Our committment to restoration
takes many forms.
The ancient freshwater lake that formed the valley center of Willow-Witt Ranch many centuries ago evolved to the current wetlands. These wetlands were seasonally grazed by cattle for over 150 years, resulting in degradation and erosion of the waterways and a lower water table; water was running off the Ranch rapidly ... and taking soil with it.
In 2005, we installed a new perimeter fence, excluding cattle altogether; we also entered into the USDA's Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. The CREP program cost-shared fencing to exclude all grazing animals from 76 acres of wetlands and planting of native willows to slow the water flow, hold the soil, and shade the streams. Oregon State University Extension Service facilitated the planting with tools and expertise to assist elementary students using the wetlands as a living classroom. Click here to view an Ashland Daily Tidings article about the event entitled "Students Lend A Hand In Restoration". Since 2007, students from elementary through graduate school have come on Spring Break to participate in restoration of our protected wetlands. The new willows served to immediately slow down the water as it traveled downstream, and eventually rooted to help stabilize the streambanks. For pictures of stages in our restoration projects, check out our photo gallery. In January 2009, the Southwest Oregon Resource Conservation and Development Council recognized the Ranch with a Watershed Friendly Steward Award, for helping "protect and enhance our watershed through good management practices." In addition to sustainable farming and holistic forest management Willow-Witt Ranch continues restoration projects that help the community get involved.
The meadows now thrive with seeded grasses and the streams meander slowly across the wetlands. The deep gullies are filling in and growing cat tails and rushes, and the water table has risen.
A sign of our restoration success is the return of Sandhill Cranes, Golden Eagles, Northern Harriers, and Great Grey Owls to our restoration areas. The pond built in the 1950's is now home to Western Pond Turtles, a threatened species who discovered the continuous flow of clean water and walked their way to a new home. We now have a reproducing population of this special animal.