Habitats

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William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge supports a number of different habitat types which attract a broad diversity of different plants and animals. In taking just a 1.1 mile hike around our Woodpecker Loop, you pass through 5 of these habitat types, which provide sighting opportunities from Roosevelt elk to rough-skinned newt to pileated woodpecker. This habitat diversity also makes the refuge a birding hotspot.

  • Seasonal Wetland

    Seasonal Wetland

    The majority of Finley NWR's wetland habitat is seasonal. These are wetlands flooded by precipitation in the cool seasons and are then dried up by the summer heat. Most of the Refuge seasonal wetlands, however, are managed using a combination of dikes, spillways and water control structures. Using the water control structures, Refuge managers can release water collected and retained during the winter. This seasonality reflects the bird usage of the wetlands which numbers in the thousands during the winter, and drops down to mere hundreds in the spring and summer. 

  • Permanent Wetland

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    Approximately 65 of Finley and Snag Boat Bend's cumulative 570 acres of wetland are permanent. These permanent wetland areas provide space for nesting waterfowl to raise their young, homes for western pond turtle and red-legged frog, and hunting grounds for osprey during the summer. 

  • Riparian

    Riparian Habitat

    Representing the dominant habitat-type at Snag Boat Bend and the second largest in size at Finley, riparian areas are vital habitat corridors for a number of different species of wildlife. On Finley NWR, the Oregon ash dominated riparian area of Muddy Creek is favored by elk as it provides covered access to water sources and a safe return route to upland pasture. Snag Boat's riparian area represents a tremendous example of a black cottonwood gallery forest and the tall trees which are preferred by great blue heron for their nesting rookeries. Riparian hardwood forests once dominated the floodplains of the Willamette River; at the arrival of Euroamerican settlers these forests made up about 10% of vegetative cover in the Valley. Since the 1850's, these bottomland riparian forests have declined by over 70%.  

  • Wet Prairie

    Wet Prairie

    Wet prairies are characterized by shallow ponding of water on the prairie floor up to 6" deep throughout the winter and early spring. They are known for their mounded topography which forms low points that flood seasonally and create a unique environment to support a broad diversity of plant species. Once the most widespread habitat type on the Willamette Valley floor, intact historic wet prairie land today numbers less than 1% of its original area. The largest continuous and intact example of this historic habitat consists of 366 acres found on the William L. Finley NWR. and contained within the 487-acre Willamette Floodplain Research Natural Area (RNA). Due to the rarity of this habitat type, many plant species native to the wet prairie are declining and listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

  • Upland Oak Savanna

    Oak Savanna

    The oak savanna is characterized by widely spaced Oregon white oak trees with upland prairie in between. These open spaces support native prairie grasses such as Roemer's fescue and prairie junegrass as well as wildflowers like camas, lupine and cat's ear lily. Once a widely spread habitat type in the Willamette Valley, less than 1% of the pre-Euroamerican settlement upland savanna remains due to the suppression of fire which historically maintained the open spaces and prevented invasive woody vegetation from establishing itself. The oak savannas of the Willamette Valley also provide vital habitat for the endangered Fender's blue butterfly. While there are no existing populations on William L. Finley NWR today, extensive restoration efforts of prairie habitat on the western slopes of Pigeon Butte are underway, and in 2015 the refuge staff hope to reintroduce the butterfly to this region. 

  • Oak Woodland

    Oak Woodland Habitat

    Identified as a priority for protection and restoration, the oak woodlands provide habitat for Species of Concern such as the western bluebird, acorn woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch and several species of bat. The oak woodland differs from oak savanna as it contains more oak trees per acre, and the understory is generally shrub-dominated rather than herbaceous. The greatest threat to this habitat is the encroachment of fast-growing Douglas-fir and other coniferous trees. Restoration of these woodlands focus on Douglas-fir removal utilizing traditional horse-logging practices and modern helicopter-logging so as to avoid damage to the reserve oak trees. The Douglas-fir logs removed have been used by conservation partners for in-stream habitat or donated to local schools and charities.

  • Mixed Deciduous/Coniferous Forest

    Mixed Deciduous-Coniferous Forest

    A result of Douglas-fir encroachment on oak woodland habitat, mixed forest stands generally support shade-tolerant species that can survive under the fir canopy. Big-leaf maple makes up much of the deciduous canopy and the understory is occupied by beaked hazelnut, snowberry, vine-maple and sword fern. This habitat is frequented by larger mammals such as black-tail deer, elk, and black bear; as well as birds preferring dense forest habitat and old-growth snags such as the pileated woodpecker and Swainson's thrush. 

  • Agricultural Lands

    Agricultural Fields

    Representing the largest swath of land on the refuge, the agricultural crops grown on the refuge land provide essential fodder for wintering Canada geese. A vast majority of these agricultural fields are managed cooperatively with local farmers, thus benefiting both the refuge management goals as well as the farmers.