The vernal pools are jurisdictional wetlands regulated under the Oregon State Removal-Fill law and section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act. The Agate Desert vernal pools are considered “Wetlands of Special Interest for Protection” in Oregon, recognized for the unique natural functions and values they offer, and highlighted for the growing development pressure that fuels conflict between wetland protection and other resource values and uses.
In response, the Rogue Valley Council of Governments has coordinated a community based, interagency effort to develop a comprehensive plan that balances conservation and development interests. The plan will guide the path of future development, and prioritize other areas for conservation and protection. The plan must also address ongoing management of the lands not committed to development, and the likelihood of novel changes such as newly introduced invasive species. The primary land use made of the vernal pool ecosystem in livestock grazing. Livestock grazing has been cited as a potential concern for the ongoing viability of the system and particularly the species listed or proposed for listing under the ESA.
This analysis and report was requested by the USFWS to help understand how livestock grazing interacts with the system, and how livestock grazing practices might be managed to benefit the system. This report is offered as a starting point for discussions aimed at reaching agreements on how landowners and concerned agencies and organizations can cooperate to produce optimal conditions for commodity production, conservation, and other community interests.