Imperatrice Property in Ashland

Grasshopper Sparrows and the Imperatrice Property

The 825-acres of hillside grassland owned by the City of Ashland and known as the Imperatrice property is a relatively intact habitat that supports a significant breeding colony of Grasshopper Sparrows.   This is a bird whose population in many areas is declining, and it has been designated as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the Oregon Conservation Strategy program.

The future of the Imperatrice property is unclear at this time, but it could include public trails, the development of a solar array, or the construction of water infiltration structures to help cool discharge from the Ashland water treatment plant that drains into Bear Creek. Additionally, Standing Stone leases the lower irrigated slopes for their farm.

In an effort to document the conservation values of the Imperatrice property, the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy commissioned a formal survey which was funded by the Rogue Valley Audubon Society and prepared by Jaime  Stephens of the Klamath Bird Observatory.

The Land Conservancy has been communicating with the City of Ashland about conserving all or part of this beautiful property since 2009, and the presence of the Grasshopper Sparrow colony adds considerable evidence that effort should be made to keep this valuable habitat in its current state.

The surveys on which the KBO report was based were conducted by Frank Lospalluto, and his visits to the property documented more than 30 singing males and six females.  Bob Altman of the American Bird Conservancy noted that this may be the largest and densest population of breeding Grasshopper Sparrows west of the Cascades in Oregon.

Full text of the report, including a bird species list for the property and location maps, can be found here.

Photo by Frank Lospalluto

Grasshopper Sparrow  (photo by Dominic Sherony)