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State eyes land for wildlife habitat restoration.

Byline: Dash Paulson The Register-Guard

VENETA - The state Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to buy 225 acres of farmland southeast of the Fern Ridge Lake as part of a regional wet prairie habitat restoration project.

The property has been appraised at more than $570,000, according to an official.

The agency is asking the public to weigh in on the proposal today between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the Fern Ridge Public Library in Veneta.

"It is required to have a public hearing for these kinds of purchases, and we think having one close to the site is a good idea," said Laura Tesler, coordinator for the Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program, which would fund the acquisition. "Just to be sure we capture everyone's comments."

Written comments will be accepted through Nov. 28.

The land under consideration is used for crops. The state calls it Coyote Creek Northeast. It lies south of Highway 126, just north of Cantrell Road and east of Ken Nielson Road.

The state wants to buy the acreage from its private owners to help offset long-term harm to wildlife from the construction and operation of 11 dams in the Willamette River basin.

The expanded habitat would boost waterfowl breeding populations and species diversity, the state said.

"Coyote Creek Northeast was appraised at about $570,000 for acquisition," Tesler said. "We appraised it a year ago, so it will probably be higher now."

Most of the acreage is owned by Jack Jackson, who also owns a home nearby, and the remainder is owned by George Campbell of Junction City, according to Lane County property records.

Neither could be immediately reached for comment. The state declined to confirm the identity of the owners.

Tesler said it would be simple to return most of the land to wet prairie. In 10 years, "we should be making good headway," she said.

Wildlife officials say the acquisition would benefit streaked horned larks, Western meadowlarks and other grassland waterfowl. Several plant species could also flourish, including the endangered perennial herb Bradshaw's lomatium.

Lane County's largest population of Bradshaw's grows on both sides of Ken Nielson Road, along the area under consideration for purchase, according to Fish and Wildlife.

"It will be managed for conservation of species," Tesler said. "It will have a lot of bird-watching possibilities and (be) a nice addition to what the public can go out and enjoy."

If the purchase goes ahead, and after habitat restoration, the area would be open to the public for wildlife viewing, hunting and education, though access could be limited during bird nesting seasons.

The 225 acres would join the many hundreds of acres around Fern Ridge Lake that already are set aside for wildlife.

Dams control the flow of water in the Willamette River Basin, allowing for flood control, agricultural production and hydroelectric power. But the accompanying loss of wetlands and natural habitat have hurt many local species. In 2010, the Bonnevile Power Administration settled with the wildlife department to buy nearly 17,000 acres by 2025 within the basin for mitigation. The Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program was created to help coordinate and carry out the acquisitions. The wildlife department recently purchased a tract called Coyote Creek South, which will be managed with similar goals as Coyote Creek Northeast.

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What: Proposed purchase of Coyote Creek acreage

When/where: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today at Fern Ridge Public Library, 88026 Territorial Road in Veneta

Written comments: Accepted through Nov. 28; send to Laura Tesler at 4034 Fairview Industrial Drive SE, Salem, OR 97302 or via email at
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Title Annotation:Environment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 6, 2014
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