GILLIAM SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION DISTRICT
Proudly Serving Gilliam County Since 1946
OUR MISSION & VISION
Our mission is to provide support for economic sustainability for the rural community and to educate and assist the community in conservation while maintaining soil and water resources for the future. As a small community we are able to work with one another and help each other with the assistance of our district directors, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts and the Gilliam-East John Day Watershed Council.
The Gilliam SWCD’s vision is to recognize and maximize the production of crops and livestock through the utilization of natural resources, while remaining environmentally and economically sustainable. We want to ensure maximum benefits from the conservation practices employed in Gilliam County.
HISTORY & LAND USE
HISTORY OF GILLIAM SWCD
The Gilliam SWCD was established in 1946 to direct agricultural producers to technical assistance resources, such as our partners the NRCS. Since 1946, NRCS and the Gilliam SWCD have partnered to plan and implement conservation practices on private lands in the basin. The District initiated the Gilliam-East John Day Watershed Council in 1992, and continues to provide sponsorship and fiscal oversight to that watershed council. Since its inception, the Gilliam SWCD has sought to provide support, education, technical support, and access to funding to the owners and managers of agricultural lands in Gilliam County. These efforts have always been based in the concept that improving the health of our streams, uplands, soils, and wildlife habitat lead to improved productivity for agricultural producers. The focus of the SWCD has shifted throughout the years as new issues have continued to move to the forefront. The District has always striven to remain flexible and forward thinking in our approach to conservation in Gilliam County. Working in all aspects of our local watersheds on issues including fish passage and habitat, upland habitat health, riparian health, grazing management, soil health, prevention of farmland erosion, and improvements in agricultural efficiencies. The core of the District’s success has been the trust built through thoughtful technical assistance and professional implementation of projects on the ground. With the guidance of our dedicated Board Members the District’s employees have worked to improve the natural resource health and agricultural production in our area.
Carved out of neighboring Wasco County in 1885, Gilliam County lies in the Columbia River Plateau in north-central Oregon. The County claims approximately 1,206 square miles of land and water. AS of the 2010 Census the population totaled 1,871 people. Two major incorporated cities, Arlington in the north and Condon in the South, are joined by small community of Lonerock in the southeastern corner. Numerous ghost towns, former stage and train stops, and old homestead dot the landscape.
Gilliam County encompasses over 850,000 acres of which 692,540 acres (92%) are privately owned. Private acres include 234, 649 acres of dry cropland, 5,353 acres of irrigated cropland, and 397,872 acres of rangeland. The remaining 8% of lands within the County are primarily controlled by the Federal Bureau of Land Management with smaller parcels in state and tribal ownership.
The major agricultural uses of Gilliam County lands include dry-land wheat, irrigated hay specialty crops, and cattle production. Recent years have seen an increase in specialty crops being raised. These include canola, cherries, wine grapes, and corn for silage.
Major industries include the Columbia Ridge Landfill, operated by Waste Management, located approximately 10 miles south of Arlington. One of the largest landfills in the nation, the operation also boast on of the most state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly locations. In addition, Gilliam County is quickly emerging as one of the state's leaders in wind energy generation. In 2018 the county had seven wind facilities with a capacity of 2,000 Megawatts or about 1 Megawatt per resident (Oregon Department of Energy). Interest in solar energy is also growing. Gilliam County Boardman Solar Energy Facility which will connect to the electrical grid via 115 kilowatt line in Gilliam County.
Recreation is one of the fastest growing land uses for the area. Hunting, fishing, hiking, rafting, bird watching, biking, and photography are but a few of the opportunities afforded by the natural beauty of Gilliam County. Many landowners lease out or charge fees for access to their properties for recreational uses.
The District assist the general public with conservation planning, technical and financial assistance, farm bill program opportunities, and answers to conservation-related questions.
The District provides landowners and managers in Gilliam County with assistance in improving the management and condition of their properties via access to grant funds through public and private funding sources, technical assistance, training and educational opportunities, and facilitation of meetings with other groups.
We work with private landowners to restore and improve their upland and riparian properties through a wide array of restoration projects, including:
Off-channel water developments
Invasive weed treatment
Riparian & wetland fencing
GSWCD is here to help! We offer many administrative services to local ranchers and landowners, such as:
Mapping & GIS
The first steps in developing a restoration project are to identify both the landowner and resource needs, establish a plan of action and determine the best source of funding to implement the plan. GSWCD acts as a guide and resource in all steps of the process.
Connecting with partners
Employing local contractors
Grazing management plans
GILLIAM SWCD RESTORATION
What We Do
The GSWCD partners with private landowners, state, federal, and tribal organizations to accomplish in-stream and upland restoration in the Lower John Day River Basin. Restoration projects aim to protect and restore the region's natural resources, address ecological habitat limiting factors for fish and wildlife, and improve operations on working lands.
Degradation of upland habitat and farmlands have far reaching impacts downstream, including soil run-off and pervasive weeds. Increasing upland restoration activities can help promote better soil health, increased water storage capacity, and more efficient grazing. These are some of types of restoration actions that GSWCD focuses in the Lower John Day Basin uplands:
Invasive weed control
Forest stand improvement
RIPARIAN, FLOOD PLAIN, AND IN-STREAM RESTORATION
Simplification of steam channels and floodplains has led to degraded fish habitat. Restoring a river to more natural conditions can increase the water table, lower stream temperature, and provide habitat for juvenile and adult fish. These types of projects have also been shown to increase the amount of quality forage and halt annual bank erosion. Gilliam SWCD implements projects involving in-stream restoration actions such as:
Restoration of floodplain topography & vegetation
Culvert & diversion installation & repair
Evaluating the effects of Bass on Steelhead
The John Day River basin is home to five extant wild summer steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
populations (Lower Mainstem John Day, Middle Fork John Day, South Fork John Day, North Fork John Day, and Upper Mainstem John Day). Collectively, these five populations make up the John Day River Major Population Group (MPG). The John Day River MPG is one of four MPGs listed as “Threatened” under the Middle Columbia River (Mid-C) Distinct Population Segment. Delisting of the Mid-C Distinct Population Segment requires all four Mid-C MPGs to reach a viable status. To reach viable status in the John Day River MPG the Mid-C recovery plan recommends the South Fork John Day River population be maintained while the Lower Mainstem John Day River, North Fork John Day River, and either the
Middle Fork John Day River or the Upper Mainstem John Day River achieve viable population status, with one of these population having a designation of highly viable (Carmichael and Taylor 2010).
Currently, the Lower Mainstem John Day River’s viability status is maintained, representing the primary barrier to the John Day River MPG achieving viable status.
MEET OUR TEAM
District Manager: Herb Winters
Herb Winters, joined the team in November 2017, holds the position of Gilliam County Soil and Water Conservation District, District Manager.
Office Manager: Norie Wright
Norie Wright joined the team in the summer of 2018 as a Conservation Technician I. Previously, Norie held the position of GEJDWC Coordinator. In December of 2018, Norie took the position of Office Manager.
Conservation Technician II: Roger Lathrop
Roger Lathrop holds the Conservation Technician II position and has been with the District for 13 years.
Conservation Technician I/Administrative Assistant: Jessica Gillen
Jessica Gillen joined the team in early 2018 to fill the Conservation Technician I position.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
MONTHLY MEETING INFORMATION
GILLIAM SWCD BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Chairman: Jordan Maley, At Large 1
Vice-Chair: John Anderson Zone 3
Secretary / Treasurer: Rich Harper, Zone 2
Chit Wilkins, Zone 1
Doug Potter, At Large 2
PARTNERSHIP & PLANNING
The Gilliam SWCD works with agencies and individuals as partners in our efforts to achieve our vision. Various memorandums of agreement and/or understanding, working agreements, intergovernmental agreements and informal arrangements, formalize the partnerships. The agreements outline the responsibilities of each partner and identify the types of assistance, resources and support each will provide to accomplish common conservation goals.