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The Dirt | Benton SWCD awarded  Oak Habitat grant from Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board

by Michael Ahr

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) has awarded $34,130 to Benton Soil and Water Conservation District for the Benton County Oak Habitats Engagement Project. The award was one of 69 grants totaling over $12 million provided to local organizations statewide to support fish and wildlife habitat and water quality projects.

In the Benton County Oak Habitats Engagement Project, oak woodland, savanna and prairie habitats will be mapped and assessed in Benton County. Owners of land with oaks in our county will also classified by the size of their property, how much oak they have, etc. This information, as well as input and collaboration from local partner organizations, will be used to engage landowners in developing voluntary restoration projects to restore these habitats. We also hope to connect people interested in oak restoration to funders such as OWEB to help them with their work.

Benton SWCD has long worked with oak woodland managers on conservation projects, but the formal stakeholder engagement under the new grant will begin in January 2024 and be completed in early 2026.  One of the long-term goals of Benton SWCD is to find strategies to conserve oak habitat, and provide resources to assist land managers in doing so. 

BSWCD has had success finding grants to fund oak restoration on large acreage ownerships and this project will help them locate more of these opportunities.  However, the District also wants to expand assistance to smaller acreages.  “We want to share information and develop strategies to assist people who only have a few acres of oak habitat, or even a few oak trees in their yard.  You don’t have to have an entire forest of oak trees to provide great habitat,” says Michael Ahr, Natural Resource Conservation Program Manager at Benton SWCD.

Funding for these grants, awarded by the OWEB Board, comes from the Oregon Lottery, and Federal Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery funds provided by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. Since 1999, the Oregon Lottery has provided over $525 million to OWEB’s grant program that helps restore, maintain, and enhance Oregon’s watersheds. Combined, the Lottery has earned nearly $15 billion for watershed enhancements, public education, state parks, and economic development. 

For additional information about this project contact Michael at michael@bentonswcd.org. For additional information about OWEB and its grant programs, contact Eric Hartstein at eric.hartstein@oweb.oregon.gov.  A listing of all awarded grants is available here.

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