A New Direction for the Wildlife Care Center

by Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director

As readers of the Warbler will likely recall, we were eagerly looking forward to breaking ground on rebuilding our 35-year-old Wildlife Care Center last October. Years of careful planning and a highly successful capital campaign had set the stage to reconstruct the Care Center from the ground up, double its size, and add new amenities such as a full veterinary surgical suite.

A collage of five images of wildlife being rehabilitated at the Wildlife Care Center.

Unfortunately, in the late summer as we were completing final permitting and architectural refinements on the project, concerns about the long-term sustainability of our septic system began to arise. The system had been reviewed throughout the project, but a number of factors caused us to want to take a deeper dive and truly ensure our activities would fully protect the Balch Creek Watershed. We also wanted to ensure our project and donor investment would be sustainable. In September, we temporarily delayed the project in order to consult with a variety of experts about the septic system.

After bringing in more than a dozen experts—septic system designers and technicians, geotechnical engineers, soil scientists, planners, and permitters—the results are in, and we have made the decision to construct a new Wildlife Care Center at a new location instead of on the Cornell campus.

What we concluded after extensive consultation is that a new Wildlife Care Center, which creates significant amounts of wastewater, is incompatible with the long-term sustainability of our septic system. We explored two potential solutions in order to build the Care Center on-site, including upgrading or relocating our septic system, and connecting to the public sewer system. Unfortunately, the experts concluded that neither option was viable due to factors like the terrain, limited space, poor soils, and sensitive habitat.

This was not an easy decision—we were eager and excited to move forward and consider it a top priority to upgrade and modernize the 35-year-old facility. Wildlife rehabilitation has advanced tremendously since our Care Center was constructed in the 1980s. A new facility is necessary to provide animals with the best possible care, our staff and volunteers with a safe, healthy environment, and the public with the resources to be strong stewards of wildlife. None of those things have changed nor has our commitment to making them happen on the most expeditious timeline possible.

While this issue affects our ability to build as originally planned, we remain committed to our Wildlife Care Center and to providing essential wildlife rehabilitation services to the community. While we didn’t anticipate this development, moving to a new location creates many opportunities for both our treatment of animals and our engagement with the community.

By moving to a new location in the Portland metro area, we can do the following:

      • Give our Wildlife Care Center a long and sustainable future
      • Improve access and increase our reach into the community by expanding our presence in the Portland metro area
      • Provide more space to rehabilitate wildlife
      • Continue with the improvements planned when designing the facility to be built at Cornell and potentially expand on those improvements
      • Protect our wildlife sanctuary and preserve our current septic system for long-term use

For these reasons and more, we are eager to start the search for a new property where we can either build a new facility or renovate an existing one.

During this search, we will continue to operate at our current location. Every dollar that has been given to the campaign to build a new Wildlife Care Center will go toward this new rehabilitation center. We are especially grateful to all our donors who have contributed toward that goal. Our community’s significant investment gives us confidence that we will raise all additional funds needed and complete this project.

While we would have liked to uncover this earlier in the planning process, we were fortunate to catch the issue with the septic system before construction began.

While the new Wildlife Care Center will not be built on our Cornell campus, we will continue moving forward with other major upgrades to our sanctuary and campus facilities. In the next 18 months, you can expect to see new interpretive displays and signage and improvements to our facilities to make them more accessible, including an observation deck overlooking the forest as well as upgrades to other vital systems. These investments will greatly improve our headquarters, which is an incredible destination for families, hikers, birders, shoppers, campers, and school groups.

Each year, the Wildlife Care Center treats upwards of 4,000 animals and educates thousands of people on how to humanely coexist with wildlife. The lives we reach, both human and animal, are integral to our mission to inspire all people to love and protect birds, wildlife, and the natural environment.

We are already hard at work developing plans for the new facility, and we expect a site search to commence early this year. We look forward to sharing more details with you as we explore locations for our new Wildlife Care Center.

We appreciate your understanding, patience, and continued support as we move forward. We will keep you updated in the months ahead.


Interested in learning more information about this project?

Please contact Bird Alliance of Oregon, Conservation Director Bob Sallinger at bsallinger@birdallianceoregon.org or 503-380-9728.