Blaha Family: A Picture of Oregon CREP Success

Pictured standing in the CREP acreage admiring the Kincaid’s Lupine are representatives of the three-part Conservation Partnership between FSA, the Yamhill Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and Mossback Farm. Pictured l tor: Josh Togstad, riparian planner, SWCD; Amie Loop-Frison, Habitat Conservation Plan project manager; Valerie Blaha, Dalton Blaha and Rich Blaha, owners of Mossback Farm, LLC; Darca Glasgow, FSA county executive director.

by Lois Loop, Oregon FSA State Office

Oregon’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) was initially created to plant riparian (streamside) buffers to aid in increasing and enhancing the habitat for threatened and endangered fish species.  Over the years since its inception in 1998 the environmental value of the acreage enrolled in the program has been shown to reach beyond the species originally targeted.  The buffers that have been planted have led to cleaner and cooler water in seasonal and perennial streams and have been shown to provide increasingly needed habitat for other wild species.

The most recent sign of this CREP value was found on a farm in Yamhill County.  The Blaha family owns Mossback Farm and in 2005 enrolled some of the acreage along several seasonal streams that flow through the farm into CREP.  Trees and shrubs were planted on the acreage and a grass cover with native species, including pollinator species, provided an understory. It has now been determined that this area supports two of Oregon’s threatened and endangered species, the Kincaid’s lupine and the Fender’s blue butterfly. 

The original population of the Kincaid’s lupine (which is the preferred plant for the Fender’s caterpillar) was in a pasture outside the CREP acreage.  It now has spread into the protected acreage and has increased to the point that the Fender’s blue butterfly can now be spotted during its brief flight period. 

The Blahas are an essential part of the conservation partnership that has identified a need, created a buffer and so developed an important habitat for two species in serious decline.  The other partners in this success story are the Farm Service Agency, which administers the CREP, the Yamhill Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), which employees the two technicians that provided the technical and biological assistance and the State of Oregon, through the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, that funds a portion of the CREP including a portion of the salaries for the technicians. 

The United States Fish & Wildlife Service has also become a partner. They are in the process of completing a Safe Harbor Agreement with the Blahas, which will protect not only the lupine and the butterfly, but also the Blahas property rights in continuing to farm and graze the area adjacent to the CREP buffer.

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