Connecting People With Nature
The Willamette Valley is home to 2.7 million people, a number projected to increase significantly in the coming decades. This growth is creating the need for more nature-based recreation opportunities as our existing resources become increasingly stressed.
While some portions of the Willamette Valley enjoy outdoor recreation and education opportunities close to home, other areas have far fewer publicly accessible sites in proximity to population centers. With a vast majority of the Valley in private ownership, the chances to experience the natural beauty and wildlife of the Willamette Valley through activities like birding, photography, hunting, and fishing are limited. We asked about your concerns related to nature-based recreation and education in the Valley and what opportunities you see to promote the connection between people and nature.Read more about Connecting People With Nature in the Willamette Valley (PDF)
What We've Heard
The early phase of the Willamette Valley Conservation Study has involved a series of information gathering activities, including open houses and meetings with pentential partner, as we seek to build a strong network of outdoor recreation providers in The Valley. Here are some of the key things we've heard:
Expanding the opportunities to interact with nature was a significant topic of discussion during our public meetings. Several commenters expressed the need for additional hunting opportunities in the Valley. The need to identify and serve underserved populations was also expressed by several commenters.
The Willamette River was identified as an underutilized resource for additional recreational opportunities. We received several comments related to the need to permanently protect a particular wetland that a school district uses as an outdoor classroom and laboratory.
Other comments spoke to the need to balance increasing access for recreation and education with the needs of wildlife, keeping in mind the need to determine the habitats and places that can sustain recreational use as well as those where wildlife should come first.
What We're Doing
Addressing the needs for additional nature-based recreation and education is an important aspect of the Service's mission to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.
We're reviewing Oregon's latest Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan and working closely with Federal, State, County, and local recreation providers to identify existing and proposed natural areas, hiking, biking and water trails, nature oriented parks, visitor centers, nature centers, environmental education centers, and outdoor classrooms. We'll analyze these results to identify areas that are underserved by these types of facilities.
Should an outcome of the study be that the Service expands existing refuges or adds new ones, those expansion areas would be investigated for their suitability to provide outdoor recreation and education opportunities in a way that provides quality outdoor experiences but minimizes impacts to wildlife.
Willamette Valley Nature-Based Recreation Assessment
A 2012 report prepared by SWCA Environmental Consultants for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that examined the nature-based recreation and education opportunities in the Willamette Valley Conservation Study Area, including an assessment of underserved areas.Read the report