Landowners get tips on how to improve property

By Sean C. Morgan
Lebanon Local

Area landowners with property in the Santiam River watershed wrapped up a four-week workshop earlier this month that covered an array of opportunities for projects on their lands.
Led by the South Santiam Watershed District, the North Santiam Watershed District and the Linn Soil and Water Conservation District, with representation from multiple agencies and organizations, around 20 property owners from around Linn County attended four weekly sessions at the Lebanon Public Library.
“We work with anybody and everybody,” said Rebecca McCoun, executive director of the North Santiam Watershed Council. Working with government agencies and non-governmental organizations, programs like hers help land owners to leverage resources, grants and expertise.
During the workshop, property owners developed conservation plans unique to their properties, she said, with a focus on natural systems and ecological processes that sustain the resources on those properties, including plants, water and soils.

WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS learn about funding and other opportunities to improve their properties.
Photo by Sean C. Morgan

Throughout the process, each property owner developed visions for his or her properties – what they want it to look like, what they want it to be, she said. They set goals, such as getting rid of invasive species like the blackberry, which creates a mono-culture and makes places hard to access.
The plans balance social, environmental and economic concerns, she said, and then owners prioritize specific actions for their properties. With that, they are able to identify possible funding sources based on what is feasible and practical.
Property owners have a wide variety of actions they can take, she said. They range from culvert replacement projects, something the watershed councils do well, and fire prevention to river bank stabilization, drainage, weed management, habitat restoration and timber health assessments and thinning.
In some cases, properties may be out of compliance with rules set by water and soil conservation districts, much of it related to the Clean Water Act, said Debbie Paul, administrator with the Linn Soil and Water Conservation District. Those rules typically cover water quality.
“It’s a huge asset, and we all like clean drinking water,” Paul said.
The participating agencies can help property owners address possible compliance problems.
The workshop “is a way to get these people information and contacts with various organizations,” said Lee Peterman, a property owner who is president of the Linn County Small Woodlands Association and of the South Santiam Watershed Council. His property, located between Scio and Lacomb, is an example of how they can help.
The property had been logged in 1988, Peterman said. By the time he and his wife bought it, the property had experienced 20 years of “benign neglect.”
During that period, the previous owner had done nothing with the land, Peterman said, which “is great, if it’s all wonderful things you want.”
In this case, the land was covered in invasive species, he said. He and his wife set a primary goal to restore habitat on the land. Since purchasing the property, they have pursued that goal.
They also have a goal to raise timber, Peterman said, but that’s on a rolling “120-year cycle starting in 10 years.”
“We’re here to learn about the resources that are available,” said Pam Hewitt, a property owner in the Pleasant Valley area outside Sweet Home. She attended the workshops with her husband, Bo. “We’ve been wanting to understand how to do stream and restoration projects.”
Their property is a mix of more than 100 acres of forest, agricultural and pasture land.
“It’s balancing the use to optimize our financial benefit, to improve water quality, habitat and soil quality,” she said. “We want to really understand how to do carbon sequestration.”
Specifically, they would like to reduce their carbon footprint and produce their own food, she said. Local food production will be key in the future as the use of fossil fuels is reduced.
The Hewitts are also interested in “silvipasture,” a method of tree planting in a pasture that improves pasture management and quality, she said.
The potential conservation and habitat projects a property may pursue, said Mike Vernon, the education coordinator with the South Santiam Watershed Council, “is really tailored to what their goals are.”
His organization’s purpose is to help them refine their goals and connect them to the resources to accomplish them, Vernon said. The lands are all connected, and improvements offer large-scale benefits for neighbors as well as the land.
This was the second property owner workshop in the South Santiam Watershed, he said. He anticipates that the South Santiam Watershed Council work with the Calapooia Watershed Council on another workshop in the future.
For more information about the South Santiam Watershed Council or how it can help with restoration projects, call (541) 367-5564 or visit sswc.org on the web.
For more information about the Linn Soil and Water Conservation District, call (541) 926-2483 or visit linnswcd.oacd.org.