valley Ranch to its former position as one of the leading enterprises in Eastern Oregon. The Plan calls for the development of new modern facilities, homes for ranch associate families, barns for livestock and hay, dozens of miles of new fences, as well as a significant investment in riparian and wildlife habitat restoration.

Today the ranch is made up of 140,000 acres of deeded and leased National Forest and BLM lands in and surrounding Silvies Valley Oregon. Of the over 60 square miles of deeded property, there are 6,000 acres of mountain meadows, 14,000 acres of Ponderosa Pine forest, 20 miles of the Silvies River, over 20 named creeks and drainages, cattle and horses, as well as a rapidly growing population of native wildlife.
-Scott D. Campbell, DVM, President, Silvies Valley Ranch




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