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Rock Creek Campus wins $257,000 Metro grant to restore critical habitat

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The Rock Creek Campus is a big winner in habitat restoration.

The college’s 260-acre campus with large nature area received a $257,000 floodplain habitat enhancement grant from Metro, Portland’s regional government. Rock Creek will partner with Clean Water Services and Tualatin Riverkeepers to improve floodplain connectivity and function to the 105-acre site on the Rock Creek campus.

Deer are native to the rural Rock Creek area.

Deer are native to the rural Rock Creek area.

The partners will use a number of approaches to enhance the watershed, create ponds and improve nesting habitat. Rock Creek faculty members from the Biology, Environmental Studies and Environmental Landscape Technology programs will work to maximize the educational and ecological potential of the 105-acre site that supports a variety of species, including more than 50 types of resident and migratory birds, Roosevelt elk, red-legged frogs and steelhead salmon. Hundreds of students have worked to improve the site, and the Veterinary Technology Program is testing livestock grazing techniques that create positive results for farmers, water quality and habitat.

Rock Creek biology instructors Valance Brenneis and Kevin Lien assisted Clean Water Services with the grant proposal. They stated that much of the site’s habitat had been degraded by activities that aimed to clear native trees and drain the wetlands for agricultural purposes.

“The project design emphasizes restoration of watershed processes and working with Mother Nature to restore the site,” said Brenneis. “Altering the ditches, for example, will slow the flow of water so it spreads across the site more regularly. This action will extend ponding and saturated soil conditions longer into the dry summer season, providing superior nesting habitat for waterfowl and breeding habitat for amphibians.”

As are coyotes.

As are coyotes.

Added Lien, “The design involves actions to enrich the character of the stream, including grading the soil to create small depressions; installing large logs and snags within the wetland; and planting a variety of native vegetation. These steps will provide additional resting, foraging and nesting habitat for fish and wildlife — particularly for beavers, a keystone species.”

According to the proposal, invasive species management began in 2013-14, and the first planting is slated for winter 2017-18. As a result of the major restoration effort, students and community groups are increasing their connection to the site through integrated learning opportunities and stewardship activities.

The proposal went on to state that with support from the Metro Nature in Neighborhoods Grant Program, Tualatin Riverkeepers will bring new partners to the site and deliver integrated educational and hands-on restoration programming to a broader group of community members through partnerships with Adelante Mujeres, Muslim Educational Trust, and Unite Oregon. Through such community outreach, the project is connecting diverse youth interested in learning more about nature to the PCC campus and their education programs through involvement in tree planting, wildlife monitoring and stewardship.