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The Dirt | Conservation Neighbors Faye Yoshihara and Kevin Kenaga

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Faye Yoshihara and Kevin Kenaga were ready to take the plunge and manage some forest land.  They hoped to find small acreage within an hour of the Portland Airport to accommodate a busy work life. When a former neighbor from NW Portland tipped them off about 53 acres in the Soap Creek watershed, plans changed.  Faye and Kevin fell in love with the variety of forest on the woodland they’ve now owned for 6 years which includes young Douglas-fir and maturing mixed conifer while also supporting oak woodlands, oak savanna, and a streamside restoration planting of trees and shrubs.

Soon after purchasing the land, Faye and Kevin connected with Donna Schmitz at Benton SWCD. After a site visit, she introduced them to Tom Snyder at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to evaluate the oak woodland and savanna on the property. With the NRCS cost share program and support from Tom and his successor, Amy Kaiser, they released oak that were crowded by Douglas-fir, grand fir, and bigleaf maple.  It also included brush control and spacing of Oregon white oak to maintain a widely spaced savanna. Still, a wide swath of blackberry more than six feet tall infested a wet drainage below the pond on their land. In 2018, Donna worked with Faye and Kevin to acquire some funds from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and the blackberry was cleared and replaced with densely planted native shrubs and trees. They appreciate the support they have received from BSWCD staff, including the opportunities it has given them to host diverse groups from Luckiamute watershed neighbors to OSU College of Forestry and Willamette Laja (Mexico) Twinning Project students.

Faye and Kevin have an ambitious forest plan with a goal to manage for maximum biodiversity that goes beyond traditional norms for a healthy forest and a little economic return along the way. They are committed to education and innovation on the site by introducing OSU students to restoration work. More than a dozen students have been onsite to dig up blackberry and other invasive species and pile forestry slash for burning.  Biochar is harvested from the burn piles and shared with neighbors to build soil health in gardens. Burned areas are immediately seeded with a pollinator mix of native forbs and grasses. These pollinator patches are impressive, and we’re delighted to see the success without the use of herbicides to prepare the site. Faye and Kevin benefit from a network of Soap Creek neighbors committed to oak conservation.  One day soon they hope to demonstrate the use of fire on the property by hosting a prescribed burn through their oak savanna.

Benton SWCD is very thankful for the great stewardship Faye and Kevin have committed to in the Soap Creek Watershed. We’re also greatly appreciative of the leadership Faye has shown in our organization. Faye has been a Director for over 5 years and served as Chair for half of those. She will leave her role as an elected board member in 2022 and hopes to become a “Director emeritus.” We look forward to her continued input and encouragement for years to come.