As much a part of our landscape as Mt. Bachelor or the Deschutes River, the wildlife who live here are critical to our sense of place. Central Oregon's rapidly expanding population, recreation activity, and development footprint is putting wildlife such as deer and elk under pressure. We work to protect wildlife habitat by stopping the fragmentation of migration corridors, watching the cumulative impacts of development, and protecting natural areas.
Caldera Springs Expansion: Hazardous to Wildlife
Central Oregon’s unparalleled natural beauty and iconic wildlife are once again in the crosshairs of developers. LandWatch has appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals a permit application for Caldera Springs destination resort to more than double the number of residential lots at the resort, destroying the last remnants of a wildlife corridor that was previously protected as Forest Service land.
This would add nearly 500 new lodging units in what is essentially a new subdivision, which does not comply with Oregon’s destination resort zoning. It would destroy a critical area that native mule deer need for their yearly migration between winter and summer range habitats. If this expansion is allowed to take place, the corridor will be substantially reduced and compressed to a strip between Highway 97 to the east and the destination resort to the west.
The Sunriver area is a key corridor for deer, which have an amazing ability to retrace their steps year after year and often follow the same migration route. The current scale of development has already diminished much of the available habitat for wildlife, and increased traffic associated with growth is an additional hazard.
These animals are as much a part of Central Oregon as Mt. Bachelor and the Deschutes River, and are critical to our sense of place. Please join LandWatch in opposing this destructive maneuver that will forever change our landscape.
Upper Tumalo Reservoir: The Gateway to the Skyline Forest
The Tumalo Natural Area is a beautiful natural area west of the rural community of Tumalo. Here, the sagebrush and juniper spotted high desert landscape gives way to the green foothills of the Cascades.
As the Gateway to the Skyline Forest, it is a critical connection for the Tumalo Deer Winter Range and contains important habitat for elk, mule deer and other wildlife. Neighbors and visitors enjoy recreational activities such as horse riding, bird watching, and hiking in this area.
In 1988, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) entrusted the Tumalo Irrigation District (TID) with the care of a 930-acre parcel of land known as Bull Flat adjacent to the Upper Tumalo Reservoir. TID received this deed under the condition that the land would remain protected wildlife habitat.
In recent years, TID has neglected its responsibilities toward managing Bull Flat. In fact, it has actively damaged the area by illegally surface mining, including driving hundreds of trucks through the area during the deer winter closure, even after three code violation complaints. It allows year- round motorized vehicle access and has no management plan for the winter feeding area or for the population of threatened Peck’s Milkvetch.
In 1988, ODFW had the foresight to protect this important public resource as a connected and complete natural area. Central Oregon LandWatch believes it should remain protected in this way and we have joined with the Friends of the Tumalo Wildlife Corridor to ask Governor Kate Brown to return the land owned by TID in Bull Flat to its rightful protected status.
The Future of the Ochoco mountains
Central Oregon LandWatch is challenging a Forest Service decision to carve up the Ochoco National Forest by creating a 137-miles off-road vehicle (ORV) route system. The Forest Service’s final decision on this project was released at the end of June, 2017 and has changed little from earlier drafts despite broad and consistent opposition from a wide variety of groups including hunters, recreationists, and biologists.
The proposed Ochoco Summit Trail System Project would cut through the heart of the Ochoco National Forest, which is east of Prineville and provides habitat for many species, including elk and redband trout. This stunning pine forest also provides for recreational activities like hunting, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, photography, and many more outdoor adventures that visitors and residents enjoy. The most recent data collected by the Forest Service shows that only 3.4% of visitors used an ORV for recreation, yet the proposed ORV routes will cost at least half a million dollars and cause significant disturbance to all other recreation types.
Beyond impacts to other forest visitors, the proposed ORV route system would damage riparian areas, spread invasive species, and cause stress to vulnerable wildlife. The Ochoco National Forest has already seen some of this damage from illegal user-created ORV trails. Because of the large area the ORVs would impact, there is concern that the trail system could push even more elk out of public lands.
Central Oregon LandWatch’s legal challenge to this proposal relies on expert reports and reflects the expertise of its team that includes a retired ODFW Basin Manager, hydrologists, wildlife biologists, and attorneys from the Crag Law Center. This is the next step in our commitment to defending the Ochoco National Forest for future hunters, hikers, and herds of elk.