McGowan Prairie Habitat Assessment and Management Recommendations

An increasing influx of visitors is expected at McGowan Prairie, due to its selection by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as a high quality prairie remnant suitable for development as an “Oregon Celebrating Wildflower Public Viewing Site” to be included in the Celebrating Wildflower Program. Created in 1991, Celebrating Wildflowers is a seasonlong program consisting of a wide array of wild plant related events. This interagency program was initially created by the USDA Forest Service in response to a public desire for information about native plants and their conservation. Other agencies soon joined, and the program now consists of many partners, including federal agencies, garden clubs, native plant societies, botanical gardens, universities, and schools. Activities include wildflowers walks, talks, festivals, slide program, coloring contests, planting events and seminars. These activities emphasize the aesthetic, recreational, biological, medicinal and economic value of 3 plants, with the goal of encouraging the appreciation and conservation of native plants and their habitats (US Forest Service undated, US National Park Service 2004).

For inclusion in the Program, sites must be easily accessible, and must provide quality opportunities to interact with native plants. McGowan Prairie contains many key native prairie components, including several uncommon plant species associated with tufted hairgrass communities, and is a fairly high quality example of a unique meadow habitat. With a paved road through the southern portion of the meadow, McGowan Prairie is readily accessible by car, making it a good location for public wildflower viewing. Its close proximity to the urban areas of Eugene provides convenient opportunities for participation in Program activities by local schools, universities, garden clubs and native plant societies. However, the easy access has also made it a convenient site for target practice, off-road vehicles, and growing marijuana. In this assessment and plan, we suggest strategies to preserve and enhance the native prairie component of the meadow and address these anthropogenic disturbances, with the goal of improving McGowan Prairie as a site for public viewing of wildflowers.