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More than a flower

The camas colors both hillsides and history

April 30 2014

This time of year in the Willamette Valley, we can witness the deep blue blossoms of the lily known in the Native American language Chinuk Wawa as “lakamas,” to scientists as Camassia quamash, and by its English common name, camas (1).

Camas flowers are strikingly beautiful, either alone or in large fields where the mass of blue is sometimes mistaken for an azure lake. 

But what makes camas one of our most culturally important plants is the nutritious bulb, which has provided sustenance and wealth to the Native people of this region for tens of thousands of years.

Camas thrives in areas of full sunlight such as prairies or savannas, especially after disturbance. In Native tradition that disturbance takes the form of two main practices: burning and hand digging.

Burning purifies the soil, releases nutrients and controls competing (often invasive) vegetation; traditional digging sticks gently till and aerate the soil, and small bulblets are replanted during this practice. 

In many areas, camas has been an extremely important staple food for Native peoples. The main source of its high nutrient value is a sugar called inulin, which is neither very digestible nor palatable in its natural state.

When slow-cooked, however, inulin breaks down into its component sugars, giving cooked camas a flavor some say is reminiscent of a baked pear.

Native people traditionally cooked camas in large earth ovens or pits. Fire-heated rocks were placed in the oven and then lined with leaves of skunk cabbage, maple or ash. The raw camas bulbs were placed on the leaves, then covered with another layer of leaves and then earth. Upon retrieval from the oven one to three days later, the camas could be eaten immediately, dried for later use, or pressed into cakes.

These cakes were highly valued as a portable food that could be easily stored for the winter or carried while traveling; they were traded extensively by bands of the Chinook, Kalapuya and Molalla tribes, and other people throughout the Northwest.

Camas is still eaten by Tribal people today. While the species itself is not considered endangered, many of its native habitats are indeed imperiled, mainly due to development and invasive species.

In the highly industrialized Portland Harbor, the Trustee Council is planning restoration projects to bring camas and other culturally significant plants back into the landscape. 

You can help native habitats by getting involved with the organizations (many are Intertwine partners) that protect and restore them. And you can experience camas visually by getting out to one of our region’s natural areas and looking for that telltale indigo-colored bloom.

(1) There are many species of plants known by the common name “camas” or some variant that are native to the Willamette Valley, including the deadly poisonous white-flowered “death camas” (Zygadenus venenosus), but this post focuses on the “common camas,” also known as “early camas” among other common names.

  • Archuleta, Greg. “Camas,” unpublished article. Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, 2008.
  • Pojar, Jim, and MacKinnon, Andy. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, pp. 108-109. Lone Pine Publishing, 2004.
  • Thorsgard, Eirik, Harrelson, David, et al. “Public Plant List for Tualatin Area,” Tribal document for distribution. Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Cultural Protection Program, 2011.


Michael Karnosh is the Ceded Lands Program Manager for the Confederated Tribes of Grand RondeThe Tribe is a member of the Portland Harbor Natural Resources Trustee Council, and Michael is the Tribe’s representative on the Trustee Council.

Why did the turtle cross the road?

ODFW's new Turtle Guide has the answer!

July 8 2015

And what should I do with the turtle now that I’ve picked it up and brought it home? 

I’m so glad you called!  

How can I create habitat for native turtles? I know Oregon’s turtles are in trouble, and I want to help them. 

Thank you for asking!  

I have turtles on my project site. How can I plan and implement the project without harming them?  

I wish more people asked this question!  

These are just a few of the turtle-related questions I respond to as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s conservation biologist for the west side of the state. My charge is non-game wildlife, meaning species that cannot be hunted or harvested. That’s a lot of species! Eighty-eight percent of them, to be exact.  

I get asked a lot of wildlife questions, and sometimes people — usually students, when I come to their classrooms to talk about bats, frogs and other wild critters — ask, “What is your favorite species?” A challenging question for a wildlife biologist, but it doesn’t take long to mentally form my Top 10 List. Making the cut are Oregon’s two native turtle species, the western pond turtle and the western painted turtle.  

Western pond and western painted turtles are amazing creatures! They spend several months during the winter at the bottom of wetlands, ponds and other water bodies, not eating or even coming up for air. Some turtles spend a lot of time on land, too – up to 10 months! – not eating, as they need to be in water to swallow food.

They are long-lived, social and curious creatures with strong navigational instincts. When hatchling turtles emerge from their nest chambers in the ground (usually about 6 to 8 inches down), they somehow key into the nearest water source and start their journey of survival. I say nearby, but some female turtles nest over 1,000 feet away from their aquatic habitats. Although turtles do use rivers, sloughs and other waterways to move and disperse, western pond and painted turtles are quite capable of, and do make, long overland treks.

In addition to some pretty fascinating behaviors and habits, our native turtles are also quite beautiful. The pond turtle is olive brown and more uniform in color, while the western painted turtle has bright yellow, orange or red lines on its head, neck and legs. The bottom shell (a.k.a. plastron) of the western painted turtle is spectacular with its unique red-and-black pattern. The western pond turtle has a creamy yellow plastron, often with dark staining. 

Both turtle species have experienced significant population declines, and continue to be highly vulnerable to habitat loss and other anthropogenic (human-caused) impacts. As such, they are classified as “Critical” on Oregon’s Sensitive Species List, are “protected non-game wildlife” (OAR 635-044) and cannot be killed, and are priority species in the Oregon Conservation Strategy.  

Here in The Intertwine, Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area and the Columbia slough are significant habitats for western painted turtles, with some of the region’s largest known populations. As for western pond turtles, it unfortunately appears that hardly any remain in the Portland area, though some are still hanging on in the Tualatin River basin of Washington County, and a few others have been reported in Clackamas County. You can help by reporting all turtle sightings — especially of western pond turtles, which are under endangered-species status review by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service — to

Population trends and large-scale abundance patterns of western pond and western painted turtles are difficult to measure, but declines in both species are believed to be significant given measurable losses in habitat availability (quantity) and habitat function (quality). Habitat loss is due largely due to the conversion of land for human uses, such as urbanization and agriculture. Habitat degradation is due in part to non-native invasive species, such as reed canary grass

Changes to habitat have occurred throughout Oregon and within the ranges of both turtle species, but are particularly striking in the Willamette Valley. Actions that involve ground disturbance, changes in water level, planting of vegetation, and use of heavy equipment are just a few activities known to negatively affect turtles. Albeit unintentional, these activities can make habitat less suitable for turtles, and even result in direct injury and mortality to turtles present at a project site.

To address a growing demand for proven turtle-helping techniques, ODFW, with input from key turtle conservation partners (collectively known as the Oregon Native Turtle Working Group), recently produced “Guidance for Conserving Oregon’s Native Turtles Including Best Management Practices.” Also referred to as the Turtle BMPs, the document is a compilation of peer-reviewed recommended best methods for creating suitable turtle habitat and for avoiding and minimizing harmful impacts to turtles and their habitats during project implementation, whether it’s culvert replacement, trail construction, dredging, or riparian restoration.  

The document also includes an overview of turtle ecology, describes Oregon’s most common non-native invasive turtle species (the red-eared slider and the common snapping turtle), and methods for determining if turtles are present at a particular location or project site. Recommended turtle-habitat assessment tools, survey protocols and data forms are provided, as are recommended plant lists for turtle aquatic and upland habitats. 

The guide includes information on various turtle-related topics (e.g., beavers and turtles, page 64, and chemical contaminants and turtles, page 65), photos of suitable turtle habitat, and sidebars with pithy but succinct answers to common turtle-related questions: “What is aestivation?” (page 16) and “What do turtles eat?” (page 30).  

Which brings me back to the turtle found crossing a road. For a more complete answer see page 63, but in a nutshell, turtles may need to cross roads to get where they want to go. Suitable upland habitats are often disconnected from aquatic habitats by roads, railways, trails or a combination of the three. 

While turtles can and do cross roads successfully, roads also kill turtles. How many, we do not know. Regardless, the majority of turtles found crossing roads or hit by a moving vehicle are adult females — big girls on a mission to lay their eggs or on their way back to the water after egg-laying. The loss of a sexually mature female turtle is considered a significant loss to an overall turtle population. 

So, as long as it is safe for you to do so, it is reasonable to help a native turtle cross a road by moving it a short distance off the road/shoulder area. The key is to keep the turtle pointed in the same direction it was headed. And do not bring the turtle home!  

Everyone can play a role in helping to protect and conserve Oregon’s native turtles. Download your free copy of the Turtle BMPs here

Susan Barnes is the conservation biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s West Region. Her focus is conservation of non-game wildlife and their habitats, including those highlighted in the Oregon Conservation Strategy.  Her work includes habitat assessment, impact analysis and mitigation planning, and wildlife policy. She never bores of the sometimes bizarre wildlife-related questions she gets from the public!  

Hey, there's an oak tree!

Mapping an imperiled Oregon species

June 3 2015

If you have Oregon white oak trees in your yard, you know they are the last trees to get their spring leaves and the last to lose them in the fall. They make a mess after you’ve raked everything else up, and drop noisy acorns (often squirrel-assisted) on your roof. They sprinkle your yard with mossy little twigs. So why do you keep them?

That’s easy. They are simply gorgeous. Just looking at a big, old mushroom-shaped oak makes me feel happy and kind of puts me in my place in the universe. They are also awesome to sit under, swing from and climb.

Here are some things you may not know about our native Oregon white oak. Its range is limited (see map), and it often co-occurs with native prairie habitat. Native Americans have profound cultural ties to these habitats, and historically have managed them by setting fires to burn away encroaching Douglas-fir and other trees that grow faster and eventually shade out the oak trees. Turns out oak trees are conveniently fire-resistant. 

More than 95 percent of our oak-prairie habitats have disappeared from the Willamette Valley, mostly due to farming, urbanization and fire suppression. Nearly 400 plant species live pretty much only in these habitats, and wildlife species like white-breasted nuthatches and Western gray squirrels have declined in tandem with habitat loss. 

Alas, we don’t have a good handle on where to find the remaining habitat. In fact, creating an oak map is one of the highest priorities identified in the Portland-Vancouver Regional Conservation Strategy. We need to identify the most important remnants to protect, restore and acquire from willing sellers, in order to create a system of key habitat areas connected by biodiversity corridors.

That’s all kind of depressing. What can we do about it? Here's  where The Intertwine Alliance’s Oak Prairie Work Group (OPWG) comes in. Twenty-seven partner organizations are working together to produce a high-quality Oregon white oak map for the Portland region. OakQuest is funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Oregon Wildlife Heritage Program, Oregon Department of Forestry/U.S. Forest Service and Metro. The Urban Greenspaces Institute serves as fiscal sponsor on several of these grants.

Although funding is critical, we couldn't have made much progress without a major volunteer effort. Last year the OPWG partnered with Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) to hire two college-age Native Americans to help lead a major citizen science project. Savahna Jackson and Sequoia Breck helped lead nearly 100 volunteer scientists to find oak trees on the ground, in order to support a computer-based oak distribution model. After that, 15 biologists went out to find non-oak trees to help figure out what species are confusing the model. 

Now we are using the information from last year’s field work to refine the oak model. We plan to send out another cadre of OakQuest volunteers this summer, this time with three team leaders hosted by Portland State’s Indigenous Nations Studies program. The team leaders will receive four college credits and, in addition to helping lead the project, they’ll spend numerous days with our partners learning about conservation work and building a professional network. 

We'll need your help to re-create a functional system of oak-prairie habitat. Because most of the habitat is gone, every single oak tree really matters, so please consider keeping what you have and even planting new oak trees. The OPWG is initiating a series of “oak-scaping” workshops to help urban and suburban landowners enhance their existing or create new oak-prairie habitat. We’d like to tie in with Audubon Society of Portland/Columbia Land Trust’s Backyard Habitat Certification program. And we will need more citizen scientists for this year’s work.

Please consider talking to your friends and neighbors about why oak-prairie habitat matters, so that, together, we can create passionate stewards of these unique and culturally important habitats. I hope all of my future relatives will get to enjoy a picnic lunch under a majestic oak tree.

We expect to finish up the oak map by the end of this year, and we’ll make it freely available to everyone. An oak page on The Intertwine Alliance web site is under development and will tell you about volunteer opportunities, give progress reports and provide links to the final oak map and data. 

Lori Hennings is a senior natural resource scientist at Metro, the regional government in Portland. She holds a master's degree in wildlife science from Oregon State University. Her work includes conducting bird surveys and working on larger-scale issues including wildlife corridors, oak conservation and regional water quality. Lori loves her job and wishes she could get out in the field more.


The little park that could

Oak woodland alive and well in St. Helens

March 18 2015

Nob Hill Nature Park is a 6.6-acre oak woodland overlooking the Columbia River and the northern tip of Sauvie Island. Before getting park status from the City of St. Helens, Oregon, in 2008, the land stood neglected and nearly forgotten. It was badly infested with invasive plants. A dead zone full of ivy, holly and blackberry made much of the land impenetrable. 

Starting in 2004 with a SOLVE cleanup, followed by a SOLVE ivy pull to remove vines from trees, a small group of neighbors helped the park's natural environment start to recover. After seeing the seriousness of volunteers, the city granted official park status, and the Friends of Nob Hill have been active stewards there ever since.

The park has become a popular place for local residents to enjoy a walk in the woods, and it's a protected place for a bit of Oregon's endangered, diminishing oak habitat.

The Friends group holds semiannual volunteer work parties with the Scappoose Bay Watershed Council to remove English ivy, holly and other invasive plants, including lunaria (sometimes called money plant). The next one is coming up on Saturday, April 4. You can also check things out on a March 21 field trip

The watershed council generously provides tools and native plants for each work party. Thanks to them, the park received two years of treatment for blackberries, which opened up large new areas. We've replanted there with native plants including willow, spirea, red twig dogwood, vine maple, madrone, cascara, elderberry, yarrow, checkermallow and wild roses. In summer, we water new plantings from a tap provided by the city.  

Other native plants that are easy to find at the park include trillium, viburnum ellipticum, Indian plum, oceanspray, Pacific ninebark, mahonia and chokecherry. With all those berries, it's a good place for bird watching. Flocks of cedar waxwings can be seen on serviceberry in spring, and fish-eating osprey from the nearby river can often be heard calling while flying overhead.

Still, non-native and invasive plants threaten the park's ecological health by crowding out all others. One particular area that we call “invasive gulch” has a sad history of yard debris dumping. The area is troubled by the spread of arum, Spanish bluebells, grape hyacinth, cyclamen, lunaria and rocket – all hardy and hard to eradicate. These plants may be great in yards and gardens, but they do not belong in our nature park. They love growing in the gorgeous, rich soil created from decades of composted oak leaves. Ongoing removal by hand-pulling is slow, and help is always welcome.

The smothering ivy, for the most part, has been removed from native white oak trees. Future work parties will continue to remove blackberry, as well as pulling more ivy off the ground. Long-range plans could involve work on invasive orchard grass that is spreading rapidly in camas bed areas.

The city's parks department has provided us with several loads of gravel to help stabilize Nob HIll's trail in muddy areas. Two wooden footbridges now take walkers over points where running water crosses the trail in the wet season.

The hard work is a long way from done, but clearly the park is in much better ecological shape than it has been for years. Native plants are rebounding. Where else can you see such a profusion of fawn lilies in March or fernleaf biscuitroot in May? With mature oak trees and associated understory, it’s possible to catch a glimpse of what natural life was like here long ago, as well as an excellent view of the river.

Check out a short video about the park, part of the “We Are St. Helens” series. And come visit us soon!

Caroline Skinner is cofounder and steward of Nob Hill Nature Park, along with her partner Howard Blumenthal. She is also an active member of Friends of Baltimore Woods in the St. Johns neighborhood of Portland, and is coordinator of the group’s quarterly e-newsletter. Active in environmental justice and outdoor restoration projects, she has called Oregon home since 1978 and currently lives in North Portland.

Follow the birds to Jackson Bottom

Head west from Portland for one wild and wonderful watershed

November 5 2014

Drive west from Portland on Highway 26, and you cross over a local mountain range that most people have never heard of: the Tualatin Mountains. You may be surprised to learn that your westbound journey is also taking you into the Tualatin River Valley watershed. “What?” you say. “I thought I was in Beaverton, headed for Hillsboro.”

The Tualatin River watershed practically defines Washington County’s 700 square miles. To most drivers on Highway 26, the Tualatin River itself goes undetected, if not all together unsuspected. But observant and inquiring minds might notice the horizon and wonder, “What happens to rain falling on the Coast Range, the Chehalem and Parrett ridges, and the Tualatin Mountains?” From there it doesn’t take much to imagine that there might be interesting sights to see and stories to learn about this watershed.

For most of its 83 miles, the Tualatin is a lazy, looping river that drops just over 200 feet in elevation between Forest Grove and its terminus at the Willamette River.

This shallow gradient creates a wide floodplain that has attracted humans and wildlife since the last Ice Age flood inundated the valley. Over half a million people now call the Tualatin Valley home. It is forested and farmed, homesteaded and housing developed, citified and industrialized. Yet, if you know where to look, you can still find a sense of place that might have been experienced by the native Atfalati, the area’s first residents. And, it may well be the birds that help you find it.

Strung along the course of the river like beckoning jewels are three Important Bird Areas that provide critical habitat to wintering waterfowl. Finding them is easy enough if you are a migratory waterfowl, but if you are a driver or biker you’d do well to follow highways 99W, 219 or 47 south until crossing the Tualatin. There you’ll find the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (on 99W in Sherwood), Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve (on 219 in Hillsboro), and Fernhill Wetlands (on 47 in Forest Grove).

Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve is owned and managed by the City of Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department. Its 635 acres are part of almost 3,000 acres of undeveloped riparian, wetland and agricultural habitat along the river. During the dry season you can explore the four miles of walking trails from dawn to dusk; the river overflows in winter and floods much of the preserve. All year round, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., volunteers welcome you to the education building with a nature store, classroom, office space, pollinator garden, demonstration garden and natural history displays — including an actual bald eagle nest.

If it's been a number of years since your last visit, you will be surprised by all the habitat changes. Several hundred acres of reed canary grass have been restored to willow, Wapato, rushes, sedges and other native plants. Restoration is ongoing, with opportunities to participate in plantings several times a year. 

Educational programming serves over 5,000 visiting school children, and another 1,000 are reached by traveling programs. Community and adult education programming is increasing with the recent addition of a Nature Program Supervisor to the Jackson Bottom staff. 

Keep in touch with upcoming programming by checking the Intertwine calendar of events, the City of Hillsboro Parks & Recreation calendar, or, better yet, by coming out for a visit to the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve.


Steve Engel is the Nature Program Supervisor at the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, a facility of the City of Hillsboro Parks & Recreation department. He is a naturalist, educator, songwriter, animal tracker, field biologist kind of guy who enjoys helping people learn about the natural world.

Just under the surface

Metro wildlife volunteers help monitor a sensitive native amphibian

October 15 2014

Metro wildlife monitoring volunteers are amazing people.

Willingly, and often with big smiles, these dedicated folks suit up in chest waders and step into chilly February ponds in search of jelly-like amphibian egg masses.

They use bamboo poles to mark egg masses, carry white spatulas to better spot the masses and – often at the same time – manage kayaking equipment.

They search in particular for the egg masses of Northern red-legged frogs, which are listed as sensitive species whose numbers are in decline. The monitors also track Northwestern salamanders, long-toed salamanders and Pacific chorus frog – and invasive American bullfrogs. By tracking the numbers and locations of these key amphibian species, scientists can gauge the effectiveness of ongoing restoration projects.

In the past decade, Metro has initiated several restoration projects in floodplains, including one at Multnomah Channel Marsh near Forest Park.

An amphibian monitoring program began at the site in 2002. At the time, the historic wetland had been cleared, graded and planned for development, leaving only two small beaver ponds as crucial habitat for red-legged frogs and other amphibians to breed.

Scientists restored the natural flooding on the site. Wetland habitat increased from about four acres to well over 100 acres, creating large areas of new habitat for pond-breeding amphibians and other native wildlife.

Over the past decade, red-legged frogs and other amphibians expanded into most of the new wetlands and now breed at many locations. One year we counted over 370 frog egg masses. Since each egg mass can hold as many as 850 eggs, that’s a lot of frogs! Of course, not all of the eggs develop into adult frogs (native predators need food, too).

An interesting benefit came from our frog study there. Northern red-legged frog tadpoles go through metamorphosis as late as June, meaning they need water relatively late in the season to survive. By managing the wetlands to hold more water for longer, we found that this did wonders to eliminate invasive reed canary grass. Now we see far more native rushes and sedges, which makes everybody happy (well, perhaps not the invasive grasses).

Over the past 12 years, we have monitored over 27 natural areas for amphibians – all sites that were either undergoing or about to undergo restoration. These natural areas are often located next to corporate parks, industrial areas and residential neighborhoods. 

It has always been magical for me to see our volunteers “suit up” in the corporate parking lots next door, donning chest waders and heading off into the woods with paddles under one arm and large bamboo poles in the other.

It’s a wonderful sight and affirms, once again, just how amazing our volunteers are: heroes who help us to better love and protect The Intertwine's interconnected pockets of urban wilderness, each bursting with life if you look just under the surface!

Katy Weil has worked in wildlife conservation for 32 years. She currently works at Metro in the Natural Areas Program, which focuses upon the restoration of wetlands, uplands and river habitats. Katy has a background in wildlife biology, particularly wildlife field study. Her background as a Pacific Northwest flight instructor allows her a bird’s eye view of the region’s greenspaces. In her spare time, Katy is a happy bird geek, and very thankful that her 8-year-old son shares her love of birds and natural places.

Quilting with Overlook Bluff

An urban patch of white oak habitat needs stitching

July 23 2014

This spring, I followed a pair of red-tailed hawks, courting in the updrafts, and found their nesting site perched in a narrow ribbon of oak habitat between the noise of industry and traffic.

Early on, the incubating female discouraged my loitering with sharp calls to her mate in a nearby tree. Both would take flight and hover menacingly if I was too close. In late spring, just before the trees leafed out, the mother spent more time on the edge of her nest than within it. I finally spotted a fluff of white, and the calls turned around that of a hungry little voice. Just before the nest emptied, I accounted for a healthy family of three as the youngest strengthened its wings in practice flights.

Certain things choose us more than we choose them. That is how it has worked with Friends of Overlook Bluff, stewards of this fringe of oak and madrone trees that hems the east side of the Willamette as the river’s north reach winds toward its confluence with the Columbia. This route is a gift for walkers, bikers and runners who call North Portland home. It is the only potential sliver of continuous woodlands on the east side left to reclaim, and its ecological significance is irreplaceable. 

Historically, white oak savannahs provided hunting and camping grounds along the river. Settlers found these paths useful as trade routes. Trade made way to travel, and the path widened into its familiar incarnation: Interstate-5. Riparian corridors like these are vital to the food chain of over 200 birds and animals. As a migratory route, oak savannahs have traditionally run from Canada to California.

The corridor of urban wilderness to which Overlook Bluff belongs mesmerizes year-round. The deep blue greens of oak leaves in summer, the gray brown gnarl of their trunks and branches in winter. Blown and drenched free of leaves in the fall, rust-color madrone bark reveals itself amidst the oaks. In early spring mornings the darkness lifts, the rains hold off, and nature wakes up.

We wake up more each year to the significance of our surroundings, and how we might care for it. There is much to steward; Friends of Overlook Bluff inherited a legacy to protect. A Heritage Oregon white oak tree believed to be 150 years old stands alone on an open meadow overlooking the train yards, river, downtown and Forest Park. 

The Friends implement hand-managed oak meadowscaping, native plantings, invasive species removal, and work to raise community awareness of local ecology with speaking events and native plant sales. With our selection for a 2014 Metro Nature in Neighborhoods capital land grant, we are focusing on fundraising and building partnerships to acquire the property before it is sold for development.*

For now, if you’re afoot at Overlook Bluff, you must navigate fragmented trails that run sometimes within the woodlands, and sometimes along the steep pitch of bluffs above the railroad tracks. Paths do exist: parallel to Willamette Boulevard behind the Adidas campus; down Waud Bluff Trail (the nicely engineered pedestrian entry/exit to Swan Island); below University of Portland; and in Baltimore Woods, which begins just beyond the St. Johns bridge. The goal is to make them continuous. The 40-Mile Loop is slated to stitch adjacent to the fabric of this oak and madrone corridor and may also recognize Overlook's pedestrian potential. 

From the hawk's perspective, the connection from St. Johns in deep North Portland to Overlook just north of the Fremont Bridge is apparent. Now, the pieces of this quilt are also being assembled on the ground in North Portland -- neighborhood by neighborhood, mile by mile, loop by loop. To volunteer or find out more about us, please visit

* Coalitions of community involvement are a must if cities are to be able to continue to acquire open spaces, and to that end we are working with organizations including Metro, the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, Portland Parks & RecreationSOLVe, Portland Audubon, the Backyard Habitat Certification Program, Northwest Youth Corps, the Xerces Society, East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Friends of Baltimore Woods, the Trust for Public Land, and the Columbia Land Trust.

Ruth Oclander founded Friends of Overlook Bluff with her neighbors in 2012. She is an acupuncturist and yoga teacher by trade, and enjoys running trails in Forest Park and traveling to far off countries with her husband and young children. Her mother, an Olmsted, can take credit for dragging Ruth into the woods for hikes when she was growing up and letting the grass be overtaken by trees in a backyard that sloped to meet the state forest.

Geese, meet these guys!

Border collies humanely herd excessive grazers

June 2 2014

Enjoy urban wildlife? How about geese? If you said yes to the latter, the following fun fact should make you happy: Over the past 20 years, the North American Canada goose population has quadrupled to over 4 million!

If you’re among those who said no, you probably find this fact cringe-worthy.

That’s because, due to the extreme resiliency and city adaptability of Canada geese, they easily disturb and crowd out native wildlife like Great Blue Herons. Take the average adult Canada goose, whose daily consumption of three to four pounds of vegetation yields two to three pounds of droppings. Multiplied by hundreds of geese, these droppings, combined with overgrazing, can create animal and ecosystem health issues such as soil erosion, poor water quality, and lost habitat for other urban wildlife species.

Then there’s when geese attack humans, either intentionally, like during breeding season, or not, as when aviation bird strikes threaten planes and all aboard.

Whether you love geese or not, one thing’s for sure: you’re going to see more of them. Portland, situated on the Pacific Flyway, is a highway for West Coast bird migration. Due to our ample food supplies for waterfowl, lack of predators, and wide-open spaces, we’ve also become a year-round habitat for part of the Canada goose population. These new full-time residents also attract large flocks of migratory geese to properties -- and that’s often when trouble emerges.

But how to handle these nuisance neighbors humanely? Time has shown that Canada geese quickly ignore other deterrents such as swans, fake coyotes, flashing lights, noisemakers, and pet dogs.

Here at Geese Guys, LLC, we believe we’ve got an answer: working border collies!

With a goal to encourage ecosystem resilience and biodiversity, Geese Guys uses an integrated approach that includes a dog herding program, habitat modification, egg depredation, and humane wildlife education. We do all of this in conjunction with U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s management protocols and permits, and the methods we utilize are supported by the Humane Society of the United States and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Our border collies are trained to humanely stalk and flush Canada geese off client properties without physically coming in contact with the animals. A Geese Guys dog does this with an intense gaze and stalking behavior, both bred into border collies over generations, that mimic a wild predator, such as a coyote, and quickly make the geese believe that their current site is not safe.

We work predominantly with schools, condominiums, golf courses, and cemeteries. We are also involved with habitat restoration efforts to temporarily keep geese away while native plantings establish themselves. Our clients benefit from cleaner grounds, improved water quality, decreased maintenance and landscaping costs, and increased biodiversity of native birds and mammals.

At Geese Guys, we believe that Canada geese have a place in the Pacific Northwest, in less detrimental numbers, and we support the efforts of local agencies to create viable habitat for wildlife.

Have questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact us.


Liz Clune is an Associate Account Manager & Dog Trainer at Geese Guys, LLC. She has a degree in Zoology and spent 12 years working as a Zookeeper, training and caring for primates, marine mammals and large carnivores. Over the years, she has also been involved in the wildlife conservation and dog training communities.

What would Bill do?

Honoring Bill Naito's legacy this Arbor Month

April 9 2014

Bill Naito

Consider the local leader who founded the City of Portland’s Urban Forestry Commission.

The leader who was a big part of many of Portland’s most iconic features, from the Portland Streetcar to Lan Su Classical Chinese Garden.

The same guy who thought the Japanese American Historical Plaza in Waterfront Park would be even more powerful, if framed by great swaths of beautiful Akebono Cherry trees.

Then ask yourself: This April -- Arbor Month -- what would Bill Naito do, given the chance?

The more one learns about Bill Naito, who passed in 1996, the more one understands the meaning of community. That’s why every spring since 1995, Portland’s Urban Forestry Commission has chosen one or more recipients for the Bill Naito Community Trees Award.

Bill's son Bob presents the 2012 Awards

The first honorees were Friends of Trees founder Richard Seidman, and Portland General Electric, the company that helped fund the original Seed the Future Campaign. Later recipients include Phyllis Reynolds, the author of Trees of Greater Portland, and an English as a Second Language class from David Douglas High School who planted nearly 1,000 trees in their community.

Throughout his life, Bill Naito championed projects and movements that helped Portland reinvent itself for the benefit of people from many different walks of life. Just a few examples: planting 10,000 street trees; launching the Japanese American Historical Plaza, Saturday Market, and Artquake in the 1980s and early ‘90s; helping to keep alive the White Stag sign; developing the McCormick Apartments that extended the livable city boundary to the north; and leading the preservation of Union Station.

Akebonos in bloom

It’s a legacy that has changed the face of Portland’s urban core, not least because Bill placed trees at the core of community building.

On April 26th, the Urban Forestry Commission will recognize our 2014 Bill Naito Community Trees Awardees. Each embodies one of two aspects that made Bill so effective: big picture thinking (e.g., that if we care for trees, then trees will take care of us); and the steady dedication, seed by seed, that’s required to restore a forest.

Congratulations to:

  • The 936 Portlanders -- led by arborist, Damon Schrosk who had the big idea, and hosted by Hoyt Arboretum Curator Martin Nicolson -- who this past July set the Arboretum's Guinness world record Tree Hug; and

  • A few of Hoyt's world record tree huggers

    Phil Hamilton, an extraordinary individual who has dedicated over 21,000 hours of service to documenting and restoring the forest of Tryon Creek State Natural Area. Almost any Saturday, you can find Phil at Tryon and work shoulder-to-shoulder with him to restore this remarkable state park within the boundaries of two cities.

Why not join us for the celebration? It’s what Bill would do.


Catherine Mushel, an Arbor Month volunteer with the City of Portland, has served on the City’s Urban Forestry Commission since 2011. Her fascination with urban trees began with lightning -- literally -- and has threaded through her work teaching English, remodeling houses, and designing gardens. “Go outside” is her first advice for anyone trying to understand the concept of urban forestry.

Greening Pest Control

Skeptics abound -- but so do owl boxes

April 2 2014

Pest control -- is it a necessity or an environmental hornet's nest? If you are like most people I meet, you don’t want sugar ants overrunning your pantry or molehills pock-marking your yard. But you probably also mistrust the chemicals and high costs that can go with the trade.

Three years ago, I was right there with you. A burned-out stockbroker managing several rental properties with my wife, I was deeply frustrated with how little we knew about what was being sprayed in our tenants’ apartments each and every month, often at great cost and to no avail. My competitive juices kicked in, and I decided to start Pest Solutions LLC -- a company that would exist to protect people and properties WHILE being “Green As Can Be” (our slogan!).

From flushing floor drains in order to reduce restaurant fruit flies, to using more baits and less airborne sprays, we've had success with greener techniques -- enough so that we’ve become the official pest control for Providence Park (formerly Jeld-Wen Field) and the Portland Timbers.

And we love to expand our circle of green-minded entrepreneurs. But the feeling isn’t always mutual, as mistrust of my new profession, well, dies hard.

Two weeks ago, I attended The Intertwine Spring Summit, encouraged by Metro’s Michelle DePass following a conversation about bringing creative approaches and solutions to our clients. I knew that I’d probably be viewed a bit skeptically, and I was right. The good news was that I did have the opportunity to explain that greening pest control is a work in progress -- a message that seemed to resonate with most folks at the conference. What better way to get “greener” than exchanging ideas with passionate experts like those in The Intertwine Alliance?

An example of the direction we’re going -- one that’s drawn a lot of attention from folks here -- is the owl box. This nature-based solution came to us through Richard, a teammate who previously worked in R&D for Oregon State University.

Early on with us, Richard explained how he had used owl boxes successfully to help keep rodents under control in OSU’s own R&D fields.  Owls are expert natural rodent control agents. It is estimated that a barn owl can consume a third of its body weight per night -- which is about six rodents.

The owl box isn’t for those seeking a quick fix to rodent control. It’s a long-term solution -- one that's effective, affordable, and green. And it’s caught on; we’re installing them in parks, cities, schools, even correctional facilities.

Our client Chad Naugle, the Head of Sustainability at the Oregon Department of Corrections, points to another reason owl boxes are going over big with government agencies.

“They’re helping us reduce toxins per the Governor’s Green Chemistry Executive Order 12-05,” Chad told us recently.

My business is just one of many that’s actively seeking greener, cost-effective ways to solve practical issues (I have yet to find anyone arguing for peaceful coexistence with bed bugs). Have you got an idea like Richard’s? Let’s talk!

Eric Ufer is the Founder of Pest Solutions LLC, a Beaverton-based company that strives to be "as green as can be." Prior to launching the company in 2011, Eric was president of Milltown United Soccer Club for 3 years. From 1991 to 2007, Eric was a stockbroker with Wells Fargo Securities and other firms, working with some of the world’s largest hedge funds and mutual funds.


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