Written by Tara Wertz, MNWR Deputy Refuge Manager
Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is experiencing the negative effects of extended drought and landscape scale climate change. Some of the issues that are having immediate and significant effects comprise of drying springs, stressed and dying trees, and capacity challenges to the domestic well that services our buildings. Just between last fall and as recently as this week, the impacts can be seen with increasing drama.
As Refuge staff work to meet the difficulties in adjusting to the rapidly – changing conditions, we are moving forward to minimize a portion of the grass areas surrounding the Visitor Center and the main office buildings. Replacements will include drought tolerant plants native to our region. This water-saving strategy will allow the Refuge to showcase biodiversity and native habitat as a wildlife sanctuary for the benefit of birds, insects, butterflies, and animals while tolerating drought.
Over the next year, Refuge staff will share details on this effort as management plans are developed and projects are implemented. Working together with Refuge partnerships will be instrumental in promoting and implementing these learning and educational opportunities as the project progresses. Already, initial scoping of this work is taking into account the recommendations set forth in the recently completed Tree Inventory & Assessment which was a Refuge wide project funded by the Friends of Malheur NWR. The Friends, Portland Audubon Society, and others will be influential in helping the Refuge convert lawns into diverse landscapes.