Preserving Precious Lands
There are few places in the mid-Willamette Valley as ecologically diverse as Bald Hill Farm; where three miles of public trails wind past cows, endangered plants, wildlife and children come to discover the natural world. The farm’s diverse habitats and species, large size and proximity to adjacent conserved land make this an absolutely vital piece of the region’s ecosystem. And recently, a purchase was made to guarantee its preservation, for generations to come.
The Heart of a Habitat
“Bald Hill Farm is truly a community property,” says Michael Pope, Executive Director of Greenbelt Land Trust, which purchased the farm from a private landowner in 2013. “With miles of public trails, incredible vistas and endangered habitats, it is one of the last properties of its kind in Benton County. Since Greenbelt was founded in 1989 this property has been at the heart of our organization, and now it’s permanently protected.”
The Farm is home to 48 bird species—including the largest-known population of Oregon Vesper Sparrow in the Willamette Valley—three endangered plant species, and over a mile of creek systems. It contains a diverse mixture of wet prairie, upland prairie and oak savanna habitats. It also serves as a critical connector for the recovery of the endangered Fender’s Blue Butterfly and its host plant, the also-endangered Kincaid’s Lupine.
Connecting the Pieces
The previous landowner offered a generous price for the sale of the property. In addition, after Greenbelt bought the property, the seller took a portion of the profit to buy an adjacent plot, holding it until Greenbelt could acquire the grant funding to purchase it as well. Thus, the 587-acre Bald Hill Farm joined a vast corridor of protected lands, creating a conservation region of over 1,400 acres, and making further strides towards connecting the remaining “emeralds on the green necklace” of open spaces around Corvallis.
Serving a Community
Through the purchase and preservation of these lands, a community viewshed has been protected and a public access area has been ensured, helping to promote a vibrant economy for Corvallis by maintaining the natural character that its community, citizens and tourism industry depend upon.
Greenbelt Land Trust also contributes to the financial health of the community with job creation. Employing contractors, lessees and consultants, including providing grazing lands for a local family’s farming operation. Also employing a logging company and consulting forester to complete and manage a timber harvest. Hiring a restoration crew for prairie re-seeding, contracting with Northwest Youth Corps to provide trail building and maintenance and hiring a crew to construct miles of pasture fencing.
Greenbelt manages the property for both its ecological and agricultural values. In 2015 they initiated a 2-year, large-scale forest restoration project, aimed at restoring diverse forest habitats among a 100-acre forested section of the property.
Scenarios of commitment to land protection, large-scale habitat restoration, and preservation of existing agricultural heritage like this one are relatively unique in Oregon. But hopefully, properties like Bald Hill Farm can act as a tool for observing and learning about how ecosystems can work together to preserve habitats, manage resources and accomplish restoration goals throughout the state.