By Becca Robbins

UNITY — Oregon conservation and land officials gathered June 28 at the Bennett Ranch in southern Baker County for a tour of Mark and Patti Bennett’s 8,000-acre property and to learn about the conservation efforts earning the couple attention from across the state.

Kelley Beamer, executive director of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts (COLT), said the Bennett Ranch is a “model”of sustainable practices for the couple’s work creating more friendly habitats for sage grouse, among other projects.

This spring the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board allocated $879,000 to potentially buy a conservation easement from the Bennetts that would help protect sage grouse and redband trout on their ranch.

The money comes from the Oregon Lottery, federal sources and revenue from sales of Oregon’s salmon license plates.

Mark Bennett said he and his wife are interested in pursuing a permanent easement because it would help to protect the work they’ve done to improve their ranch.

During the June 28 tour, Mark and Patti took visitors to three stops on their land, showing collision markers on fences to warn low-flying sage grouse, a field cleared of water-guzzling juniper trees to restore more wildlife-friendly aspen and one of 27 monitoring points where the couple survey soil and plant growth to determine the grazing potential of a pasture.

Mark said they have seen an increase in the population of sage grouse, long a candidate for federal protection, since they started conservation work.

See more in the July 9, 2018 Baker City Herald