The  Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in Oregon is partnering with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde to protect ancestral lands and implement forest management practices with a $1.7 million grant awarded through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

The efforts aim to enhance and restore Oregon white oak habitat and associated wildlife species on private lands in Polk County, in part by creating habitat corridors and adding wildlife forage. The plan also includes acquiring three permanently conserved tribal ancestral lands through the Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Fund and teach private landowners the tribal practices for maintaining oak habitat.

“They were maintaining this kind of habitat for over 400 years before anyone else got here,”  said Karin Stutzman , Polk County SWCD district manager. “Their management techniques were accomplished without using chemicals or machines. That’s a very valuable set of knowledge to know.”

About 1,900 acres total will be impacted by the RCPP project, including 740 acres of privately-owned land. Enhancements include creating habitat corridors that provide unobstructed travel for wildlife throughout the county and connecting to other similar corridors in neighboring counties.