Dragonfly Ranch tour highlights public, private restoration effort

Jun 12, 2023 | Author: Larry Mauter, LCSWA member | Editor: Nancy Hildebrandt

Dragonfly Ranch tour highlights public, private restoration effort

Singing songbirds, fluttering swallows and butterflies, building beavers and diving western pond turtles were on display June 10 at Dragonfly Ranch.

The Totem Pole Road property west of Lacomb is an ongoing restoration project of Dan and Sandre Nelson.

The couple hosted a tree farm tour for about 35 people on their 200 acres in concert with the Linn County Small Woodlands Association.

The Nelsons purchased the land a decade ago. They have since partnered with various government agencies to rehabilitate wet prairie and riparian areas along One Horse Slough.
In addition, nonproductive Douglas-fir — roughly 1,000 trees — has been cleared to bring back oak woodlands and oak Savanna areas in uphill locations.

“We have a lot of diversity on this property,” Dan Nelson told visitors. “We worked hard on this. And we’re not done.”

The Nelsons left their home near Oregon City as urbanization encroached.

What they found in Linn County was property in need of tender loving care.

They cleared hundreds of old tires and rims from the site along with rusting old farm machinery and autos. The land had been abandoned 7-8 years earlier, said Nelson, and had become a dumping ground.

On poor, shallow upland soils, he explained, the fir was removed. “That’s what released the oaks,” Nelson said. “It was a huge difference when we took out the fir.”

Today, clusters of oak stand out on the hills and pink ribbons mark locations where young Oregon white oak and Oregon grape is making a comeback.

Sandre Nelson speaking to a group of visitors at Dragonfly Ranch.

Sandre Nelson, at right, shares the wetlands prairie restoration process with the tour group. Photo credit: Larry Mauter, LCSWA member

In wet prairie and riparian areas, rehabilitation focused on removal of hawthorn and blackberries, Sandre Nelson told the visitors.

“You learn so much as you go along,” she explained. “It’s a real learning process.”

The Nelsons have used an integrated pest management system in the restoration — a process that includes mechanical, biological and chemical treatment of plants along with monitoring and recordkeeping.

Camas and goldenrod have made a comeback in the wetland prairies.

Hawthorn removal has been labor intensive, “cut and squirt (with herbicide),” said Sandre Nelson. “It’s the only thing that works.”

As the tour group approached an 8-acre pond, turtles dove from logs and wood ducks scattered.

Restoration work has assisted “generational beavers” to grow the pond, explained Dan Nelson. Downed hardwoods and beaver dams have increased as drainage ditches were rerouted. “It’s really enhanced the property,” he said.

Photo and Jim Merzenich plus Dan Nelson holding an OSWA sign.

In recognition for hosting the tour Jim Merzenich, left, presented an OSWA sign to Dan Nelson. Photo credit: Larry Mauter, LCSWA member.

Employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) and South Santiam Watershed Council were on hand for the tour.

The agencies have all been involved in the decade-long restoration of Dragonfly Ranch. Agency representatives answered questions along the two-hour tour.

Following the showcase, tour goers gathered for a potluck lunch and burgers hosted by the LCSWA. During lunch, Justin White, small forestland owner forester with ODF, talked to the group about new ODF programs and regulations.

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Dan Nelson answers questions about the property’s pond with riparian vegetation and beaver dams in the background. Photo credit: Larry Mauter, LCSWA member.

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