By Ken McCall, OHA Resource Director
Keeping Oregon’s wildlife habitat safe and open to public hunting access was a major objective for OHA at the state and local level in 2018. From the coast to the canyonlands, OHA was active in improving habitat and advocating for access.
OHA State Grants, Chapters Support Wildlife Projects
OHA’s state board approved three grants for partnership projects in early 2018. Projects include more safe wildlife passage on Highway 97 south of Bend, early seral habitat improvements on the central coast and winter range forage improvement in the Rogue Valley.
In 2019, a new wildlife underpass near Gilchrist will improve safety on Highway 97 and support safe passage of deer and elk between winter and summer range. The existing Lava Butte underpass recorded an 80-percent reduction in wildlife/vehicle crashes, saving human lives and wildlife. OHA’s state board funded support of Protect Animal Migration (PAM), for wildlife passage educational outreach, and OHA chapters collectively pledged $90,000 at the OHA Chapter Leadership Summit in August. The OHA Bend Chapter has been regularly repairing the fences that funnel wildlife through the existing safe passage near Sunriver.
The Dog Creek grant supports deer and elk winter range near Butte Falls. This grant expands existing winter big game forage projects onto BLM lands. The Dog Creek project mirrors the board approved 2017 Bowen Willow grant on nearby USFS lands. Other partners interested in future expansion of forage improvements and forest fuel load reduction treatments are the City of Medford municipal watershed and Hancock Forest Management. OHA’s Rogue Valley and Josephine County chapters are involved partners.
The third grant will improve early seral forage on Hancock Forest Management lands along the central coast. Clearing and seeding existing meadows, as well as seeking areas for small satellite meadows along powerline corridors and closed temporary roads in young conifer plantations are planned.
Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Approves Western Oregon Access Projects
Two key western Oregon timberland areas had access approved by the ODFW Commission in 2018. The January approval of Hancock Forest Management’s three-year central Oregon Coast access project marked a different approach to timberland access by allowing limited vehicle access during low fire precaution levels and walk in access when fire restrictions became high. Western Oregon’s fire precautions did not reach the level IV extreme which would have closed all public access. Access includes Hancock managed lands located mostly within the Stott Mountain-Alsea and Trask Travel Management Areas. Bowhunters and early season rifle hunters enjoyed late summer access options not available prior to the adoption of Hancock’s proposal. This access area is within a two-hour drive of over 40 percent of Oregon’s population.
In March, the Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the Coos Mountain Travel Management Area Access project. The Coos Mountain project lies south of the Elliott State Forest and north of the Coquille River, increasing public open access productive coastal elk hunting in the Tioga Wildlife Management Unit. Together over 255,000 acres of private lands have increased access and thousands of additional public land blocks under BLM management were reconnected on logging access roads across the checkerboard ownership common in western Oregon.
Maintaining Traditional Hunter Access: A long Term Effort
OHA’s efforts helped reshape Portland Metro’s blanket no-hunting policy to allow hunting as a wildlife management tool was step forward in our efforts to maintain hunting access.
The trend of buying significant land parcels once open to hunting and adding the parcels to “reserves,” often prohibiting hunting, continues with Oregon’s population growth. A current effort to purchase and then add 5,000 acres of former timber company lands to no-hunting policies in the Arch Cape area is one example. OHA chapters on the north coast are working to maintain hunting on these and other lands in the area.
Meanwhile, our efforts to preserve hunter access and keep the Elliott State Forest in public hands continue. OHA is actively involved as Oregon’s State Land Board seeks ways to decouple the Elliott lands from the Oregon Common School Fund requirements, create a viable habitat conservation plan and find a management option for the forest.
OHA partners with ODFW in Learn to Hunt workshops
OHA started partnering with ODFW this year to offer beginner-level adults ages 22 to 44 the knowledge and skills to hunt big game. The partnership includes training OHA volunteers to assist with four Learn to Hunt workshops: Rifle Skills & Knowledge, Archery Skills & Knowledge, Hunting Techniques & Scouting, and Field Dressing & Butchering.
Participants can find workshops at Myodfw.com.
Baskett Slough 2018 Youth Hunt Became a Reality
OHA Chapters local to Baskett Slough NWR west of Salem volunteered to paint and dress hunting blinds for the September 2018 youth hunt at Baskett Slough. This youth hunt was a first at Baskett Slough and involved OHA efforts in 2017 and 2018 to become a reality. The successful hunt was limited in size to keep the experience positive and safe by dispersing the youth hunters across the refuge. Creating these hunt opportunities is critical to engaging young hunters and their families in the hunting traditions.