▶️ The Great Outdoors: Mt. McLoughlin meadow restoration allows habitats to thrive

By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Land management agencies are forever restoring habitats.

Most of the time we hear about riparian restorations along stream banks or restoration of forests to reduce fire danger.

Here, the effort is focused on restoring a meadow near Mt. McLoughlin in the Southern Oregon Cascades which is being encroached upon by the surrounding forest.

“If trees encroach into meadows and wetlands, that eliminates the ability of water–rain and snow– to reach the ground because it hits the trees and then evaporates before it makes its way into the groundwater,” said Craig Harper, watershed administrator for the Medford Water Commission. “Also those trees suck water out of the shallow groundwater, not allowing it to infiltrate and then flow to places like Big Butte Springs that we use for our municipal water supply for the Rogue Valley.”

Volunteers came from Portland, Medford, Grants Pass and Bend to participate in the meadow restoration effort.

“It’s almost like your vegetable garden at home. You’re going to plant it. You are going to weed it and make sure no invasive stuff comes in or you have no crop,” said Katelyn Lambert of Grants Pass, a member of the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers SW Region. “Well that’s how our wildlife is. If you have some invasive weeds or undergrowth that is encroaching on their feed, they are going to have no feed. So coming out here and clearing this, we are giving their habitat actual sunlight and room to actually grow so they have feed.”

To help restore this 10-acre section of Blue Rock Meadow, forest service sawyers cut down medium size conifers and manzanita bushes.

One group of volunteers then helped pile the debris for burning at a later time.

Thank you to our partner Parr Lumber for helping us bring you The Great Outdoors each week.

Another group of volunteers came through with loppers and cut down seedlings and smaller diameter brush.

“Sometimes our meadows don’t get as much attention in restoration efforts, so volunteers are a huge part of helping get the work done,” said Sheila Colyer, wildlife biologist for the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest. “They use these areas. A lot of our volunteers recreate or hunt in these areas too, so they are invested in helping maintain and restoring our meadows.”

The transformation from brushy and overgrown to an open and sunny meadow in just a few hours time, is striking.

“What we are seeing right now as this ground cover is coming out, we are seeing more sun on the ground. That’s going to be really great for some of our pollinators,” said Jade Keehn, wildlife conservation biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. “We are in a patch of thimbleberry right now. There’s a lot of honey bees and bumblebees and flies that are taking advantage of these nice open areas. Bees like this nice open dirt for nesting so we are creating a lot more open places that area going to be great for pollinators.”

In the upper portion of Blue Rock Meadow that has already been restored, there are dazzling displays of wildflowers, bees and birds buzzing about, and of course, outstanding views.

“You can get turned around in this country very easily, especially if it’s snow season or a downpour and you have no sense of direction,” Lambert said. “These openings allow people to orient. There’s the mountain, now I know which way I need to go. Clearing these out, it’s just such a safe atmosphere for say, if a rattlesnake bit me, a rescue helicopter is going to be able to see my colors and pick me up to get me out of here.”

All the volunteers we spoke with had different reasons for restoring this meadow.

“There’s a lot of species that are actually declining because we don’t have the open forests that we used to have,” said Keehn. “It’s not just deer and elk. It’s owls and raptors and pollinators and a lot of our woodpeckers and migratory songbirds that really do need these open patches of habitat.”

“If flow continues to decline in the springs, then we have to take more water out of the Rogue River which isn’t good for fish,” Harper said. “We want to leave as much in the river as we can. Taking water out of the Rogue River is more expensive for our ratepayers. We want to be able to continue to use that abundant source that we’ve used for the last 100 years that comes out of Big Butte Springs.”

“We couldn’t do a lot of these projects without volunteers, without help from the public,” said Coyler. “We really appreciate it, always.”

Check with the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service for volunteer opportunities.

▶️ Wakeboard Boats: Heavy on fun for a new breed of surfers

By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Wakeboard boats — boats that generate waves large enough for people to surf on — are increasingly popular on local lakes.

You may have seen them and wondered: What are skiers doing standing ten feet behind a boat?

Those people aren’t skiing; they are surfing.

Welcome to the world of wakeboard boats.

“This boat has a certain type of hull that is designed to make a wake, generating enough that you can push a surfboard down it. Then it has a gate on each side that flip out to one side or the other that kind of tips the boat,” said Tanner Slavens. “Historically people would sit on…you’d have a bunch of your buddies pile onto one side, add a bunch of weight, put your coolers over there… but this boat does it all.”

Tanner Slaven’s boat weighs 4,000 pounds dry.

Add 4,000 pounds of water and 10 of his friends, and the boat weighs more than 4 tons.

At low speed it displaces water and creates a large wake.

“We start at low speed. They are holding a rope and we slowly bring them up. The surfboard will come up to your feet. You’ll get into that wave. And once it starts to form that wave–and it takes a couple of miles an hour– then they can release the rope and then they are surfing on their own on the wave that this boat builds,” Slavens said.

“I’ve snowboarded. I’ve skied, wake-boarded, but this is…the balance, catching the wave…it’s always a challenge for me, but it’s always fun to get better,” said Carl Borgwardt.

Is it hard to learn?

“Once you get it, you got it. It takes a few falls. It’s not terrible to learn, Borgwardt said.

Borgwardt performed a 360 spin on the wake.

“I haven’t stuck it yet. Pretty much you’ve just got to do it. Put your hand in the water, spin and away you go. It took me one time to try it and I’m still trying to stick it.”

Didn’t we see you finish it?

“I just kept on going. Usually you try to stay in the wave but I just kept on going. Yeah. I’ll get there.”

If getting there is half the fun, having music and an audience are the other half.

Everybody who is sitting in the boat watching the person ride the wake is cheering or jeering.

“You are absolutely cheering. You have to get the rider excited. If they are excited, then the rider is excited and it’s so much easier to get up and everybody is having a good time,” Slavens said.

Boat captains are responsible for the safety of the rider behind the boat, the passengers in the boat and boats nearby.

Extra vigilance is required when operating a vessel that generates a wake that can swamp another boat.

“Each boat out here is probably generating a wake of their own. Everybody’s out here trying to have fun, right? You’ve got your ski tubers, your jet ski guys, people on pontoon boats. You don’t want to put a big wave at somebody and ruin their day and vice versa. Just give yourself plenty of space.”

Slavens suggested staying at least 500 feet away from other boats when operating a wakeboard boat.

Megan Sinclair said learning how to surf behind a wake board boat starts with a deep squat.

“Hold your arms really stiff and trust that you are going to hold on. It’s like standing out of a really deep squat. Trust your legs. Believe in your legs and once you are up, good luck.”

Sinclair fell or biffed, several times.

“I really try to plan my biffs but. As soon as I think I’m doing fine I look up and I see my nose is in the water and I know I’m going down. You need to cover your head and hope for the best. I’ve had the board come around and whack me in the head and that’s something you don’t want to happen.”

Megan got the biggest rounds of applause when she fell in the boat’s wake.

“Maybe it’s because it’s my birthday and I would really cause a ruckus if I didn’t get the rounds of applause and Carl did,” Sinclair said.

Carl scored a good round of applause for catching a beverage tossed to him, and drinking it…while surfing.

So what does a day on the water in a wakeboard boat mean to this crew?

“Unplugging. Getting away from work. No cell phones. No cell service. Just relax. Hang out with friends,” Borwardt said.

“Soaking in where we live,” Sinclair said. “Every day you take advantage of it. This is a day you get to take a look around and realize ‘Wow, we live here, and this is what we get to do.’ You don’t want to take that for granted.

▶️ Hunting options to expand on Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge

Plans to expand hunting opportunities on national wildlife refuges are moving ahead with new hunting seasons scheduled this fall.

On this week’s edition of The Great Outdoors, sponsored by Parr Lumber, Brooke Snavely takes us to the nearest refuge impacted by the changes — Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in remote southeast Oregon — where some hunting already occurs.

Salmon flies on the lower Deschutes River

Salmon flies and stone flies are hatching on the Deschutes River, making this one of the high points of Central Oregon’s dry fly fishing season.

On this week’s Great Outdoors, sponsored by Parr Lumber, Brooke Snavely shows us big bugs that catch lots of trout on the lower Deschutes River.

The Great Outdoors: Pilot Butte Restoration

Two years ago, a fire ignited by illegal fireworks scorched 10 acres of Pilot Butte. The fire forced evacuations of two apartment complexes, closed Highway 20 and cut power to nearly 30,000 people.

On this edition of The Great Outdoors, sponsored by Parr Lumber, Brooke Snavely shows us how the burn area is healing.

The Great Outdoors: Wildlife passage under Highway 97

Another wildlife passage has been installed on Highway 97 south of Bend. Its purpose is to reduce the number of deer and elk hit and killed by cars, and make the highway safer for motorists.

On this week’s Great Outdoors, sponsored by Parr Lumber, Brooke Snavely takes us on a tour of the new wildlife under crossing near Gilchrist.

Hart Mountain Bighorn Sheep populations crash

The bighorn sheep population on Hart Mountain in southeast Oregon has declined by more than half the past two years, putting the population at risk of disappearing.

On this week’s Great Outdoors, sponsored by Parr Lumber, Brooke Snavely explores development of a plan to save the bighorn sheep and how the public can participate.

Survival Skills

Survival Skills – Fun to learn and important to know should anything go wrong when you’re adventuring. And things DO go wrong.

In this episode of the Great Outdoors, Brook Snavely visits with a survival expert at the Portland Sportsman Show before the COVID-19 Lockdown was in place.