Posted: Tuesday, May 01, 2012 7:37 AM
MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) -- The managers of 132 acres of wetlands habitat set aside to help a threatened shrimp that can perch on the end of your pinkie say they're showing that the creature can flourish in the same habitat as cattle.
They call it "strategic grazing," using cattle grazing in the wet season to keep the vegetation favorable for the wetlands and taking the cattle off during the dry season to protect the species that have adapted to those living conditions by going dormant.
A conservation easement completed in March by the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy with landowner Wildland of Rocklin, Calif., ensures protection of the water quality and wildlife habitat at the site near Eagle Point, the Medford Mail Tribune (http://bit.ly/JxjQLj) reports.
The conservancy is the permanent steward of the property, which features vernal pools in the grasslands known as the Agate Desert. The pools dry out in late spring.
Jackson County has Oregon's only vernal pools. They support a plant and animal governed by the Endangered Species Act: the large-flowered woolly meadowfoam, which is listed as endangered, and the fairy shrimp, listed as threatened.
Fewer than 23 percent of the original vernal pools found in the county remain, said Kristi Mergenthaler, lands steward for the conservancy. They have been replaced by agriculture, the one-time military installation Camp White and urbanization. "This is flat land, very attractive for settlement," she said.
The cattle, which graze under contract, are typically placed on the land in the fall to munch on the previous year's residual feed, said Bill Roper, director of biological services for Wildland, a mitigation and conservation-bank company that owns the 132 acres.
He said previous owners had herds grazing it more heavily.
Now, cattle remain until "mid-to-late spring, depending on the moisture that year," he said. This year, most of the 20 to 30 head have been taken off.
Grazing keeps outside vegetation from encroaching on the fringe of the vernal pools, which actually shrinks the overall wet area, Roper said.
Where cattle have historically grazed and then been taken off for several years, "these pools begin to shrink up a bit because of the reduced density of the soil and annual grasses starting to climb into the fringe of the pool."
The site is being managed as part of Oregon's new vernal pool mitigation bank. Once a bank is established, wetland credits can be sold to developers who need to offset their wetland impacts. Wildland has about 35,000 acres under management in Oregon, California and Washington.
Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/
Copyright 2012 The AP.