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OakQuest - Oregon White Oak

Photo of an Oregon white oak at sunset

Oak savannas and prairies once covered about 1.8 million acres, or about half of the Willamette Valley. Today, about 47,000 acres remain, a 97% decrease. Mapping the remaining stands of oak is a top priority in the effort to strengthen the sustainability of this species.

  • Why is Oregon white oak an important species?

    Oregon white oak is one of only four deciduous oaks native to the West Coast. Oaks provide biological richness in the Willamette Valley by increasing the diversity of native insect populations, offering nest and den sites for wildlife, providing microhabitat for mosses and lichens, and also food for many species of wildlife.

    Oregon white oak habitats are identified as crucial and at-risk but Oregon currently lacks high quality oak distribution maps, particularly within the north Willamette Valley. This hinders local conservation efforts and leaves a critical data gap in one of the most rapidly developing areas within the ecosystem’s range from northern California to southwestern British Columbia.

    Who is interested in mapping?

    Mapping the region’s oak is one of Metro’s highest natural resource priorities as they own multiple oak-rich natural areas.  It is also important to map outside of Metro’s areas to encourage oak habitat conservation and assess connectivity across oak patches under different ownership.

    Oak mapping is also a priority for many other regional partners including the Intertwine Alliance, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, various Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, among others.

    How is the USFWS surrogate species approach helping?

    We initially supported the OakQuest project to help Metro conduct the initial remote sensing oak distribution model, field-test the model, and asses it for accuracy.

    A citizen science effort, “OakQuest,” was established by Metro to collect field observations to test and refine the remote sensing oak distribution model. Two college-age youths from the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) were employed to help lead the effort. More than eighty citizen scientists got involved and helped map oaks using a smartphone field mapping application.

    Oak Work in 2015

    We helped support the next phase of Oak Quest with another citizen science project that mapped oaks, followed up with professional field surveys.

    College-age Native youth through the PSU Indigenous Nations Studies Program were hired as team leaders to assist with the volunteer oak mapping effort and with the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) summer youth environmental camps, and more.

    Workshops on nature-scaping with oaks (“oak-scaping”) for urban and suburban landowners in oak-rich neighborhoods and a series of guided nature walks and evening talks focused on native oak-prairie ecology and conservation were conducted.

    View a map of the OakQuest Project Area and Data

    The Story Continues

    The mapping to date has occured in Oregon, but partners hope to extend these efforts into the Washingon side of the Portland-Vancouver Metro area soon.

    The Intertwine Alliance Oak Prairie Working Group, which formed in 2012, now consistes of more than 30 agency, nonprofit, and community partners who are collaborating to improve the conservation of local oak and prairie habitats.  The working group recently completed a new strategic action plan for securing oak and prairie habitat.  This action plan will guide this working group's efforts over the next five to 10 years.

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