Press release on the ecology and land use in the developer's help for restoration of natural habitat

I conducted research, interviews, and wrote this press release on a developer's environmental stewardship, in their support of the restoration of a significant riparian habitat adjacent to their new home community.


RiverRim Donates Land, Materials for
Deschutes River Habitat Restoration

BEND, Oregon — Keeping its promise to develop a community in harmony with the environment, the creators of RiverRim have taken a crucial step toward restoring critical habitat for fish and local plants along the banks of the Deschutes River. Newland Communities, the developers of the new home community south of Bend, early last year approached the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife with an offer to donate an important piece of land and the necessary materials in order to rehabilitate the portion of the river adjacent to the property. The work was completed this spring, and is already beginning to revive and enhance fish and wildlife habitat, reduce erosion and improve water quality.

“The only thing that equals the beauty of the Deschutes River valley is the delicate balance of its ecosystem,” said Mary Ruby, Newland’s project manager at RiverRim. “At RiverRim we saw a great opportunity to help bring the river back to the way it was before the big log drives in the 1920’s and ‘30’s. We also knew it would be easier for everyone to do it before all the homes were in. That’s why we brought our proposal to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, which has been working to restore the river elsewhere, and made every effort to facilitate the project’s completion.”

The vitality of the Deschutes River is an integral part of the environmental health of the entire region. After decades as a “working river,” the fragile volcanic soils along the Deschutes had eroded and in many areas had filled in the riverbed gravel where the native trout populations fed and spawned. The restoration project at RiverRim involved placing excess trees from the property, with root and branches attached, into a riverside pool adjacent to the community. This was followed by putting branch material on the upstream side of the trees to accelerate formation of sediment which forms the medium for riparian plantings. The vegetation was transplanted from the nearest possible sources to blend seamlessly with the surrounding area. Finally, the access road to the project area was seeded with native grasses to cover all traces of human activity. Now it’s up to the river and nature to perform their magic.

In the years to come, the area will capture sediment which would otherwise either accumulate downstream in areas such as The Old Mill pool and Mirror Pond or be lost forever. The debris will slow the flow of water and revive the habitat for juvenile redband trout, listed as a Vulnerable Species by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and a potentially threatened Category 2 species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As the sediment builds and sedge plantings spread over time, this precious habitat will continue to improve and increase the trout population and their chances for survival.

Surveying the finished project, Ruby commented, “We’re all very pleased with the result, and look forward to seeing it mature. What’s especially satisfying is that not only was it the right thing to do, it affirms our belief that we can build better communities and a better environment.”

Newland Communities’ Bend office can be reached at (541) 389-0700.