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One of the privileges of living in the country is being closer and more connected with the natural environment. But over time natural areas have been lost to more profitable land uses. You can manage the land in a way that encourages and promotes wildlife habitat. Working with neighbors and understanding what is happening on other properties will help make your wildlife habitat a success.

Habitat Elements

Wildlife need three basic elements for a supportive habitat.

Great Blue Heron standing in wetland with wings spread open
deciduous forest habitat with shrubbery understory
  • Food: Animals will venture to your property if there are available food sources. Nuts, seeds, fruits, and commercially purchased bird seed are food types that will help attract wildlife to your property.
  • Water: Drinking water sources are essential for wildlife. Clean flowing water, bird baths, and garden ponds are features that will help draw wildlife to your property.
  • Shelter: Wildlife needs cover and protection both on your property and when traveling between properties. Bird/bat/bee boxes, hedge-rows, shrubs and trees can provide wildlife with a place to rest, and hide from predators and a covered path for travel.

Planting a diversity of native vegetation at varying heights will help attract wildlife to your property. Developing and maintaining appropriate vegetation at the three different vertical areas (canopy, under-story, and floor) of the natural environment will help provide a variety of habitats on your land. “Avoid plants with a high potential for escaping cultivation and becoming invasive in natural areas, such as butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii).

Tips for Successful Backyard Habitats

  • Planning and research are important beginning steps to creating productive back-yard wildlife habitat.
  • Choose Native Plants. Using native plants in your landscape supports and enhances local habitat for wildlife, birds and pollinators.
  • Reduce the use of chemical when possible and refrain from
    unnecessary spraying on natural areas.
  • Use water efficiently and maintain natural water features,
    along with the vegetation that surrounds those features.

Snags and Dead Trees

Snags and dead trees are important elements to have and leave on your property for wildlife. They provide habitats to roughly 80 different species; reptiles, birds, mammals and amphibians call these features home for at least part of their lives. If you do not have any snags or dead trees on your property, you can girdle unneeded or weedy trees to create snags. Piling woody debris near the forest edge can provide wildlife with places to hide. In dry areas, fire risk must be taken into consideration.

Habitat Types found in the Willamette Valley


Riparian habitat is the dynamic interface between flowing water and land. This includes land along streams, rivers, intermittent streams, creeks, alluvial floodplains, lakes and other water bodies. These terrestrial habitats are unique from uplands because their soils and vegetation are shaped by the presence of water.

Visit our Riparian Habitat page for more information.


Conservation Strategy Habitats

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife identify 11 habitats of conservation concern within the state, 4 of which are in our Ecoregion of the Willamette Valley.


  • Interface between land and flowing water.
  • Plants buffer inputs and cycle nutrients.
  • Shaped through seasonal flooding, scour and soil deposition.
  • Species include native salmon, steelhead, amphibians, and dragonflies.
Willamette River, Salem, OR


grassland habitat
West Eugene Wetlands, Eugene, OR
  • Dominated by grasses, forbs, wildflowers.
  • Maintained through disturbances such as periodic fire, soil upheaval from rodents, frost heave, wind, or salt spray.
  • Habitat loss of 50-90% of original total area.
  • Species include Common Nighthawk, Western Bluebird, Fender’s Bluebird, Grasshopper Sparrow and more.


  • Deciduous swamps and shrublands – around lakes or ponds, river terraces, flood seasonally with nutrient rich waters, dominated by woody vegetation.
  • Almost all have been degraded by altered water regimes, pollution, and invasives.
  • Species include turtles, birds, amphibians, fish.

Wetland landscape habitat
West Eugene Wetlands, Eugene, OR

Oak Woodland and Savannah

Oak savannah restoration site
14 year old Oak Savannah restoration site
  • Savannahs — drier, in areas with sparse competition, were maintained with periodic fires by the Kalapuya,
  • Tree canopy with less than 50% coverage so that herbaceous vegetation can be dominant species.
  • Woodlands — fire suppression has converted savannahs into woodlands with more than 50% tree canopy cover, develop in moister areas and also have Ponderosa Pine, Doug fir, and Canyon Live Oak.
  • Species include birds, mammals, invertebrates and more.

mountains and river

Start Planning

If you have land that you are interested in restoring for wildlife habitat, learn about what resources are available to you through programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, or reach out to your nearest Watershed Council or SWCD to learn how Conservation Planning can help you.

Recommended Habitat Resources

a fish jumping out of the water

Recommended Habitat Resources

To learn about restoring salmon habitat, visit Wild Salmon Center, the  the leading group working to protect the strongest wild salmon rivers around the entire North Pacific, from northern California and the Pacific Northwest, up to British Columbia and Alaska and across to Russia and Japan.

trees and shrubs on hills

Oak Habitat

To learn about Oak Savannah habitat restoration, visit Lomakatsi, a leader in the field of oak restoration.

water waves on a blue background


Learn about restoring wetland habitat on your land, visit Farm Service Agency’s Farmable Wetlands Program site.

rounded trees on the banks of a river with sun overhead

Riparian Habitat

Learn how the Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program can help you restore streamside habitat. To learn about CREP, visit 

Connect with our Multi-County Riparian Technician to get started.

Contact Us

Contact our Natural Areas Conservation Planner for help getting started with habitat restoration projects.

Chelsea Blank
Natural Areas Planner
© Marion Soil and Water Conservation District. All Rights Reserved.