With projects ranging from connecting Portland’s urban forest to enhancing habitat for amphibian life, the Metro Council voted Thursday to support efforts toward restoring natural spaces.
The council voted unanimously Thursday to award $600,000 in Nature in Neighborhoods Restoration and Community Stewardship Grants to 15 organizations working on projects around the region. Funding for the grants comes from the voter-approved 2013 parks and natural areas levy.
One grant recipient was Willamette Riverkeeper, which is working with partners to restore Ross Island.
“It’s kind of a great opportunity to introduce the Portland community to the island,” said Marci Krass, restoration coordinator at Willamatte Riverkeeper. Ross Island is otherwise closed to the public, so one of the only ways to see it past the high water mark is on one of Willamette Riverkeeper’s sanctioned boats.
Krass said a lot of planting has already been done to restore the island’s understory, and that now is a great time for community involvement.
“It’s a huge opportunity to do outreach and education,” Krass said.
The Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District received a grant to improve water quality and amphibian habitat in Willow Creek.
“We’re looking at amphibians in particular; salamanders, frogs, newts – small, kinda’ slimy guys. Cool, but maybe not charismatic to the masses,” said Bruce Barbarasch, superintendent of natural resource and trails management at the district. “We’re trying to do vegetative enhancements with the community to make better places for them [the amphibians] to live.”
So far, he said, they have a neighborhood association and a middle school involved, and a private company is interested in mentoring the students.
One of the 15 projects was a follow-up after previously receiving a grant from Metro.
“The great thing about this project is that it’s the first follow-on we’ve done of habitat restoration in the wake of the latest dam removal,” said Steve Wise, executive director of the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council of the next phase of restoration happening on the Sandy River Delta.
In 2013, a dam was removed from the historic main channel of the Sandy. After that, Wise said, they decided to let it be, to allow it to recover on its own and see what would happen.
“But there are places in there where we know we can do work in terms of invasive species. We can do improvements in terms of habitat quality, and particularly, for the population of western painted turtles,” Wise said.
The turtles, he explained, were actually taken from the location during the dam removal process and placed a mile away, out of harm’s way. But within a matter of days, he said, they were all back.
“They just came charging back across the various forests and savannah, right back to where they like it,” he said. “They’re very loyal to their own habitat.”
Previously, Wise said, a lot of work had been done for fish habitat and for the populations of migrating birds, but now efforts are being made with the turtles in mind.
“We have heard their voices, and we have responded to the needs of the turtles.” Wise said.
All of the projects receiving grants are centered around restoring the environment and doing so with the help of community volunteers.
A full list of grantees and projects is available below.
Apply for the next round of Nature in Neighborhoods grants, which support conservation education