The purpose of the Oregon Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is to restore, maintain, and enhance streamside areas on agricultural lands to benefit fish, wildlife, and water quality. Landowners enrolled in CREP receive annual rental, incentive, and cost-share payments to implement conservation measures such as planting trees and shrubs, and installing fencing and livestock watering facilities. About 41,000 acres of land are being conserved as a result of the nearly 1,600 contracts enacted to date. Given the overall investment in the program and the ongoing efforts to enroll additional landowners in CREP, it is critical to evaluate the program’s success.
Stillwater Sciences has been contracted to develop and implement the CREP Effectiveness Monitoring Project to evaluate the effect of conservation measures on riparian areas and fish and wildlife habitat. The results of this evaluation will provide guidance for the development and implementation of future CREP contracts.
We have developed a sampling design and field methods, and collected data at treatment and control sites. Our project partner, Sitka Technology Group, has developed a web-based database. Stillwater will be analyzing the field data and evaluating program success to date based on the field data collected, and then making recommendations to an advisory group regarding how to maximize the ecological success of the CREP program.
Stillwater Sciences worked with the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) and other stakeholders in creating a sampling design and the approach for selecting CREP treatment sites and control sites and the field protocol for data collection. The sampling design supported the following project goals:
The two-phase data collection effort consisted of sampling treatment and control sites located in counties both west and east of the Cascades. One of the important goals of the Phase 1 sampling effort was to test the efficiencies of the data collection process early in the field sampling effort, and assess whether the methodology was practical in the different eco-regions. In Phase 1, conducted in June 2016, the sampling methodology was found to be feasible and effective in providing highly consistent data. Though meaningful data were gathered in Phase 1, improvements were identified and incorporated into both the site selection process and the monitoring database structure used for Phase 2. We are in the process of analyzing the data and will be providing our conclusions and recommendations by early 2017.
Stakeholders involved in the project included the Farm Service Agency, local soil and water conservation districts, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, local landowners, and others.