Conservation Neighbors: The Mellenthins

The Mellenthin family (Matt, Serene, and 2 daughters) at home along the river's edge.
The Mellenthin family at home along the river’s edge.

Luckily for Benton SWCD, the Mellenthins view themselves as “defenders of the wild” and work to restore native plants to their river front property as well as manage invasives. To both of them, a successful project is one where the whole family is involved in the work.
The Mellenthins work together to reclaim the agricultural land and love seeing snowberries and fawn lilies pop up. “The best days are when the whole family can get out and see the restoration process occur and see the plants take root. A good day is when your whole body is tired and dirty,” says Serene.
This passion for the natural world extends into their professional lives. Both work in the natural resources field, Matt in habitat restoration and Serene in environmental education. Since their introductions to Benton SWCD, both Matt and Serene have used Benton SWCD’s services and directed others towards them. As property owners on the river, the Mellenthins worked with Benton SWCD’s River Restoration Program Coordinator Laura Brown and the Willamette Mainstem Cooperative (WMC) to engage neighboring landowners to treat ivy along the river’s banks. Development pressures and habitat loss have decreased the amount of riparian forest along the Willamette River. Remaining native forests are less able to compete against non-native species, which tend to be more capable of colonizing disturbed and degraded systems. Vine weeds, such as ivy and old man’s beard, occur frequently in these riparian forests and have potential to overwhelm forest understories. These species constitute serious threats to standing trees that may fall from the weight of the vining plants. Through the Willamette Mainstem Cooperative, Benton SWCD was able to bring resources to the table to treat dense invasive ivy in this area. The Mellenthins introduced BSWCD to upstream and downstream neighbors, whose involvement is critical to managing the species.
Though they have experienced challenges with their property, they work with Benton SWCD and other partners to navigate them. “Floodplain living is dynamic and difficult. We continue to reach out to local organizations and adjust our expectations and planting prescriptions,” says Serene. “Conservation work is a continued effort and it’s important to break things up into benchmarks. We try to manage our land at the ecosystem level. When people focus on a single species, they’re not seeing the bigger picture. We are working to restore not just the landscape, but the ecosystem services provided by the landscape,” says Matt. They summarized their thoughts on their property with one word: gratitude. “We are so grateful to the people who helped us along the way,” says Serene. “We are constantly amazed by all the good people doing good things in this community,” says Matt. Here at Benton SWCD, we are grateful to have the Mellenthins as partners.