The land that is now Mosier Plateau was once used as grazing land for cattle and unofficially used for recreation by Mosier locals. One longtime local and Friends' former Land Trust Manager Kate McBride remembers climbing this hill to see the spring wildflowers with her grandfather.
"This is where I hiked when I was growing up," she said. “I knew this area like the back of my hand."
The plateau with its fantastic view had the potential to become a large, and probably expensive, suburban neighborhood. Nancy Russell, Friends' founder, purchased the land in 2005 after noticing it was in a key viewing area of Coyote Wall and other hikes on the Washington side of the Gorge. She sold the homes to a low-income housing provider and donated the land to the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust in 2007. In 2008, the land trust expanded the preserve to its current 45 acres by purchasing adjacent parcels of land.
In 2013, after years of planning and tireless stewardship work, the preserve was ready to be opened to the public. The houses and outbuildings had been removed with nothing remaining but the concrete foundations. Young volunteers with the Northwest Youth Corps helped build a beautiful trail for generations of Gorge residents. Today, Mosier Plateau is recognized by The Oregonian and other media outlets as one of the best spots in Oregon for viewing wildflowers.
Photo: Volunteer crews building the Mosier Plateau trail, 2012. (Friends' archive)
Ever since acquiring Mosier Plateau, the land trust has worked diligently to create a more natural space and achieve our stewardship goals. After the removal of the houses and other human-made features on the property, invasive weeds became the main focus of stewardship efforts.
Since the donation of the property in 2007, stewardship work parties have been dedicated to the removal of the invasive weeds such as: common teasel, skeleton weed, and knapweed. A seasonally wet meadow at the preserve was once over run by common teasel. Now that the weed has been nearly eradicated, the native and culturally important common camas has been planted in its place.
The open oak woodlands of Mosier Plateau are perfect habitat for the bluebirds. Friends’ members and eagle scouts have been working to increase the local bluebird populations by building and installing bluebird boxes. Bluebird populations have declined due to habitat loss and the introduction of house sparrows and European starlings.
With the changing climate, Friends is dedicated to decreasing the risk of fire spread and fire intensity in wildland-urban interfaces such as Mosier Plateau. To reduce the risk of a fire moving from Mosier Plateau to the town of Mosier our stewardship team has cut lower tree limbs and removed excess fuel loads from the preserve. Local fire personnel from Mosier Fire Department have been very engaged with Friends and utilize the road on Mosier Plateau as a fire lookout and use the radio towers as communications.
Photo: Volunteers cutting teasel at a stewardship work party at Mosier Plateau. (Friends' archive)
In 2015, the Nature Conservancy completed an assessment designed to identify areas that were crucial to conservation in the face of climate change. This project looked across the Pacific Northwest to identify areas with a high level of “geodiversity”: landscapes with a complexity of soils, elevation, aspect, and bedrock that make them more likely to offer accommodating habitat to plants and animals that will be on the move in response to climate change.
According to that analysis, the rugged plateaus that stretch from Mosier to Seven Mile Hill indicate an “above average” rating for climate resilience. This includes areas along Memaloose Bluff, Tom McCall Point, and the Rowena Plateau. Investing in permanent land conservation and stewardship in this area will have long-term benefits to plants and wildlife in the face of climate change.
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More preserve pages are under construction.