Draft plan for Ladd Marsh includes habitat enhancement
Kevin Costner visited Union County in the summer of 1990, but it is not known if the popular actor stopped at the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area.
Still, a line from Costner’s 1989 hit movie, “Field of Dreams,” is being used informally by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to describe its draft plan for the Ladd Marsh’s next 10 years — “Build it and they will come.’’
The ODFW plan calls for the maintenance and enhancement of the marsh’s diversified wildlife habitat. This will attract even more wildlife to the marsh.
The new plan represents a different approach than the previous 10-year blueprint, which described how much wildlife the ODFW wanted to attract to Ladd Marsh, said biologist Cathy Nowak.
Nowak, who works at Ladd Marsh for the ODFW, is among those who spoke at a presentation of the draft plan Tuesday at the Blue Mountain Conference Center. Input on the draft plan was taken and will be accepted through March 14. The Oregon Fish and Game Commission will vote on whether to approve the plan’s goals and objectives at the commission’s April 18 meeting in Salem.
Some of the plan’s many habitat objectives include:
• Managing 1,811 acres of semi-permanent wetlands so that it maintains a 1-to-1 ratio of vegetation to open water.
• Managing 658 acres of seasonally flooded wetlands.
• Enhance and manage about 760 acres of mixed conifer habitat to benefit native wildlife and game species.
Nowak noted that if the habitat now in place is not maintained at its present diversity level, it would all reach a similar state of over-maturity, one which would not benefit wildlife. The marsh’s wetlands might become nothing more than large fields of cattails.
“It would all eventually look the same,’’ Nowak said.
The biologist noted that many years ago nature kept the marsh’s habitat diverse and from reaching the same state of maturity through catastrophic events such as fires and floods.
Having a mix of habitat present is important because some species need it to thrive. The approximately 700 Rocky Mountain elk at Ladd Marsh in the fall and winter are an example. The elk stay in a conifer forest on the portion of Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area above Foothill Road in the daytime for protection. At night the elk move down and feed on Ladd Marsh’s wetlands.
The Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area has grown substantially since it was created in 1949 with the purchase of 120 acres of land. Twenty-eight land purchases and acquisitions since then have expanded the area to its present size of 6,018 acres.
Dave Larson, manager of Ladd Marsh, was asked Wednesday if the ODFW will be expanding the wildlife area.
Larson said this is a possibility but only if the ODFW is approached by landowners offering to sell their property.
“All of our acquisitions are from people who approach us. We only buy from willing sellers,’’ Larson said.
Several people urged the ODFW to be aggressive in obtaining new property for the wildlife area. They noted that farm land adjacent to it is becoming so valuable that real estate developers may soon buy it if the ODFW does not.
The continuing drought Northeast Oregon is experiencing was another issue addressed Tuesday. A number of Ladd Marsh’s wetlands and creeks have dried up by the end of summer in recent years. Some of these wetlands had previously not gone dry for at least two decades, Larson said.
Larson, manager of the wildlife area for about 13 years, was also asked if wells may be drilled there to increase the availability of water on the marsh. He said this is doubtful since the ODFW is leery of drilling wells because doing so can damage an area’s aquifers. Nowak noted that wells also are expensive to maintain. Still, she said that the suggestions that wells be drilled is one of the public comments that will be forwarded to the commission.
Ladd Marsh has been upgraded significantly since the commission last approved a plan for its management more than a decade ago. Since the late 1990s about 2,500 acres of wetlands have been restored. Much of this was done through the Tule Lake Restoration Project. That project restored a portion of an area known as Tule Lake before it was drained in the late 1800s.
Much of the wetlands restoration work was accomplished with help from the Oregon Department of Transportation, the City of La Grade, Ducks Unlimited and many other agencies and organizations.
The wetlands restoration work resulted in the ODFW creating the 400-acre Tule Lake Nature Area that opened in 2005. The nature area is designed for extensive wildlife viewing. Its centerpieces are a one-mile trail that circles a wetland and a one mile-auto tour route on an improved gravel road.
The Tule Lake Nature Area is one reason why people spend about 11,000 visitor-days a year viewing wildlife at Ladd Marsh, according to the draft plan.
In addition to information about wildlife viewing, the plan also contains an extensive list of animal and plant species at the marsh, information on all recreational opportunities and a detailed historical outline. The plan lists, for example, each of the land acquisitions that allowed the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area to reach its present size.
Copies of the draft plan are available at the ODFW’s La Grande office, 107 20th St. People can also read the plan at the ODFW’s website: www.state.or.us .