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We had some tremendous talks by experts from organizations including OSU Extension, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, Oregon Department of State Lands, the North Santiam Watershed Council, and, of course, Marion Soil & Water Conservation District. The class began by laying the groundwork for conservation with a talk on soil. From there, we moved up through water and vegetation, to forests and riparian areas, to working lands.
At each level we asked participants to look critically at their own property and to use the classes and homework to evaluate the health and needs of their landscape. They were encouraged to partner with conservation organizations in their area. We connected participants with their watershed council and their SWCD (a few folks from Linn and Polk Counties participated). During site visits we helped landowners develop conservation project ideas and to prioritize those projects, gave tips on plant identification and control, and answered whatever questions they had. On the last day of the series, we hosted a potluck and invited partners to introduce their organization. Representatives from Energy Trust of Oregon, Oregon Dept. of Agriculture, Oregon Dept. of Forestry, OSU Extension, USDA-NRCS, and local watershed councils and SWCDs were on hand to talk one-on-one with landowners about their conservation projects.
In 2020 we limited attendance to 25 properties, with over 1000 acres of land represented. Parcels included everything from working forests to urban lots. Our survey came back with rave reviews, and planning is already underway for the 2021 class.
This year, we will be going online with the series, removing some of the barriers to participation for people with families and those that live on the outskirts of Marion County. We already have a great lineup including a talk from the State Soil Scientist at NRCS as well as speakers from Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and OSU, and returning speakers from a number of organizations. We plan to include more videos and online materials, but we will still provide free site visits and individual maps to make sure participants leave with a plan in hand. We’re looking forward to exploring this new educational platform and getting to know more conservation stewards in our district!