Formerly, Plas Newydd Farm was managed as a year-round dairy farm, year-round cattle ranch, and then for extraction forestry. Current land use practices on the farm include sustainable timber harvest, seasonal leased cattle grazing, NRCS-funded farm activities, and maintenance of forestry and agricultural infrastructure including outbuildings, dikes, levees, water control structures, ditches, access roads, rock pits, gates, fencing, and off-channel watering systems (Current Land Use and Management Actions Map). Historical land use management actions that have impacted the Plas Newydd property include conversion of floodplain for agriculture through diking, ditching, dredging and placement of dredge material, filling, grading and diversion of water. We established a Conservation Program to address historical land use management impacts by restoring site-scale watershed processes with a focus on dynamic floodplain habitat-forming and maintaining processes that support a broad range of ecological functions.
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Plas Newydd Farm takes an active role in the management of cattle grazing leases according to a formal grazing plan that has been developed between the Lessee, Farm Manager, and Managing Partner. The current lease includes yearling heifers, cow/calf pairs, and bulls, which are introduced and grazed at various times between approximately March and November, but can begin as early as February and go for as late as December, or shortened from the approximate timeframe. The initial date of when the cattle are first turned out in the spring is based on current grass condition, grass height, growth rate, near future weather outlook, river levels, ground conditions, and other factors with personnel and cattle. The rotational grazing approach is described below.
Stocking rates for the total amount of cattle to be grazed at Plas Newydd are based primarily on the amount of rest period days for grass to regrow, growing phase the grass is in, and total acres of grass available for cattle. Rest periods are the total days required once cattle are pulled off a certain paddock to regrow and have forage available to be grazed again and are used for the duration cattle are on the property to determine how long cattle can stay on certain paddocks, when to destock, when to add cattle, and when to start moving cattle more rapidly through paddocks or when to slow down rotations based on pasture growth. The goal with rest periods is to never regraze any paddock within the given rest period.
In order to keep the grass growing and the cattle growing at the same time, pastures are grazed according to 3 phases: a vegetative stage (rest phase) for which no grazing occurs and vegetation is able to regrow to minimize bare ground and rest periods, a transition phase (grazing period) where active grazing occurs and is the period with high feed value and which promotes healthy vegetative growth, and a reproduction phase where the cattle are either grazed down or the paddock skipped since at this phase the available feed has diminished and the grass seed has a chance to be naturally dispersed back into the ground for future regrowth.
For fields that have already been grazed, a calculation has been developed to map out future grazing areas available (available feed per acre) and rest periods needed, and to help form a plan of action if drought conditions occur (such as destocking). For assessing longer-term impacts (positive or negative) of grazing on the land and to help with future management decisions, transects are assessed at current and past grazing sites and data is collected for grass phase, plant height, abundance of seedlings, plant residue, and percent bare soil.Next Program: Forestry
Sustainable timber harvest has been conducted in many portions of the property, and forestry operations are based on the American Forest Foundation’s American Tree Farm System (ATFS), which developed the Standards of Sustainability for Forest Certification (AFF 2015) through a “rigorous, multi-stakeholder process and based on international guidelines for sustainable forest management and conservation” (ATFS 2015). These standards “include several core revisions to ensure long-term stewardship of America’s forests, including expanding best management practices to encompass water, air and soil, and clarifying management needed to protect threatened and endangered species and forests of recognized importance” (ATFS 2015).
Plas Newydd Farm has been an ATFS certified operation since 1988, and we have developed and utilized forest management plans since 1947. These plans have all focused on maintaining a sustainable, small harvest operation that uses best available information on all aspects of timber operations from harvest to replanting to thinning to harvest and back again. We have been on the leading edge of diverse planting techniques and as evidence of this sustainable focus; the timber lands that have developed are diverse stands with interspersed habitat pockets of various tree types including Douglas-fir, Willamette Valley ponderosa pine, white pine, Oregon white oak, Pacific yew, western red cedar, red alder, black cottonwood, and to a lesser extent western hemlock and other species. Plas Newydd strives to manage small harvests (10–20 acres) with quick replanting, and regularly consults with a diverse group in both the public and private sectors including Oregon State University and Washington State University forestry programs and Natural Resources Conservation District (NRCS).
Part of our forestry area has been thinned in cooperation with NRCS as part of their Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and previously in cooperation with NRCS’s WHIP (Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program). NRCS developed EQIP as “a voluntary program for conservation-minded landowners who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat on agricultural land, nonindustrial private forest land, and Indian land” (NRCS 2015).
The Plas Newydd Farm Conservation Program complements the Farms’ Forestry and Agriculture programs to create a sustainable working landscape that will conserve the open space and habitat values of the Columbia and Lewis River floodplains, while providing an economic alternative to residential or commercial development. The Morgan family has been stewarding the land for three generations, since 1941, and the Conservation Program is their vision to maintain the family ownership and diversify the activities and land-based revenue. The Conservation Program will ultimately restore, enhance, and preserve over 1,000 acres of diverse floodplain and adjacent upland habitats located along the lower three miles of the Lewis River at the confluence with the Columbia River, using a variety of conservation mechanisms. Tools to allow the restoration of habitats and enhance and preserve the biodiversity of this unique lower Columbia River landscape will include ecosystem services mitigation (banking as well as turn-key mitigation), traditional grant funded restoration, and others.
Plas Newydd Farm Conservation Program efforts are currently focused on the development of the 876-acre Wapato Valley Mitigation and Conservation Bank. Implementation of the Wapato Valley Bank will result in increased biodiversity of native flora and fauna, and a resilient landscape that can adapt to changing environmental conditions and river management operations. The Wapato Valley Bank, when implemented, will create significant gains in the quality and quantity of riverine wetlands, increase habitat diversity and availability of tidally influenced freshwater rearing areas for ESA-listed juvenile salmon and other native fishes to use, and increase both area and improve functions of sensitive aquatic, floodplain, riparian, and upland Oregon white-oak woodland habitats. Other projects are possible, so please contact us for more information. Conservation Program staff are also available to consult on watershed restoration projects or programs.Back