Willamette Habitat Restoration: Helping Habitats and People

by Tom Kaye — last modified Apr 29, 2013

Local fund assists habitat projects in the Willamette Valley, Oregon

Tremaine Arkley and Anne Steele of Willamette Habitat Restoration visiting golden paintbrush on Trial Island, BC.
Tremaine Arkley and Anne Steele of Willamette Habitat Restoration visiting golden paintbrush on Trial Island, BC.

IAE Board Member Tremaine Arkley and his dear friend Anne Steele formed Willamette Habitat Restoration (WHR) in March of 2004, a private fund based on a simple formula – building strong relationships with grantees. Anne and her sister Elizabeth Holden donate the bulk of funds to support WHR every year, ensuring its sustainability. Anne has a special affinity for habitat and restoration projects, while Elizabeth is dedicated to education projects. Together, they strike a balance for projects funded by WHR, including those with the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE).

The impact that WHR has had on IAE is rooted in restoring an endangered beauty – the golden paintbrush, and in giving IAE’s Ecological Education programs, in particular the Sustainability in Prisons Project with the Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility, the chance to thrive. The journey has been filled with hidden treasures ever since.

WHR has funded two projects with IAE to reintroduce golden paintbrush in various sites throughout the Willamette Valley. WHR also helped sponsor a site visit to Trial Island outside of Victoria BC with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and IAE to view what is probably the largest native population in the world of this endangered flower. This rare site is difficult to reach but access was facilitated by Matt Fairbarns of Victoria, Trial Island’s regional biologist. Tom Kaye, IAE’s Executive Director, joined the trip. “This was an exceptional opportunity to see the last remaining populations of golden paintbrush in Canada,” said Tom.

“We have such a good relationship with Tom and we love the golden paintbrush – we are really hooked on it,” said Tremaine. “So when Tom flew up to Victoria to look for the rare flower on Trial Island, we got in Anne’s 20 foot boat, and picked Tom up, along with Steve Smith (formerly a premiere habitat biologist with the USFWS). We boated to the Island, anchored off shore and took Anne’s Zodiac water cab to the rocky shoreline. Matt Fairbarns led the group to the golden paintbrush. Tremaine tells it like this: “The 25 acre island simply looks like a bunch of rocks with low scrub like trees, and a light house where the keeper lives. And then you find it, and it’s like, wow!”

And IAE’s prison project for young women at the Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility holds a special place for Tremaine, his wife Gail, and Elizabeth. “For years, my wife Gail and I worked in social services. Gail managed the Foster Care Certification program in Oregon. When Tom approached us with the Sustainability in Prisons Project, it really intrigued us, and then Stacy (Moore), IAE’s Ecological Education Program Director, came to me about the young women of the Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility. I thought that was really great, because here are these young women who are incarcerated and many have a history of being abused and drug addiction. They are in great need of some real nurturing and help, and I believe they are amenable to changing and bettering their lives. This project really hit our hearts, so we provided funding to help sustain it.”

“We are tremendously grateful to WHR for the support they have given to these projects,” said Tom. “This fund is making a big difference in our region for habitats and people.”

The purpose of the Willamette Habitat Restoration fund is to provide private funds for a variety of habitat restoration and education projects in the Willamette Valley. The value of WHR is the ease of application and continued support of the projects through a guaranteed base of money for current or future needs. The Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation (OWHF) manages the fund. IAE thanks WHR for their immeasurable and continued support.