First Hand Oregon

June 8, 2012 (Updated June 16, 2012)

You may get your hands a little dirty and your feet a little wet, but you will gain appreciation for what it takes to protect and preserve Oregon’s fish and wildlife resources. Each spring, as the days grow longer and the promise of summer grows closer, you feel better spending more time outdoors. So, isn’t it nice to learn a little more about Oregon while you’re out there?

Susan Barnes does what many of us only dream about: she gets to know Oregon’s wild places better than we know our own backyards. In fact, she gets paid to learn about St Louis Ponds near Woodburn. Best of all, she’ll help you to learn more about the place too – First Hand!

“It’s a wet native prairie and there aren’t many places like this in the Willamette Valley,” noted the state conservation biologist as she led a small group of curious folks through the 260-acre site.

“Be sure to wear boots because you will get wet,” advised Barnes.

Each had signed up to spend half a day with Barnes to see and learn more about an increasingly rare habitat type in western Oregon. Barnes specializes in Oregon’s non-game species; the animals that are not hunted: “I think it’s important to learn what we have in our own backyard because that‘s what we have the greatest influence over,” noted the longtime biologist.

Barnes shared her knowledge with folks who had signed up for a tour of St Louis Ponds in a program called First Hand Oregon.

The program is the result of a new and unique partnership with the nonprofit Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation.

The Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation has ‘walked the talk’ of protecting, preserving and enhancing Oregon’s natural resources for more than thirty years through programs, outright land purchases and public projects across the Oregon outdoors. Back in the early 80’s they spearheaded the purchase of the lower 12-miles of the Deschutes River and secured public access for hiking, biking and fishing. They designed and built the popular sturgeon exhibit at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery in the Columbia River Gorge where visitors can see “Herman the Sturgeon” and his buddies anytime. Most recently, they developed a new Willamette River fishing dock at West Linn so anglers have a riverside location to cast for salmon and sturgeon.

The First Hand Oregon educational tours partner with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s land managers, field biologists and others who will spend a day with you, talk about their work and show you the lands that they are responsible for in Oregon.

The range of classes is remarkable – including hatchery visits for the chance to learn how salmon spawning is done – to turtle trapping techniques to see and learn more about Oregon’s native amphibian populations – plus many more classes emphasizing outdoor education – it’s a perfect for the curious.

It’s real science that’s fun, takes you to a new place and can help determine conservation strategies that will make a difference for the future of Oregon wildlife.


About The

Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.