Thursday, March 25, 2021

 Art, Tours and Tales of the Willamette River

In celebration of the 5th Annual Willamette River Festival (August 21-28th), WREN is  coordinating efforts with eight community partners and watershed leaders to tell the stories of the Willamette River through the lens of self-guided tours of watershed systems (both natural and human-engineered) and natural art installations.

Tour routes will take place in Springfield and Eugene. The purpose of each tour is for visitors to learn more about the systems around us that support a clean Willamette River and to deepen the connection of people to our local waterways through an exploration of storm water projects, Native stories, and a celebration of natural art.

Each tour route will incorporate stops where participants can scan a QR code leading to a webpage with information about the featured artwork, water system, or natural area. The routes will feature 2-3 art pieces created and developed by summer art camp students in Springfield, Fern Ridge, and Eugene and led by Alex Ever, our resident artist for the installations. 

Alex's specialty is in natural dyes and temporary organic art installations. Alex and their student’s will be creating banners, colorful cotton ropes, and smaller fabric pieces to be hung or woven together into dynamic art pieces hung from trees, woven into bridge bannisters, or installed along fences. There is also the potential to expose students to Native traditional practices to further their connection with this land and its People.

Project partners include WREN, the Lane Arts Council, the City of Eugene, the City of Springfield, Willamalane, the Long Tom Watershed Council, the Boys and Girls Club of Emerald Valley, and Connected Lane County.

Special thanks goes to Marta Clifford and Theresa May for sharing their traditional knowledge and stories, Jim Bronson for providing valuable resources about the many benefits of wetlands, and Laura Allen from Greywater Action for her assistance with Spanish translations.

Sponsorship for this project have been provided by the GreenLane Sustainable Business Network, Connected Lane County and Boys and Girls Club of Emerald Valley.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Today's Wander took our dynamic group of Wetland enthusiasts on a walk through Springfield's historic Mill Race area by Booth-Kelly trailhead. Originally constructed in 1852, the Mill Race and Mill Pond powered Springfield's first grist and saw mills. Covering an area approximately 3.5 miles long, the Mill Race flows along the southern edges of the City of Springfield. In 1985, after this historic property was donated to the City of Springfield by Georgia-Pacific, local officials began the next steps to assume the responsibilities of managing the waterway. 

Since then, the City and partners from the Willamalane Parks and Recreation District, have made steady progress in their efforts to manage and restore the Mill Race and Mill Pond as well as efforts invested in telling the story. Every summer since 2016, the City of Springfield hosts the Upstream Art project and commissions local artists to paint inspirational murals to help depict the story of stormwater near drains and on sidewalks. These beautiful creations raise awareness of the connection between city streets and local waterways while supporting artists and beatifying the city.  

The Mill Pond was constructed as a Stormwater treatment pond and was completed in 2015. Native plant communities were established to take-in trace minerals such as phosphorus, nitrogen, and others running off of the surrounding impervious surfaces. These plants work together with the hydric soils, to which heavy metals stick, and the microbes from the pond to filter water coming in from the neighboring mill.

The City and co. have tested water coming into the pond and have found that the water coming in is much 'dirtier' than the water flowing out from the other end of the pond, proving that these wetland plant and animal communities are vitally important in the process of cleaning and filtering the water! The pond also has created excellent edge habitat for local wildlife living in an urban environment. In our short visit, we observed American Coot, Ring-necked ducks, a Northern Harrier, Pied-billed Grebes, and Hooded mergansers. 

WREN would like to thank Brett Parsons, Natural Resources Specialist with Willamalane, and Meghan Murphy, an Environmental Technician with the City of Springfield for leading today's adventure!

We hope that you can join us next month on Tuesday, December 8th for a tour of Delta Ponds with Rick Ahrens.

Monday, November 9, 2020


WREN would like to thank Elle and Alex for their efforts in designing this year's Letter to our Readers.
Elle Weberling is an advertising major with minors in Spanish and entrepreneurship at the University of Oregon. She has a passion for small businesses and believes they are at the heart of our local culture. She hopes to utilize her skills to help build a stronger and more inclusive community for all.
Alex Shakerin is a senior at the University of Oregon. His major is advertising with minors in multimedia and comparative literature. His focus is on design and brand development. Alex loves advertising that celebrates diversity and brings people together. In the future he hopes to help businesses expand their reach by creating stylish and meaningful content.
If you are interested in signing-up for our e-news letter, or to receive our mailing, please email your name, e-mail address, and mailing address to Laura Maloney, WREN Education Director at
Thank you for working with us, Alex and Elle!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

City Nature Challenge: i-Naturalist Tutorial

Don't forget to join in the fun, this weekend for 
the City Nature Challenge: Backyard BioBlitz!

Follow this link, provided by Middle Fork Watershed Council,
to learn how to use the i-Naturalist tool at home:

For more tips on finding backyard specimens for the bioblitz, explore this PDF:

As a reminder, since sightings are reported from our own backyards, make sure that you mark the observation as "cultivated" or "captive."

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, organizations across the Upper Willamette watershed invite you to join your community in documenting our local nature during the 2020 City Nature Challenge!

As we stay home and stay safe to stop the spread of COVID-19, we can still observe and document the natural world in our backyards, on our sidewalks, and even in our homes!

The City Nature Challenge is a community science bioblitz with the goal of observing and identifying as many species as possible in urban communities. Participants from more than 200 cities worldwide will contribute and so can you!

You may be wondering - what is a BioBlitz? ‘Bio’ means ‘life’ and ‘blitz’ means ‘to do something quickly and intensively’. Together they make ‘BioBlitz’, a collaborative race against the clock to discover as many species as possible, within a set location, over a defined time period. Plants, animals, fungi, it all counts! Even tracks and other evidence of a species can be recorded.

Find out the name of that mystery plant growing nearby with iNaturalist, a free and easy to use app and website with a community of experts helping you identify what you found. If you are in the Eugene-Springfield CNC area and you make an observation on iNaturalist from April 24th-27th, it will automatically contribute to our total. How many species can we find?

Please follow all travel and social distancing guidelines as we bring technology and nature together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Discover the nature around you during the City Nature Challenge!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Lomatium Meditations: A Virtual Wetland Wander Experience

Long Tom River
BLM Long Tom Site
In the spirit of WREN’s Wetland Wanders held the second Tuesday of every month, I recently embarked on a West Eugene Wetlands adventure with two of my BLM colleagues, Forestry Technician, Colin Sayre, and Plants Biological Technician, Christine Calhoun as well as BLM’s GIS Specialist and Acting Assistant Field Manager, Bernie Hoffman. Our journey took us to a spacious, 5-acre, mixed oak savannah and wet prairie nestled along the Long Tom River between the towns of Cheshire and Veneta where we settled in to monitor the recently down-listed species, Bradshaw’s lamatium.

Brandshaw’s lomatium, or Bradshaw’s desert parsley, is a low lying, perennial species that grows from a slender tap root. Its pinnate leaves are reminiscent of delicate carrot fronds and its small, yellow flowers are arranged radially in clusters called umbels. Bradshaw’s lomatium is generally found in wet habitats where the soil is clay-rich, near creeks or small rivers. Threats include habitat loss due to agriculture, commercial and residential development, encroachment by shrubs and trees, and competition from weedy invasives.
(Above) Christine and Colin mark the 'x' axis of the plot
(Below) Colin records the number of leafing and flowering plants

The best time to survey and monitor this species is from mid-April to May when the plant is in flower. I learned from experience that this is due to the fact that the short, delicate carroty leaves can easily be overlooked or confused with any number of plants that make up the green, vegetative expanse of the wet prairie. We began by finding one of the four, 30+ square meter plots on site with a GPS. Then, Colin and Christine attached a large tape to one end of the transect point and unrolled it to the other end of the transect line to mark an ‘x’ axis. Two additional measuring tapes were used on the ‘y’ axis to create a system of monitoring the plots one square meter at a time. Searching for the Bradshaw’s lomatium brought to mind memories from childhood spending hours meticulously looking through a field of clover for the one with 4-leaves. The process was slow and meditative, allowing the observer ample time to appreciate the other Spring wildlife that inevitably appears when one is patient and looking closely, such as young Northwest garter snakes, small orb weavers and crab spiders, voles, eagles, and Pileated and Acorn woodpeckers. One can’t help but appreciate in these moments all that Spring has to offer! After the data has been collected, it is recorded on a series of sheets used by Technicians to input into Long-term data files and will provide evidence for restoration measures.

It wasn’t very long ago that Bradshaw’s lomatium, or Desert Parsley, was listed as an Endangered species. A number of factors are required in order to reclassify a species from Endangered to Threatened. Most importantly is evidence to support that the species population is growing and that it has  high quality habitat to support its growth. Yearly monitoring is the best way to document how well a plant species is doing so that a plan for protection and management can be put into place. This requires the dedication of restoration ecologists who have an interest in protecting these important resources and a supportive community. Plant monitoring programs, such as the one I experienced this Tuesday with my BLM colleagues, help us allocate land management resources and plan restoration efforts. Monitoring efforts also give us an understanding of the occurrence, distribution and status of plant populations in vital wetland units. The data collected through plant monitoring helps make sure that threatened and endangered species receive continued protection and assistance and ensure species biodiversity.

Thanks to monitoring programs and the efforts of my colleagues and other Wildlife Technicians, the West Eugene Wetlands is now down to three threatened and endangered species; the Fender’s Blue butterfly, Kinkaid’s lupine (the nectar plant for the Fender’s blue butterfly), and the Willamette daisy. After participating in monitoring efforts, I see the value in the work and have renewed hope that, with continued efforts and support, all of our West Eugene Wetlands species will be considered common, once again.

Article by WREN Program Coordinator, Laura Maloney