By Jim Stutzman
The IWJV is pleased to announce that two partner-funded private lands biologists have been hired to work in southern Oregon. After a rigorous selection process, the interview team selected Jeff Jones and Taylor Albertson for the positions. Jeff will be working in Harney County and Taylor is stationed in Lake County. Both counties contain key spring migration sub-basins within the greater Southern Oregon Northeastern California (SONEC) landscape. These are exciting times in SONEC. Investments in science and planning have laid the groundwork for focusing financial and human resources in SONEC, the “last frontier” for migrating waterbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway. These positions will help move the ball on conserving flood-irrigated wet meadows in this part of the country.
The wet meadows of SONEC are some of the most important spring and fall staging habitats for waterfowl. This region supports over 70% of the Pacific Flyway’s dabbling ducks and 30% of the continent’s Northern pintails during spring migration. The vast majority of SONEC’s flood-irrigated wet meadows are located on working ranch lands. Annual haying and grazing provides valuable food resources that fuels migration for birds on their way to northern breeding areas. In collaboration with other researchers, the IWJV developed a scientifically-based and defensible objective for this unique habitat type that calls for conserving 64,700 acres of flood-irrigated wet meadow habitat to meet the needs of spring migrating waterfowl at North American Waterfowl Management Plan goal levels.
The new positions represent the vision of a diverse conservation partnership. Four partners – Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Ducks Unlimited, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the IWJV – contributed the financial resources to fund the positions for two years. The coalition will work hard to find additional funding to extend the positions to 2018. By design, Jeff and Taylor are strategically stationed in local NRCS field offices. Their primary job is to provide technical assistance to livestock producers and help them access U.S. Department of Agriculture funds through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Funds from this program will be used to repair aging infrastructure ensuring that flood-irrigated wet meadows are available for grazing, haying and migrating birds. Down the road, we hope to launch a working lands conservation easement initiative in SONEC through the NRCS Regional Conservation Partnership Program.
Jeff and Taylor bring diverse skill sets to their new jobs. Jeff was born in Georgia and received a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Georgia and M.S. in Natural Resource Management from Oregon State University. He previously worked as a private lands biologist for a variety of state, federal and local resource agencies. Taylor was born and raised in Lake County, Oregon. Growing up, he worked on the family ranch and helped with calving, branding, haying, fencing and irrigating. He attended Western Oregon University where he received a B.S. in Biology. Since graduating, Taylor has worked for the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Over the past couple of months, I have gotten to know both Taylor and Jeff. I believe that they are a perfect fit for SONEC. They are enthusiastic, motivated, and brimming with common sense. I believe the stage is set for great things to happen in this crucial hub in the Pacific Flyway.