Conservation Neighbor: Mary Eichler

If you head north from downtown Corvallis on Highway 20, you will soon find yourself surrounded by farmlands supporting a variety of crops and other commodities. Here you will find Mary Eichler’s produce and livestock farm. As with any farm, her farm generates enough work to keep her busy, but according to Mary, “If you are not always busy with something, then you are doing something wrong.” To add to her workload, Mary has several habitat enhancement projects that she has maintained since she and her husband Walter purchased the land in 1980.

Mary grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in a neighborhood where the most significant green space was a patch of red clover next to a coal pile behind the Brooklyn Museum. But there was another, more natural setting that she loved to visit. Prospect Park, designed by famed 19th century landscape architect Frederick Olmsted, is a 585 acre park with many attractions including a botanical garden, a series of waterways, a classical boathouse and a zoo. It was partially the vastness and beauty of this park that inspired her to eventually move to Oregon, in order to buy and maintain land of her own.

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Installation of osprey perch near a slough on the Eichler’s property.
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Osprey nesting on perch.

Since moving to Oregon, Mary has had several consultations with U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff on how to improve and increase habitat on her property. A 1995 wildlife survey of the Eichler property shows the diverse wildlife species that make use of the property. The survey recorded nine species of amphibians and reptiles, 16 species of mammals, and over 75 species of birds. Mary has installed several hedgerows with a high diversity of native plants. The hedgerows are designed to provide food and year-round shelter to local wildlife and insects. She has also installed bird boxes for nesting wood ducks and other water fowl. The Eichlers even had a large osprey perch installed on their property, near a slough system connected to Frazier Creek and the Willamette River.

Mary’s passion for wildlife habitat improvements led to her long-standing relationship with the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District. She was a Board Director from 1997 to 2003, and was a key proponent of the effort to establish the District’s tax base. Mary first became acquainted with the District through the Annual Native Tree Sale in the mid-90s, when the Sale predominately featured conifers. Each year, she purchased trees from the Sale and planted them on her property. In 1998, when Mary realized that the Sale was small and usually held outside in the rain, she offered the use of her outbuilding and the Sale has been held there ever since. This move was instrumental to the Sale’s growth and success because it allowed the District to offer a wider variety of plants and to accommodate more customers.

Over the years, Mary has purchased and planted over 355 evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs from the Native Plant Sale. When she is not planting natives, Mary is removing invasive weeds such as English ivy, yellow archangel and Himalayan blackberry. Mary spends a great deal of effort on habitat restoration and weed control, and she does all these things on her own dime. She abides by a simple principle, “Do no harm.” She accomplishes this everyday by blending conservation principles with her livelihood.

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Mary Eichler posing next to planted trees from Benton SWCD tree sale in front of her barn.
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Mary posing in front of the same trees over 20 years later.