Program Vision and Guiding Principles
Our Conservation Program vision is based on the Morgan family’s legacy of a working landscape, thoughtful stewardship, and open space preservation, and complements our continued sustainable farm and forestry practices. It is the vision of the Conservation Program to continue the ongoing pursuit of a truly multi-objective, ecologically sustainable, and economically viable tapestry of land uses. We are applying a multi-faceted approach to landscape stewardship that is based on the concepts of: (1) do no harm, (2) protect and preserve what is working, and (3) work with the river system not against it. This approach is supported and informed by multiple perspectives and a combination of models including:
- Scientific (a rational model based on what is ecologically and geomorphically feasible), which includes:
- Best available science—a broad range of multi-disciplinary restoration literature
- Baseline data collection—empirical data and expert opinion, and
- Historical ecology
- Social (a social model that relates to what interested people, agencies, organizations, communities, and cultures expect from restoration), which includes:
- Local knowledge—direct observations at the Site and family history
- Sustainable land use—time-tested and emerging practices
- Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)—Indigenous knowledge and First Foods, and
- Watershed approach—wetland mitigation and conservation banking rules, regulations, and guidance.
- Economic (considers what is economically feasible as well as non-mitigation restoration-related funding sources in relation to construction alternatives and what the mitigation market can accommodate).
- Philosophical (considers what basic principles guide our restoration strategies and priorities), which includes (in order of highest likelihood for success):
- Protect habitat that is highly-functional, and link protected areas,
- Connect habitat that is isolated spatially and/or temporally,
- Restore habitat-forming processes using both passive and active restoration techniques, and
- Create or enhance habitat to expedite succession and reduce temporal delays in process-based techniques.
Land use changes and management actions to develop the land for agriculture, industrial and transportation infrastructure, commercial forest products, power generation, flood control, navigation, residential development, and commercial activities have dramatically altered the landscape of the lower Columbia River region. The root cause of most environmental problems, be it habitat degradation or loss of aquatic native species, is attributed to the disruption or constraint of processes that create and maintain habitat, typically through the aforementioned land use changes and management actions that alter habitats to be more stable and suitable to modern human occupation (Cramer 2012, Beechie et al. 2010). Some environmental impacts have occurred (or continue to occur) both on- and off-site that have had far-reaching impacts, and have fundamentally changed Columbia River basin watershed processes. Examples are many, and include: the removal of tens of thousands of beavers for the fur trade starting in the mid-1700s peaking between 1820 and 1845 (Harrison 2008), systematic removal of the largest trees in coastal floodplains such as the up to 100 million board feet of Sitka spruce for airplane building during World War I which resulted in hundreds of miles of roads and railroads that allowed large-scale commercial logging to develop (NPS 2008), levee and dike building for conversion to agriculture and urban development in the lower Columbia River estuary which eliminated an estimated 70% of vegetated tidal wetlands (Marcoe and Pilson 2013), and dam building on the mainstem Columbia River that began in the 1930s and resulted in 14 mainstem dams and hundreds of other dams on large and small tributaries to the Columbia River (Harrison 2008).
Within the context of wide-spread impacts, we have identified several categories of proximal land use changes and management actions that we propose to address through our Conservation Program. Plas Newydd Farm has been altered by a range of management actions, as noted above. For example, on the lower Lewis River area at its confluence with the Columbia River, alterations made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and navigation began in the early 1900s and continued until the early 1970s, and included levee building, dredging, filling, pile dike construction, channel training, shoreline armoring, and large wood removal. Much of this activity occurred on the Plas Newydd Farm property, and has had significant, cascading impacts. As early as the 1840s, land use changes for on-site agriculture included homestead building, vegetation clearing, diking, ditching, dredging, filling, grazing, and water diversion.