A new, 117-acre parcel has recently been added to Sunshine Butte Natural Area. The addition provides increased wildlife habitat and ensuring travel corridors for animals migrating through the region. The natural area straddles the Clackamas-Multnomah county line in the east buttes area south of Gresham.
Sunshine Butte Natural Area
Where: Midway between Damascus and Gresham
Current size: 202 acres
New addition: 117 acres
Neat feature: 7,700 feet of streams
Habitat: Upland mixed conifer and hardwood forest
Animals: Black-tailed deer, amphibians, bats, many birds
The $1.4 million purchase was possible thanks to voters investing in nature by passing the 2019 parks and nature bond. The bond allows Metro to spend up to $155 million to purchase land across greater Portland that will protect clean water and strengthen plant and wildlife habitat.
Sloping down Sunshine Butte to the west and southwest, the expanded natural area is rich with iconic Pacific Northwest trees, including Douglas fir, western hemlock, bigleaf maple and western red cedar, and relatively healthy streamside habitats along its 7,700 linear feet of streams, which ultimately flow into Johnson Creek.
The purchase also more than doubles the size of the Sunshine Butte Natural Area, bringing its total area to 202 acres, and will provide opportunities to restore habitats that will support strong populations of native plants and wildlife that can adapt to a changing climate, said Metro natural resource scientist Andrea Berkley.
The entire hardwood-studded parcel is located within the Johnson Creek watershed, which originates in Boring before winding 26 miles west to its confluence with the Willamette River in Milwaukie. The uppermost headwater reaches of Hogan Creek and Sunshine Creek are also born here and will be protected, increasing their capacity to handle storm water and preventing downstream flooding.
Of the 117 acres, roughly 80 are mixed conifer and hardwood, with Douglas fir, western hemlocks and bigleaf maples stretching over a diverse native shrub understory, while the rest range from young hardwood groves to abandoned farmland. A house, barn and small shed also sit on the property. Acquisition of the property by Metro led to cleaning up an old dump site and removal of a derelict house.
In alignment with 2019 Bond target area goals, the new acquisition will help conserve undeveloped slopes of the area’s distinctive extinct lava domes, which will help safeguard water quality and connect natural areas for wildlife habitats.
In the near term, Metro will remove invasive weeds, restore areas where red alders have been damaged or killed by hot summer heat and drought, and develop a long-term plan to strengthen the site’s habitats.