Doctor heals people and the environment
David Peter, M.D. from Legacy Medical Group – Canby is not only concerned with the health of his patients, but also the health of the environment and he’s doing something about it. He has turned his personal property into a conservation project.
His Canby land next to the Molalla River is 24 and a quarter acres. In December 2014, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Service designated all but one acre as a fish and wildlife conservation management area.
“I had to list every animal and bird and plant I saw since my wife and I moved on to the property in 2010,” recalls the family practice physician. “I've got a bird book to figure out which one is which.”
Identifying the flora was easier than the fauna. For instance, the snowberry shrubs along the river he successfully planted himself. They have tripled in size in a brief amount of time and now reduce erosion and improve the habitat. “It's good for the water quality of the Molalla River and benefits more than just fish,” he explains. “There's microorganisms and plankton and algae and everything.”
However, things can still go wrong. In March 2012, Dr. Peter planted 2,400 trees. Many of the deciduous trees didn’t survive due to three floods right after the planting.
“Flood in the winter and drought in the summer. That's pretty much the pattern that's been on this property,” he says. “I planted 120 Oregon Ash tree seedlings last year but because they didn't have as big of roots as they needed, all of them died. Every single one of them. Because of a drought. You have to adapt.”
The most recent adaptation was to switch over to a Ponderosa pines species that does extremely well in wet and dry conditions, which is different than the Ponderosa pines found in Bend and central Oregon.
When Dr. Peter isn’t planting or fighting invasive species, he also makes his property available to non-profits, community organizations and government agencies for surveys, preservation, etc. “That's just an extra thing I like to do,” says Dr. Peter. “I want to do as much as I can for the environment.”
There are two bluebird boxes on the property from the local group, Prescott Bluebird Project. The bluebirds, a threatened species, love to catch the bugs that are hanging out on the grassland and on the flowers.
Native Fish Society and grant supporters doing a fish survey two summers ago went into the side channel along the property with goggles on looking for little baby fish. The young salmon and steelhead hang out in the side channels in search of cooler temperatures.
A volunteer from the county doing a survey on salamanders, found eggs attached to the stems of the weeds in the lake for the endangered Pacific giant salamander.
Dr. Peter and his patients are also benefitting from his conservation efforts. “I'm glad Legacy gives me the opportunity to have a very active practice, work a few less hours and have more balance,” he says. “I feel like I'm happier and I feel like my patients are happier because I can give them more attention and be less stressed.”
If you would like to start your own project, Dr. Peter recommends you learn about native plants for western Oregon and the Northwest. “That's where you're going to get the most success, because they're most adapted to all the different changes in environment.”