ODOT conservation bank aids Project Warm

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Project Warm, a local program that provides wood for needy individuals, received more than 30 cords of seasoned oak firewood from an ODOT conservation bank near White City. Partnering with ACCESS, a local community action agency, ODOT coordinated removal of the firewood from the 80-acre conservation bank.

“We go through 50-60 cords of wood each year,” said John Rich, who organizes the program for the Westminster Presbyterian Church. “This opportunity is very helpful. Last year, we ran out because the need was so great.

“This year, I’m sure we’ll get even more requests.”

According to Jacob Kercher, ODOT wetland specialist and project manager, the contract initially went out to bid to remove woody debris that cannot be burned, including fallen oak trees.

“We modified the contract so that the firewood could be collected and used to help local families in need,” Kercher said.

The remaining brush is in stacked piles ready to burn later next spring. The goal is to restore the area to pre-settlement habitat, which improves the vernal pools and helps the conservation bank meet its federal and state performance standards.

“We had hoped to burn the remaining brush this fall but the weather didn’t cooperate,” Kercher said. “Next spring, a professional burn crew will remove the woody debris piles. The controlled burns will prepare the soils for seeding with native forbs and grasses.

“We’ve coordinated with Jackson County Fire District #3 and the Department of Environmental Quality to ensure we have permits in place and are complying with state and local requirements.”

 

Conservation bank
A conservation bank is permanently protected land managed for endangered, threatened, and other at-risk species. In exchange for this protection and management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will approve credits based on the natural resource values on the bank land. ODOT can then use these credits to compensate for the environmental impacts of highway projects.

The species in question include two endangered plants and the threatened vernal pool fairy shrimp, an inch-long translucent crustacean related to lobsters and saltwater shrimp. Each of the species occur in vernal pool habitat — small, shallow wetlands that fill with water during fall and winter rains and dry up in spring and summer.

The ODOT bank provides critical habitat for each of the at-risk species. Along with a neighboring Nature Conservancy preserve, the bank is part of a single block of nearly 225 acres of protected vernal pool habitat.

In addition to addressing species issues, the ODOT bank is available to compensate for impacts to wetlands. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Oregon Department of State Lands collaborated to allow for approval of the bank’s dual purposes under a single set of standards and procedures. This reduced the time ODOT spent on developing the bank and contributed to the agency’s decision to become Oregon’s pioneering conservation banker.

Project Warm
Firewood for winter heat? Westminster’s Project Warm provides wood for needy individuals whose only source of heat is a wood burning stove or fireplace. Donations of good quality wood are accepted. For more information or to leave a message for our Project Warm Coordinator, please call the church office at 541-773-8274 or wpcoffice@westminsterpres.com.

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