June 25, 2021

Metolius Winter Range Field Trip

Ochoco National Forest wildlife biologist, Monty Gregg, kicked off the Coordinating Shared Stewardship in Central Oregon field trip series by hosting a field trip to view mule deer winter range habitat improvement.

Partners for the project included Portland General Electric, Oregon Wildlife Foundation, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council.

Project Funding came from Portland General Electric and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.

The project focused on improving mule deer winter habitat through thinning, herbicide treatments,  seeding, and bitterbrush planting. It also included floodplain restoration of Whychus Creek, which involved repurposing thinned trees from the Winter Range Restoration project for use in-stream restoration work.

Stop 1


The field tour began with a stop near Rimrock Ranch, land owned by the Deschutes Land Trust and currently the focus for the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council’s restoration work. The overview presented by UDWC Executive Director, Kris Knight, highlighted the importance of long-term relationships, identifying win-win-win opportunities for partners involved, and utilizing the strengths and capacities of each partner to meet the needs of the project. The discussion also highlighted the opportunity to link in-stream restoration work with up-slope work, ensuring a watershed-focused approach.

Stop 2


Portland General Electric has funded work in this area to address the densification of western juniper due to fire suppression and changes in the historical fire regime. The large trees remained to provide thermal cover needs for deer, but small trees (8″ or less) were thinned and then lopped and scattered to reduce fuel depth. Where needed, these materials could also serve as a slash mat for heavy equipment to limit ground disturbance.

The slash matt has also proven helpful, given that bare soils left exposed post-treatment are fertile ground for invasive annual grasses that are more fire-prone and create additional fuels risks.

Small diameter trees may hold little value at the mill, but they carry a high value for instream restoration. The Upper Deschutes Watershed Council repurposed these smaller logs to provide essential woody debris for instream restoration. The use of woody debris in floodplain and channel restoration provides valuable stream stability, fish habitat, beaver dam analogs, and areas for silt and debris to deposit until vegetation can establish.

Key successes emerged from leveraging partners’ capacities and strengths. The FS relied on partners’ fiscal and administrative support to receive and disburse funding, rather than utilizing the more cumbersome fiscal processes required by the federal government. The Forest Services delineated the stands, identified treatments, and worked with the nonprofit to identify, secure, and pay contractors to do the work.

Aligning partners’ timelines is often difficult in Shared Stewardship, cross-jurisdictional work. For example, within the Forest Service, dollars must be obligated to a contract before the contract can be awarded, which may take until the end of the fiscal year. Using a partner’s nonprofit infrastructure allows for more budgetary and timeline flexibility.

Stop 3


Relationship-building is a crucial component of Shared Stewardship. The opportunity to carpool and have lunch together while in the field created relationships building and informal networking opportunities.

Stop 4

Fire Scar

The day’s final stop was to a fire scar where an array of ecological values are present. The focus of the project was the removal of small juniper. Additional efforts included treating invasive species (such as medusahead) and planting bitterbrush. An inmate crew from Deer Ridge Correctional Institute assisted in hand piling.

“There’s value in cultivating a partnership network—the more people you get involved with, the more opportunities you can find. We can do more because of those partnerships than we could do on our own.”
— Mathias Perle, Restoration Program Manager, Upper Deschutes Watershed Council


Key thoughts and questions called out at the end of the trip included:

  • The importance of a ‘champion’ to see the potential of a project and invest the energy in making it happen
  • A need to prioritize our work at a regional scale so we can be strategic about where we invest our energy and resources
  • The need to keep building our network around each restoration effort rather than stopping at the project boundary
  • The need for enhanced relationship building and awareness of shared interests and priorities
  • The importance of taking a watershed-scale approach
  • The challenge of institutions having different timelines, processes, and plans–and the need to sync them up so we can better align
  • The opportunity to take on several varied pilot projects as a group so we can learn from them all
  • Interest in shared learning opportunities and a shared “toolbox” for enhancing partnerships

Participants included the Oregon Department of Forestry, the Deschutes Soil and Water Conservation District, Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, Deschutes National Forest, and the Central Oregon Forest Stewardship Foundation.