Canby doctor cuts back hours to cut back invasive species, preserve land

Dr. David Peter explains how beavers continue to change the landscape on his Canby farm. (KATU)

Seven years ago, Dr. David Peter decided to cut back his hours so he could devote more time to healing the land on a 24-acre farm he bought south of Canby on the Molalla River.

Although he set out looking for just three to five acres of farmland to restore, Peter was smitten when the farm along the banks of the Molalla River came up for sale.

“I was very familiar with doing restoration, and now I had a property to do it on,” Peter said. “I'm taking back what was originally here. I've got pictures back to the 1930s when there was a moderate-sized forest at least half of the width that we're restoring now.”

With the help of Metro, the Clackamas County Water and Soil District and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Peter cleared the land, planted 2,400 native trees and shrubs and is working to remove a host of invasive species to create an oak savannah.

“Oak savannahs were the native system in the Willamette Valley, the native eco-system, and they're extremely rare,” Peter said. “There are very small spots of it remaining, mainly because the original settlers were agrarian and did agriculture.”

Peter says planting Western ponderosa pines, oak and willows improves the habitat for bluebirds and “it gives them a place to be that's more open space, and the oaks are incredibly good for improving the soil.”

Peter says one of his biggest takeaways from his restoration project -- advice he shares with others -- is to take the long view and not to wait to follow your passion.

“What's most important to me is to look towards the future,” he said. “I want it to become restored enough to be considered even more ecologically important than it is now.”

Peter says one of the biggest upcoming projects on his place is removing invasive plants such as reed canary grass and lilies that were planted around a pond. The lilies are taking over the pond, but part of the plan is to bring it back to pristine condition.

“It’s great to be able to actually create a place where wildlife can live and thrive and other people can enjoy it,” he said. “I’m not waiting until I retire.”

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