How? and Why? Vesper Meadow Restoration Preserve
Notes and a welcome from Program Director, Jeanine Moy
The Vesper Meadow Restoration Preserve (site) has long been a place that inspires - from the First Nation people that lived seasonally on the land, walked from the valley bottoms to tend and harvest wild plants along the wet meadow in the warmer months - to modern folks that pass through the meadow by car. People have remarked to me: “oh! the meadow I always see Sandhill Cranes” or “the place with beautiful aspen groves” or “where you get the first striking glimpse of Mt. McLaughlin when you come over the hill.”
In many ways, it is the place itself that has attracted peoples’ attention. And now building off of the natural features, is a restoration project and education program rapidly developing into a community hub.
From the initial idea of starting a long-term restoration project with the new landowner, to marrying it with my life-long dream to create a nature-based education program - the Vesper Meadow Restoration and Education Program has already felt like it is creating a life of its own. Scientists, restoration experts, artists, and many others have offered their volunteer time to support our efforts.
I have been talking quite a bit about the project to all sorts of folks; and though I receive mostly positive feedback, there are many trending questions that have surfaced. Here, I attempt to answer some of the Frequently Asked Questions that have come up during this inaugural year of the Vesper Meadow Education Program:
So why is the Vesper Meadow site ecologically important?
The Vesper Meadow Restoration Preserve is ecologically important within its greater interconnected landscape of the southern Cascade Mountains, near to the nexus of the Siskiyou Mountain range. Local biologist, Evan Frost recently completed a report highlighting the importance of landscape connectivity in this region. In which he summarizes the need for different types of land managers to come together for conservation.
While significant steps have been taken to protect specific portions of this key inter-regional landbase, the Cascade-Siskiyou region retains many threats to its ecological integrity and biodiversity. There is a need for (conservation action) “across multiple ownerships in order to safeguard the area's outstanding ecological values. (Frost 2018)
As part of the Rogue River basin, Vesper Meadow protects the headwaters for spawning salmon and for the Talent Irrigation Ditch, providing water to people in the Rogue Valley. The upland wet meadow also serves as valuable wildlife habitat for a diversity of species, including rare and imperiled species like the Oregon Vesper Sparrow and Mardon Skipper. Each of these two species have perilously low and declining populations due to the past impacts to their preferred meadow habitats. Within the broader context, this region has been noted to serve as a climate refugia in which a diversity of smaller micro-climates could help accommodate shifting population patterns during a rapidly changing climate. We are hopeful that given the ecological richness of the area, and our ongoing stewardship efforts, that the Vesper Meadow Restoration Preserve will become an outstanding, oasis for local biodiversity to thrive.
What is Vesper Meadow’s land management status?
The Vesper Meadow site is currently under new private ownership and the owner is in the process of donating a conservation easement with the support of the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy. The intention of the owner with this conservation easement, is to protect the ecological values of the land in perpetuity.
The combination of the conservation easement and the goals of the Vesper Meadow Education Program is the intended to create a demonstration site for true ecological restoration that promotes native biodiversity. Considering the unpredictable nature of government capacity to manage for conservation lands, and local trends for increased land development, the Vesper Meadow Restoration Preserve poses a unique opportunity for community involvement. We work to demonstrate a model of private-land conservation management that is fully integrated into many aspects of the local community.
How does a Restoration Preserve serve the local community?
We are developing a place for people to witness restoration, participate in stewardship, develop relevant skills, and inspire human connection with nature. Scientifically sound, community-powered, and culturally informed restoration planning will guide our restoration efforts. For this, we are enabling students and general public to engage in practical learning experiences, providing compensation and rewards for various science and program projects, and engaging with local experts and partner organizations.
Through education and stewardship we are creating short-term opportunities for internships, networking, job training, and science learning. In the long-term, we are building capacity for community engagement in science, broad collaboration for conservation, and the growing land restoration movement.
We work with a broad network of local scientists, community groups, NGO’s, students, educators, artists, small businesses, and individual supporters. In the spirit of restoration, we also aim to bridge equality gaps by partnering with and empowering youth, indigenous people, women, and people of color. We welcome all ages and all people to participate in a range of hands-on activity through programs and partnership.
The site will serve as an outdoor laboratory for scientific study, a place-based classroom, a source for artistic inspiration, and a hub for the practice of stewardship. Our interdisciplinary approach for education and advocacy for the outdoors is a reflection of our philosophy, that education must go beyond an aesthetic appreciation for nature. We are fostering a deeper human-nature relationship by illustrating the reciprocal benefits between human care-takers and an interconnected ecosystem. Humans can create positive benefit to the ecosystem when they act as land stewards with both deep compassion and understanding of natural systems.
Stay tuned, and you’ll always find something at Vesper Meadow!
Over the next few months we look forward to providing programs for youth and adults that provide awareness and tangible skills to help address today’s environmental and societal challenges. Let’s engage in science together, and utilize wildcrafting and art to make it widely culturally vested. Looking ahead into the not-so-distant future, I hope that the Vesper Meadow Restoration Preserve and its associated programs will inspire increased future protection for itself and lands around it.
To help this project succeed, I welcome everyone to get involved in stewardship events, bring your own skills and passions, come to our educational programs and get inspired. Leave Vesper Meadow with new knowledge, a new network, a new skill set, or just a desire to return again.