Honors College Thesis

Using Cattle as a Tool : Restoring the Sumpter Valley Dredge Tailings

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  • A period of over forty years (1913-1954) of gold dredging dramatically changed the landscape of Sumpter Valley, Oregon into a rocky, uninhabitable terrain. The Defrees Ranch LLC used cattle feeding to increase top soil, vegetation, and habitat on the dredge tailings. This thesis investigated the use of feeding cattle as a restorative measure to increase land value on the Sumpter Valley dredge waste sites. A belt line transect method was used to complete a usable forage test and a species diversity test for three separate plots: a twenty-year site, ten-year site, and control site. A marked increase in vegetation was shown between the control, ten, and twenty year plots, with a transition toward perennial plants and a more evenly dispersed species diversity. Soil samples from each plot showed: an increase in potassium, phosphorous, sulfur, ammonia, and nitrate between the control plot and the plots subject to restoration livestock treatments. The results show that this restoration method has been successful and the continuation of it will persist in increasing the value of the land and provide needed vegetation for a highly distressed land.
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