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Lower Table Rock Preserve and The Nature Conservancy


Lower Table Rock Preserve and The Nature Conservancy

By Peter Kleinhenz

Do you like to explore? Are you tired of walking the same trails over and over again? Would you like to see the rarest and most significant natural areas in Oregon? If your answer to any or all of these questions was yes, then you might want to get familiar with The Nature Conservancy.

Founded in 1951, The Nature Conservancy is currently the largest non-profit environmental group operating in the United States. Essentially, the organization purchases land containing significant natural features, threatened plants or animals, or important corridors between habitats. Preserves exist in all fifty states, in 30 countries, and even at over 100 different places in the ocean. In fact, there are several Nature Conservancy preserves within two hours of Ashland. Three are less than a half hour away!

Just this afternoon, I took a hike at probably the most famous Nature Conservancy preserve in our area: Lower Table Rock Preserve. The preserve protects oak savanna, chaparral, and a unique ecosystem that only survives on top of the two table rocks near Medford.

I hiked to the top today then watched a prairie falcon soar near the high cliffs as the sun set behind the distant mountains. It was awesome.

Whetstone Savanna, another preserve that I mentioned in a previous blog post, is an excellent example of a restored savanna and is home to a number of interesting and unique birds and plants.

Finally, Agate Desert Preserve protects a little slice of desert habitat surrounded by development. During this time of year, it looks like a worthless field surrounded by development. In spring, however, it gets transformed into a lush, pool-filled field full of endangered plants and animals.

Many more preserves exist just a couple hours north, east, and west of Ashland.

I know that a lot of people reading this are good-hearted people who make decisions daily to help create a better world. That being said, many of us probably wish that we could do something where the immediate positive effects can be seen. Look no further than The Nature Conservancy.

The Medford Field Office has volunteer days where people like you and me can assist preserve managers with controlling invasive species, increasing available habitat, or monitoring threatened species.

Last week, I spent a day at a local preserve watering young ponderosa pines in a reforesting initiative. I met some fine people, got a good workout, saw interesting wildlife, and knew I was helping to make the world a better place, even if in a small way.

I encourage every one of you to visit one of the preserves listed below this fall. Additionally, I hope that you will find a day in the next month or so to volunteer at a preserve. In one day, you can make the natural world a bit better off than it was the day before.

Directions from Ashland to Lower Table Rock Preserve: From I-5 North out of Medford, take exit 33 east one mile to Table Rock Road. Turn left on Table Rock Road and drive 7.5 miles until you see Wheeler Road. Turn left and follow the signs.

Directions from Ashland to Whetstone Savanna Preserve: From Interstate 5 take Central Point exit 33, drive east on Biddle Road 1 mile, turn left on Table Rock Road, and drive 4.5 miles to the Rogue River.  Just before you cross the river, take a left on Kirtland Road and drive approximately 2 miles.  Turn left on High Banks Road and drive until you come to a right angle turn that takes you left onto Newland Road.  Drive approximately 1 mile until you see the sign and a small pull off.

Directions from Ashland to Agate Desert Preserve: From I-5 North out of Medford, take exit 33 east one mile to Table Rock Road. Turn left on Table Rock Road and drive until you come to Antelope Road. The preserve is the field between Table Rock Road and Antelope Road. Park on the side of the road.

To Volunteer With the Nature Conservancy: Contact Molly Morrison at (541) 770-7933 ext. 5#

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