Lewis’s Woodpecker is stunning and unmistakable. It’s also one of the highest-priority bird species in North America. Habitat that the gray-collared bird relies on — open woodlands like the oak and ponderosa-pine savannah found in Oregon and elsewhere west of the Great Plains — has been greatly reduced, and some local woodpecker populations have disappeared entirely.
Thanks to the Columbia Land Trust, that won’t be the case on Mill Creek Ridge, in north-central Oregon. With help from ABC, the land trust recently secured the final 115 acres of a key 418-acre wildlife corridor on the ridge, protecting a stronghold population of Lewis’s Woodpeckers. Western Bluebird, Western Meadowlark, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and other bird species will also benefit from the acquisition.
Lewis’s Woodpecker stronghold
Eight miles long, Mill Creek Ridge is a mosaic of high-quality oak, pine-oak, and meadow habitat. In the spring, brilliant red paintbrush, purple lupine, and gold balsamroot wildflowers blanket the hillside. The ridge provides a critical undeveloped corridor connecting national forest lands to the south and the 292,500-acre Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area to the north, and it offers striking views of snowcapped Mount Adams and Mount Hood.
The area has become a popular spot for second homes. After learning that Mill Creek Ridge had been zoned for development, the Columbia Land Trust conserved 303 acres across multiple properties between 2006 and 2015. Then, earlier this year, it acquired a key intervening parcel that still divided the protected areas, completing a long-term goal of connecting the ridgeline and slopes on both sides.
Support from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, a generous donation from local landowners, and ABC funding through the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act made the acquisition possible. The property is the fourth that ABC has helped the Columbia Land Trust acquire for Lewis’s Woodpecker in the region through grants from the act. More than 1,000 acres in all have been protected.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2016 issue of BirdWatching. Subscribe.
This story was provided by American Bird Conservancy, a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas.
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