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 18, 2014

Western Rivers Conservancy: Summer 2014 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 contribution, two of our recent accomplishments include:

- conserving a lifeline for the John Day River’s salmon and steelhead, and forever preserving public access along a great Oregon stream; and

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

Oregon’s John Day River:

Western Rivers Conservancy recently embarked on a land acquisition that will revive the largest cold-water tributary to the lower John Day River: Thirtymile Creek. Our effort at Thirtymile will improve some of the most important summer steelhead habitat in the John Day system and forever protect a public access point that is cherished by anglers, hunters and boaters from around the Pacific Northwest. Our acquisition of these lands will also improve habitat for spring Chinook and California bighorn sheep.

This exciting project became a reality in June 2014, when we signed an agreement to purchase the Rattray Ranch, located 44 miles upstream from Cottonwood Canyon State Park. Acquisition of these lands will conserve four miles of Thirtymile Creek and twelve miles of the main-stem John Day, as well as extensive tracts of inland sagebrush-steppe habitat.

Our work at Thirtymile is important both in terms of conservation and public access, and it is especially important for steelhead. The John Day River is home to the healthiest runs of summer steelhead in the Columbia Basin, making it key to the recovery of steelhead throughout the Columbia River Basin. Given the importance of Thirtymile Creek to the John Day, the creek becomes a critical piece in the larger steelhead conservation puzzle. As the major source of cold water for the lower John Day, it is also essential to the health of spring Chinook within the main-stem.

Rattray Ranch is equally important for wildlife. It lies at the heart of the John Day’s best habitat for California bighorn sheep, supporting an estimated 600 to 650 head, the largest herd in Oregon. The ranch is also home to Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and mountain lion, as well as raptors, upland game birds and numerous sensitive bird species.

After creating Cottonwood Canyon State Park, which now protects 16 miles of the lower John Day, including Hay Creek, this effort is a crucial next step. For fish, wildlife and people—and especially summer steelhead—Thirtymile Creek is a source of cold water worth saving.

Washington’s Big Sheep Creek:

After flowing out of the Monashee Mountains on the Canadian border, Big Sheep Creek winds through an area known as “the Wedge,” a prime movement corridor for large mammals traveling between the United States and Canada. Caribou, moose, grizzly bear, Canada lynx, Rocky Mountain elk, wolverine and the creek’s namesake bighorn sheep all inhabit the area. These species depend on Big Sheep Creek for the excellent habitat it provides.

In an effort to conserve a key stretch of Big Sheep Creek, as well as extensive wetlands and riparian areas around the stream, Western Rivers Conservancy is working to purchase 2,400 acres along and around this unique Washington creek. In spring 2014, we signed an agreement to acquire the first 1,000 acres of this strategically-located property. The combined 2,400-acre parcel is known as the Bennett Meadows Tract and lies adjacent to Colville National Forest.

By acquiring these lands, we will also conserve habitat for rare redband trout, which inhabit Big Sheep Creek. The stream and its surrounding wetlands also support mountain lion, fox, pygmy shrew, Townsend’s big-eared bat, beaver and pine marten, as well as abundant bird species.

In addition to conserving fish and wildlife habitat, the project will place an important stretch of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail into public hands. Inaugurated in 2009, this 1,200-mile national scenic trail runs from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean, bisecting the southern sector of the property en route. By purchasing these lands, we will forever protect this recreational treasure and ensure it remains accessible for all.

Conclusion

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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Apr 21, 2014

Western Rivers Conservancy: Spring 2014 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 contribution, WRC is:

- Protecting Catherine Creek, a top priority Oregon stream for Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead.

- Returning flows to the Little Cimarron River, a prized Colorado trout stream.

Oregon’s Catherine Creek:

In February 2014, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased a reach of Oregon’s Catherine Creek, a critical salmon- and steelhead-bearing tributary of the Grande Ronde and Snake rivers. The stream reach that passes through the 545-acre property that WRC acquired holds some of the most important spawning and rearing habitat in the Columbia Basin—habitat with tremendous restoration potential.

The spring Chinook and summer steelhead that inhabit Catherine Creek belong to larger populations of Snake River Chinook and steelhead that are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The populations in Catherine Creek are especially at-risk, and the creek has been identified as one of the highest priorities for fisheries restoration in the Snake and Columbia River basins. The stretch of Catherine Creek that flows through the property also holds bull trout, likewise listed as threatened under the ESA.

It is rare for a Catherine Creek property of this size to come up for sale, and WRC jumped at the opportunity to play a role in restoring this critically important stream. We plan to convey the property to the Umatilla Tribe, which seeks to restore side-channels and stream complexity to enhance spawning habitat and improve survival rates for over-wintering smolts. Once completed, the project will improve odds for some of the Pacific Northwest’s most imperiled fish and benefit the Columbia River fishery as a whole.

Colorado’s Little Cimarron:

Since 2012, Western Rivers Conservancy has been working to reestablish year-round flows on the Little Cimarron River, an outstanding Colorado trout stream and tributary of the Gunnison River. In January 2014, we took a major leap forward in our effort to realize that vision when we conveyed the water rights from a farm we purchased to Colorado Water Trust (CWT).

The Little Cimarron is a gem of a stream, flowing 25 miles from the Uncompahgre Wilderness to the main-stem Cimarron, which meets the Gunnison River at the spectacular Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The upper 13 miles of the Little Cimarron have all the qualities of a wild trout stream. Its waters are cold and clear and teem with naturally reproducing rainbow and brook trout. Once the river reaches the irrigation ditches of the lower Pleasant Valley, though, it often flows only intermittently from late summer to early fall.

When a farm with senior water rights on the Little Cimarron went into bank foreclosure in 2012, WRC and CWT identified a unique opportunity to put water back into the “Little Cim.” WRC purchased the farm with the goal of working with CWT to dedicate the water “in-stream” during the driest months of the year. Now that we have conveyed the water rights to CWT, the Trust can pursue an irrigation plan that would allow for continued agricultural operations while keeping water in the river when the river needs it most.

The project aims to reestablish perennial flows, reconnect vital fish habitat, reduce water temperatures in the lower river and allow trout to repopulate the formerly de-watered reach of the stream. For WRC, it’s a unique and exciting project—and one with potential to serve as a model for stream conservation not just in Colorado, but throughout the West.

Conclusion

With the support of GlobalGiving donors, Western Rivers Conservancy is expanding our efforts to protect riverlands for fish, wildlife and people. Please contact David Wilkins at 503-241-0151, ext. 214 (or dwilkins@westernrivers.org) for further information. Thank you.


Attachments:
Jan 22, 2014

Western Rivers Conservancy: Winter 2014 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 contribution, WRC is:   

-        Partnering with California’s Yurok Tribe to create a salmon sanctuary and ensure the survival of the Klamath River, one of the West’s great salmon streams. 

-        Seizing an opportunity to conserve a strategically-located property at the confluence of Colorado’s Sarvis Creek and the upper Yampa River.

California’s Klamath:

In a historic opportunity, Western Rivers Conservancy is partnering with California’s Yurok Tribe to create a salmon sanctuary and ensure the survival of one of the West’s great salmon streams: the Klamath River. The backbone of this effort is Blue Creek, a vital cold-water tributary on the lower Klamath and a lifeline for migrating salmon and steelhead. WRC is working to purchase and conserve the entire lower Blue Creek watershed and help reestablish a homeland for the Yurok, California’s largest Native American tribe.

The Klamath was once the second largest producer of salmon on the West Coast. Sadly, its great runs of Chinook, coho and steelhead have been reduced by hydropower dams, irrigation projects and over fishing. Today, one of the greatest threats to salmon and steelhead are high water temperatures when the Klamath is stressed by low summer flows. For returning fish, Blue Creek is the first cold-water refuge they encounter on their journey inland from the Pacific Ocean. Studies have shown that by holding in Blue Creek’s cold water, Chinook salmon can lower their body temperature by up to eight degrees Fahrenheit, making this tributary critical to their survival. Without this cool-down period, most Chinook would likely die before reaching their spawning grounds in the upper Klamath.

Western Rivers Conservancy and the Yurok Tribe have established a long-term partnership to buy 47,000 acres along the lower Klamath and Blue Creek from Green Diamond Resource Company. The land includes the entire lower Blue Creek watershed, as well as extensive frontage along the lower Klamath. The upper reaches of Blue Creek are already protected in the Siskiyou Wilderness Area.

The first phase of this effort was completed in 2011, when WRC and the Yurok created the Yurok Tribal Community Forest by acquiring 22,000 acres. The Tribe now manages these lands for the sake of forest health, clean water, fish habitat and cultural rejuvenation.

In December 2013, WRC completed the next stage of the project, an 8,489-acre land acquisition that will conserve 13 square miles of California’s temperate rainforest, including the easternmost reach of the lower Blue Creek watershed. This acquisition is the first in a series of purchases along Blue Creek that will together conserve the entire lower watershed. WRC is now working to purchase the remaining project lands from Green Diamond Resource Company. This will place the rest of Blue Creek into permanent conservation stewardship and also expand the Yurok Tribal Community Forest.

When this project is complete, WRC and the Yurok people will help ensure the survival of one of the West’s great salmon streams, protect vital wildlife habitat in one of the most biologically rich areas on Earth, and reestablish a sacred homeland and economic base for California’s largest indigenous community. Then, Blue Creek will be safeguarded by a community whose greatest cultural, spiritual and economic interests are healthy forests, healthy habitat and healthy returns of wild salmon and steelhead.

Colorado’s Sarvis Creek:  

The Yampa River is the largest free-flowing river in the Colorado River system, providing critical habitat for endangered Colorado River fish species. From headwaters in the Flat Tops Wilderness, the upper Yampa flows east and then northwest through private ranchland to the city of Steamboat Springs. At the confluence of the upper Yampa River and Sarvis Creek, thirteen miles south of Steamboat Springs, Western Rivers Conservancy has seized an opportunity to conserve a strategically-located property. 

The 43-acre Sarvis Creek property features one-half mile of river frontage and is both an inholding and an edgeholding in the Routt National Forest. The parcel is also adjacent to the Sarvis Creek Wilderness Area, BLM lands and the Sarvis Creek State Wildlife Area. 

The acquisition will open new public access to a coveted stretch of trophy trout water and to prime elk hunting grounds on the outskirts of Steamboat Springs. In August 2013, WRC purchased the Hubbard’s Summer Place property. This effort conserves the only unprotected land within an area that is otherwise safeguarded by wilderness, parks and wildlife areas. Once the project is complete, all land surrounding the confluence will be in public hands and free from the risk of development.

The project will enhance ongoing efforts to restore habitat for rainbow trout, brown trout and mountain whitefish. It will also conserve stands of lodgepole pine and Engelmann spruce and protect habitat for black bear, cougar and Rocky Mountain elk.

Conclusion

With the support of GlobalGiving donors, Western Rivers Conservancy is expanding our efforts to protect riverlands for fish, wildlife and people. Please contact David Wilkins at 503-241-0151, ext. 214 (or dwilkins@westernrivers.org) for further information. Thank you.


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