The Holiday Farm fire of September 2020 devastated the McKenzie River Valley. The fast-moving fire burned more than 173,000 forested acres.
At the center of the destruction is a 24-mile stretch of OR-126 along the McKenzie River where the fire not only significantly altered the once-lush landscape but also displaced countless wildlife along this scenic corridor. Debris Management Task Force (Task Force) crews, including environmental monitoring staff, have been working since January to assess and remove the 20,000+ dead or dying hazard trees that line this heavily trafficked stretch of highway and threaten the safety of travelers, crews, and even the remaining wildlife.
“The whole hazard tree situation is, for us, a big issue because every hazard tree is, from animals’ perspective, often a habitat tree,” explains Dr. Ulrike Streicher of the Cascade Raptor Center (Raptor Center) in Eugene.
Among those imminently dangerous hazard trees was a 140-foot old-growth Douglas Fir, located about 10 feet from the highway, with a gigantic cavity burned into its side. Unfortunately, before crews could remove the “behemoth” hazard, a pair of Osprey decided it was an ideal riverside nesting location and took roost, laying a clutch of eggs on top of the perilous structure.
With no alternative site that was near enough and high enough to relocate the nest, Cascade Raptor Center ornithologists and Task Force biologists and operations, staff agreed that the only solution was to relocate the eggs from the dangerously perched nest to the Raptor Center.
“In an ideal world, this wouldn’t have been necessary, but the tree has to be removed now,” Streicher agreed. “So, the only option is to take the eggs and bring them here.”
On a cold and rainy Friday morning in June, crews mobilized for the somber task of relocating the eggs and removing the nest. Once on-site, however, new information on the clutch status, accompanied with inspired coordination among contractors and Oregon Department of Transportation leadership, led to a monumental effort to try to keep the Osprey family intact while still removing the imminently dangerous hazard tree.
Watch the video to see how multiagency coordination, environmental stewardship, and “old school logging” tactics came together to tackle the very complicated issue of translocating a raptor nest.