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Protection a must for native species
WALLOWA — Along a river bank where the Wallowa band of the Nez Perce Tribe once camped and fished for salmon, the Wallowa Land Trust diligently works to protect its habitat.
On a drizzly June morning, volunteers gathered to fence young willows along the shore where the Wallowa and Lostine rivers join. The idea is the young willows have established themselves but need protection from browsing deer to flourish.
“We believe in protecting the best and restoring the rest. Why would you plant something if you already have that species present? We are just giving them a little boost,” Trust Conservation Director Julia Lakes said.
She said willow can obviously survive in such a habitat because they have the genetics to do so, but by protecting them it enhances the river’s habitat.
Along with willows, other native stream-bank species, like cottonwoods and aspen, are also susceptible to deer browse. The region’s increasing white tail deer population prevent them from growing with their taste of young shoots, said Lakes.
The Trust got some help for the project from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish program. Biologist John Stephenson provided technical expertise and the program funds projects like riparian fencing.
“If we cage those trees, we can give them a couple years to grow without that browse pressure. It gives direct habitat benefits to different bird species that use them for nesting and improves fish habitat by providing shade to cool the river and stabilizes the banks,” said Lakes.
The fencing is low impact to the land and is not supposed to be permanent. Lakes said when the trees grow bigger, the fencing will be removed.
For the full story, see Friday's issue of The Observer