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Warren & Laurie Halsey

ASC presents the Homer Campbell Environmental Award annually to acknowledge individuals and/or organizations in our community who contribute to the protection and preservation of wildlife, wildlife habitat, and/or environmental education. A committee chooses from among nominations received from the community each winter; with approval of the ASC Board. The award is given in honor of the substantial contributions of Homer Campbell, former environmentalist in ASC, who died in 2002.

The 2016 recipients of the Homer Campbell Award have excelled in all criteria and made a significant contribution toward protecting Oregon’s precious wildlife: Laurie and Warren Halsey of Raindance Ranch.

In 1992, the Halseys’ newly purchased 270-acre ranch, south of Corvallis near Alpine, contained much marginal farmland. As in so much of the Willamette Valley, the natural hydrology had been subverted to serve the dominant farming paradigm. Native plant species were eradicated in favor of Christmas trees, rye grass and fescue monocultures.

To return much of the farm to wildlife habitat, the Halseys enlisted the help of agencies with programs and personnel dedicated to helping landowners: OR Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited, US Fish & Wildlife Service/Partners for Fish & Wildlife, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service/ Wetlands Reserve Program.

The first step was to restore the natural hydrology of 66 acres of the wetland areas associated with Muddy Creek. By 1997 ponds were reestablished along the creek; native forbs and grasses were planted; and other native wetland plant species came back on their own. In just one year, the number and diversity of bird species went from nearly zero in the monoculture grass habitat to 26 wetland-associated species. Thousands of birds were documented using newly restored ponds.

Now, nearly 30 years later, these wetland areas host native residents including red-legged frogs & Western pond turtles, and serve as a stop-over for migrating waterfowl. More than 170 bird species use this restored habitat.

Over the years, riparian corridors, upland prairie & oak savannah habitats have all been nudged from remnants into prominence at Raindance Ranch. The Halseys re-introduced controlled burning (Native Americans in the valley traditionally burned large areas of the Willamette Valley each year to keep the land open for wildlife & edible plant species, like camas) on portions of the property - experimenting with different plant re-introduction regimes. Starting with local seeds, then transplanting rhizomes, they established dozens of milkweed clusters, some containing hundreds of plants, to aid the dwindling Monarch butterfly population, a milkweed obligate species. Kincaid’s lupine, planted for the Fender’s Blue butterfly, is also flourishing.

Benefits to the human community have been equally rich. The Halseys have generously let area school children and volunteer groups get involved with hands-on work, thereby giving folks, from pre-schoolers to retirees, a vivid learning experience of just how fun helping wildlife can be. University students and independent professionals have carried out many research projects and surveys focusing on diverse subjects, such as the native honeybee, white-breasted nuthatch, Wilson’s snipe, and bullfrogs. Even international groups, hosted through OSU, have come to learn from the multi-faceted and ever evolving restoration projects.

The Halseys are quick to say they didn’t do much – everyone else did the work. But their vision for the land they so lovingly care for preceded and continues to direct the efforts that benefit so many wildlife species, right alongside the fields of rotating commercial crops.

While this award focuses on local contributions, it is worth noting that the Halseys are involved in a number of other habitat restoration projects on land they own elsewhere. Areas of the lower Sacramento River, Tule Lake/Klamath Refuges, and Yosemite National Park are also benefiting from their vision of enabling native plants and wildlife to thrive amid carefully managed human uses.

As Homer Campbell was fond of saying – “Wildlife need only three things: habitat, habitat, and habitat!” Today the Halsey’s ranch is a rich mosaic of diverse habitat: wetlands, upland prairie, oak savanna, managed cropland, and conifer forest. ASC is grateful to recognize the Halseys for their wonderful work on behalf of nature.

Note: Several documentaries featuring Raindance Ranch restorations were made by OPB’s Oregon Field Guide: Monarchs and Milkweed, 2016 and The Halseys’ Wildlife Habitat, 2001.

 
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Audubon Society of Corvallis
PO Box 148
Corvallis, OR 97339
Email: Audubon.Corvallis@gmail.com