Western Rivers Conservancy

Western Rivers Conservancy protects outstanding river ecosystems in the western United States. We acquire land to conserve critical habitat, provide public access for compatible use and enjoyment, and cooperate with other agencies and organizations to secure the health of whole ecosystems.
Jul 10, 2015

Western Rivers Conservancy: Summer 2015 Report

With backing from GlobalGiving donors, Western Rivers Conservancy is permanently protecting land along outstanding rivers across the western United States. Your gift supports the core costs of purchasing and conserving land for the benefit of fish, wildlife and people. Your contribution is dedicated to such efforts as preserving salmon and wildlife habitat, and creating new hiking trails, boating access and recreational opportunities.

Thanks to your support, Western Rivers Conservancy has:

• Expanded on a two-decade conservation effort that has preserved 17 miles of Oregon’s Sandy, Little Sandy, Bull Run and Salmon Rivers.

• Purchased the last piece of unprotected land along Arizona’s Fossil Creek, a tributary to the Verde River and one of only two Wild and Scenic Rivers in the state.

Oregon’s Sandy River:

Building upon a 20-year conservation effort that has protected 17 miles of Oregon’s Sandy, Little Sandy, Bull Run and Salmon Rivers, in July 2015, WRC will purchase a 120-acre tract of forest along Little Joe Creek, a coho and steelhead-bearing tributary to the Sandy. This is an important project for fish and creates a buffer of protected forest along a stretch of the Sandy Ridge Mountain Bike Trail, the country’s largest trail system built specifically for mountain bikes.

In the summer of 1999, Western Rivers Conservancy and Portland General Electric (PGE) formed a partnership to restore the Sandy and Little Sandy rivers to health. PGE carried out its plans to remove Marmot Dam on the main-stem Sandy in 2007 and the Little Sandy Dam in 2008, making the rivers completely free flowing. Complementing WRC’s acquisitions, PGE has also donated more than 1,000 acres of land to Western Rivers Conservancy over the course of the project. WRC has conveyed the vast majority of these lands to the BLM to conserve unprotected stretches of the Sandy and its tributaries.

To date, WRC has established a nearly 4,500-acre conservation and recreation area along the Sandy, Little Sandy, Salmon, Bull Run and other tributaries. The BLM is now working to incorporate the lands into an existing Area of Critical Environmental Concern, a conservation designation that will ensure these lands are managed for the sake of the Sandy’s imperiled fish and wildlife. Few cities the size of Portland feature such a world-class river park so well conserved near its urban hub.

Within the Columbia Basin, the Sandy River system is crucial for its runs of wild salmon and steelhead and is unmatched as an easily-accessible recreation destination for people in and around the Portland area. From its headwaters to the Columbia River, the Sandy offers outstanding fishing, biking, boating, hiking and wildlife watching opportunities year-round.

WRC is excited to add this key property to the assemblage of riverlands we have been working to conserve for two decades. For people, and for the region’s unique and imperiled fish and wildlife, the Sandy is immeasurably important—and we will keep on working to protect it.

 

Arizona’s Fossil Creek:

Western Rivers Conservancy has purchased the last piece of unprotected land along Arizona’s Fossil Creek, a tributary to the Verde River and one of only two Wild and Scenic Rivers in the state. WRC intends to convey the property to the Coconino National Forest for inclusion and protection within the Wild and Scenic River corridor, affording these vital riverlands one of the best protections a river can get.

Fossil Creek rises from a series of mineral springs in central Arizona’s Mogollon Rim, and its high mineral content creates slick limestone formations and spectacular blue-green travertine pools throughout much of its length. Within the arid landscape of the Sonoran Desert, Fossil Creek is an oasis, providing important habitat for rare native fish, beavers, otters, leopard frogs, bats and an extraordinary array of bird species. The creek is home to nine native fish species and plays a vital role within the greater ecosystem of the Verde River, Arizona’s other Wild and Scenic River.

Looking at the stream today, you would likely never notice that Fossil Creek was dewatered by a hydroelectric project for nearly a century. During that time, the creek was reduced to a trickle, and riparian and stream habitat were degraded throughout much of the basin. Then, beginning in 1999, state and federal agencies and restoration groups embarked on what would become the largest river recovery effort in the Southwest. In 2005, following six years of hard work, the diversion dam was removed from the stream, and Fossil Creek became a wild, free-flowing river once again. Four years later, Congress designated 17 miles of the stream—nearly the entire river—Wild and Scenic, making it the second Wild and Scenic River in all of Arizona.

WRC’s purchase of this property will improve the integrity of both the Fossil Creek and Verde scenic river corridors and conserve prime habitat within the Verde River basin. As more and more people discover and visit Fossil Creek, WRC’s efforts will help the Coconino National Forest ensure public access while minimizing impact on this fragile desert ecosystem.

Conclusion

The Sandy River and Fossil Creek are two of our recent successes. WRC currently has two dozen active projects in seven states. With the support of GlobalGiving donors, Western Rivers Conservancy is expanding our efforts to protect riverlands for fish, wildlife and people.

We love to hear from our supporters. Please contact David Wilkins at 503-241-0151, ext. 214 (or dwilkins@westernrivers.org) for further information. Thank you.


Attachments:
Apr 14, 2015

Western Rivers Conservancy: Spring 2015 Report

With backing from GlobalGiving donors, Western Rivers Conservancy is permanently protecting land along outstanding rivers across the western United States. Your gift supports the core costs of purchasing and conserving land for the benefit of fish, wildlife and people. Your contribution is dedicated to such efforts as preserving salmon and wildlife habitat, and creating new hiking trails, boating access and recreational opportunities.      

Thanks to your support, Western Rivers Conservancy has:  

  • Expanded a globally important salmon and wildlife sanctuary in northern California’s Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion.
  • Protected an assemblage of land that includes some of the most important fish and wildlife habitat in Oregon’s Willamette River basin, just to the east of Salem, Oregon.

California’s Klamath River and Blue Creek:

Western Rivers Conservancy pushed ahead in March 2015 in our effort to create a major cold-water salmon sanctuary in the heart of the Klamath-Siskiyou, one of the earth’s biodiversity hotspots. We successfully completed our third land acquisition on the Klamath River and Blue Creek, which brings us three-quarters of the way toward conserving 47,000 acres in partnership with the Yurok, California’s largest Native American tribe. The acquisition adds 6,479 acres of vital forest and riverland to the Blue Creek Salmon Sanctuary, as well as extensive forestland to the recently created Yurok Tribal Community Forest.

At the heart of this project is Blue Creek, the most important cold-water tributary on the lower Klamath River. Blue Creek flows cold and clear from remote headwaters protected high in the Siskiyou Wilderness and has been sacred to the Yurok since time immemorial. In summer, when the Klamath River can reach temperatures in the high seventies—lethal conditions for salmon and steelhead—Blue Creek remains significantly colder. Every migrating Chinook spawner holds in Blue Creek, lowering its body temperature by eight degrees Fahrenheit, before continuing upstream. Without the cold-water refuge Blue Creek provides, the Klamath’s summer- and fall-run fish would likely die before reaching their spawning beds in the upper river. In no small way, the health of the largest salmon stream in the Klamath-Siskiyou, and the survival of the region’s keystone species, hinge on the health of Blue Creek. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to protect this all-important stream.

WRC’s efforts on the Klamath will conserve the entire lower Blue Creek watershed and protect habitat for rare Klamath-Siskiyou wildlife like Humboldt marten, northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet. It will link important habitat within a globally significant ecoregion and return a sacred homeland to the Yurok, which have deep cultural and spiritual interests in keeping Blue Creek and the Klamath healthy.

WRC has been working on this project since 2008, and our most recent purchase puts us well into the home stretch. But there is still work to do. To date, 22,237 acres are in Yurok hands, while WRC owns 14,968 acres. WRC will own and manage these lands, as well as future acquisitions, until they can be conveyed to the Tribe. While WRC holds title to the land, the forests will be managed by the Yurok to enhance salmon recovery, improve old-growth habitat and revitalize the Yurok economy. Once we’ve conveyed all the land to the Tribe, it will continue to manage the properties in line with our shared conservation vision.

To fund a project of this scale, WRC has pioneered new ground in conservation finance, tapping nontraditional sources such as New Markets Tax Credits and carbon offsets sales. These and other private sources have provided more than half of the $54 million needed to purchase the land. Yet we still must raise over $16 million to complete the project.

Once our efforts at Blue Creek are finished, the Klamath-Siskiyou will be home to one of the most important salmon sanctuaries on the West Coast. Sixteen miles upstream from the Pacific, this refuge will help ensure that salmon, steelhead and the region’s remarkable wildlife have a safe haven forever.

Oregon’s North Santiam River:

In January 2015, Western Rivers Conservancy completed an assemblage of land that protects some of the most important fish and wildlife habitat in Oregon’s Willamette River basin, just to the east of Salem, Oregon. The effort, which conserves 429 acres along the lower North Santiam River, prevents a gravel mine and sets the stage for one of the most significant floodplain restoration projects in the valley.

Over the course of the project, which began in 2011, WRC acquired and held two key adjacent farms, identified a long-term steward, assembled over $5 million in funding and conveyed the lands to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. When the Tribe acquired the first property in 2013, it named the lands “Chahalpam,” meaning “Place of the Santiam Kalapuya People” in Kalapuyan. We conveyed the second farm to the Tribe in January 2015, completing the assemblage. The Tribe will now manage the area for the sake of the North Santiam’s fish and wildlife, especially the recovery of spring Chinook, winter steelhead, Oregon chub and Pacific lamprey.

The properties lie adjacent to a protected BLM parcel and have exceptional ecological values and restoration potential. They include a rich mix of bottomland forest, over 2.5 miles of North Santiam River frontage, two miles of side-channel habitat and nearly 30 acres of wetlands. Willamette Valley wetlands are one of the most endangered habitat types in Oregon, yet they are rarely managed for conservation. This project offers a unique opportunity to restore a small but important swath of this important ecosystem. It also ensures permanent protection of the largest tract of intact riparian forest along the entire lower North Santiam.

Conclusion

Blue Creek the North Santiam are two of our recent successes. WRC currently has dozens of active projects in seven states. With the support of GlobalGiving donors, Western Rivers Conservancy is expanding our efforts to protect riverlands for fish, wildlife and people.

We love to hear from our supporters. Please contact David Wilkins at 503-241-0151, ext. 214 (or dwilkins@westernrivers.org) for further information. Thank you.


Attachments:
Jan 14, 2015

Western Rivers Conservancy: Winter 2015 Report

With backing from GlobalGiving donors, Western Rivers Conservancy (WRC) is permanently protecting land along outstanding rivers across the western United States. Your gift supports the core costs of purchasing land and placing properties into permanent conservation stewardship. Your contribution is dedicated to such activities as: developing relationships with willing seller landowners; preserving salmon and wildlife habitat; and creating new hiking trails, boating access and recreational opportunities.

Thanks to your support, WRC is:

- Conserving trophy trout water and opening public access on the upper Yampa River in Colorado.

- Protecting habitat for large mammals and redband trout, as well as a scenic trail and wetlands in northeastern Washington.

Colorado’s Sarvis Creek:

In 2013, Western Rivers Conservancy set out to protect an outstanding reach of the upper Yampa River and open access to some of the finest trophy trout water in Colorado. We are thrilled to announce, “We did it!” In December, 2014, WRC successfully conveyed a historic, 45-acre property at the confluence of the Yampa River and Sarvis Creek to the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. The agencies will now manage the lands for the sake of fish and wildlife conservation and for low-impact public access.

WRC purchased the 45-acre parcel shortly after conserving a 920-acre ranch at the mouth of Cross Mountain Canyon on the lower Yampa River. There, in partnership with the BLM, we protected 2.5 miles of the lower river and opened access to the BLM’s vast Cross Mountain Wilderness Study Area. Our work at Sarvis Creek was the logical next step in our ongoing effort to conserve riverland along what is undoubtedly one of the West’s most remarkable rivers.

Our work at Sarvis Creek focused on the Hubbard’s Summer Place, a stunning property located three miles below Stagecoach Reservoir and surrounded almost entirely by parks, wilderness and wildlife areas. Located only 13 miles from Steamboat Springs, this stretch of the Yampa is coveted by anglers for its behemoth rainbow and brown trout. The river is also home to native mountain whitefish.

Placing the Hubbard’s Summer Place into public ownership enhances ongoing efforts to restore fish and wildlife habitat in and along the Yampa. The project also conserves forests of lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce, scrub oak, ponderosa pine and aspen, as well as riparian stands of alder, willow and red osier dogwood. Rocky Mountain elk, black bear, cougar and dusky grouse are among the many wildlife species that inhabit the area.

The Hubbard family’s former cabin, which the family built in 1956, remains on the land and will be managed as a historic structure by the USFS and BLM. And for the first time in memory, this stretch of the Yampa will soon be open to everyone.

Washington’s Big Sheep Creek:

In December 2014, Western Rivers Conservancy completed its second land acquisition on Washington’s Big Sheep Creek, placing 1,440 more acres surrounding this critical stream on the path toward conservation. Now that we own all 2,440 acres of the project area, known as the Bennett Meadows Tract, we can focus on transferring this incredible assemblage of riverland, meadowland, wetlands and conifer forest into the long-term care of a conservation steward.

Big Sheep Creek flows through the heart of the so-called “Wedge,” one of the most important corridors for large mammals and rare carnivores moving north and south between British Columbia and the United States. Grizzly bear, Canada lynx, wolverine, moose, Rocky Mountain elk, mountain goat and the creek’s namesake bighorn sheep all inhabit the valley. And they all depend on Big Sheep Creek for survival.

Our work at Big Sheep Creek will conserve over four miles of high-quality wetland and riparian habitat within the Big Sheep Creek drainage. It will improve habitat connectivity for imperiled Canada lynx and conserve prime habitat for over half the grizzly bear population in Washington. The project will also protect habitat for endangered bull trout and the increasingly rare redside rainbow trout. Both inhabit the stream, which flows cold and clear from Washington’s Monashee Mountains on the Canadian border.

In addition to its importance for fish and wildlife, the land also includes a stretch of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, which runs through the southern portion of the property. This second acquisition will place a unique section of the trail into public hands, improve wildlife viewing opportunities and help ensure this recreational treasure remains intact and open to the public forever.

Conclusion

Sarvis Creek and Big Sheep Creek are two of our recent successes. WRC currently has dozens of active projects in seven states. With the support of GlobalGiving donors, Western Rivers Conservancy is expanding our efforts to protect riverlands for fish, wildlife and people.

We love to hear from our supporters. Please contact David Wilkins at 503-241-0151, ext. 214 (or dwilkins@westernrivers.org) for further information. Thank you.


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