(Article and photos provided by David Hibbs)
Crestmont Farm Family and Ed Easterling have done incredible things with this property.
The property is divided into 3 units, each with different management plans.
The first management unit focuses on commercial timber production with some thoughtful consideration of diversity and habitat improvement.
The second unit is managed for pasture and agroforestry. Pasture management with grazing has been particularly beneficial for the Oregon Vesper Sparrow. Crestmont uses an intense rotational grazing approach during the growing season. Cattle graze pastures for a few days and then rotate around to other pastures for a few weeks before returning to previously grazed areas. The result is reduced grass height after grazing that is still high enough to protect the ground-nesting Vesper Sparrow, yet short enough to enable successful nesting. The agroforestry effort has created oak woodlands and savannas, one of the classic foothills ecosystems.
The third unit is a conservation land trust and is managed for diversity, education, and recreation. Our walking tour explored this third unit. We were fortunate to have Ed’s skilled team accompany us.
The land trust property links to Fitton Green, a Benton County natural area. Crestmont has developed a trail system with interpretive signs. More are coming.
The area is grazed by cattle once or twice each summer for habitat enhancement, to reduce fire danger, and to discourage common invasive plants. The Crestmont team is doing an innovative job of balancing cattle grazing and livestock production while encouraging growth of native forbs and plants, as well as helping with invasive species control.
Several springs on the land trust are protected from grazing and provide a water supply for cows and wildlife. A bottomless culvert was installed in the creek to aid fish passage.
The land trust also includes several stands of commercially managed Douglas-fir.
Signage will help visitors understand the activities of management and the ecological values of the different stages in the management cycle.
Crestmont Farm Family is actively engaged in management for several species that are endangered, threatened, or of concern.
They have one of Oregon’s two populations of Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly.
They have been improving their populations of Kincade’s lupine and hope to see the Fender’s Blue butterfly soon.
They have records of a spotted owl pair, so are managing for some of its habitat even though no spotted owls have been seen for a long time.
Crestmont has also planted native grasses and forbs on more than 200 acres of meadows, savannas, and woodlands. The team uses a rigorous process of preparation and follow-up to enhance results. Invasive plants are treated before and after the native plantings. The ground is prepared in advance for broadcast seeding, which is done by hand and with a UTV-mounted spreader. Many areas then use cattle grazing to control reemerging invasives and create soil disturbance to promote plant growth and reproduction.
On the day of the tour, we were all prepared for rain. It had poured overnight, and some more was predicted. We would not have complained about more rain – we need it – but we had a great Northwest day in the spectacular foothills of the Coast Range.
Crestmont Farm Family and Ed Easterling have been chosen as this year’s State TFOY, so there will be an opportunity for others to visit this amazing property next June.