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.
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.


Attachments:
Oct 21, 2013

Western Rivers Conservancy: Fall 2013 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 has recently:   

-        Bolstered hopes for salmon and steelhead by successfully conserving 338 acres on Oregon’s North Santiam River, a critical tributary to the mighty Willamette. 

-        Guaranteed public access to Colorado’s vast Cross Mountain Wilderness Study Area, while protecting 2.5 miles of the Yampa River.

Oregon’s North Santiam:

Western Rivers Conservancy recently completed a successful conservation effort on the North Santiam River, bolstering hopes that salmon and steelhead may one day approach their former abundance in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

In May 2013, WRC conveyed a former farm on the North Santiam to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. The project conserves over two miles of river and side-channel habitat and forever safeguards one of the largest tracts of native riparian forest on the lower river. At the same time, it places 338 acres of culturally important land into the hands of the Tribe, which will manage the property for the sake of native fish and wildlife. The Tribe will rename the area “Chahalpam,” meaning “place of the Santiam Kalapuya people” in Kalapuyan.

The North Santiam River drains a large portion of the Central Oregon Cascades into the Willamette River. At one time, it produced an incredible two-thirds of the Willamette River’s winter steelhead and one-third of its spring Chinook salmon. These runs have declined steeply and today are listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The property is also home to imperiled Oregon chub and rare animals like western pond turtle, pileated woodpecker, hooded merganser and red-legged frog.

WRC’s efforts on the North Santiam, combined with the Confederated Tribes’ long-term stewardship and funding from Bonneville Power Administration, will help ensure these creatures remain part of the Willamette Valley landscape for generations to come.

Colorado’s Yampa River:  

Public access to Colorado’s Cross Mountain Canyon and the vast Cross Mountain Wilderness Study Area is now guaranteed for good. In summer 2013, Western Rivers Conservancy conveyed a ranch on the Yampa River, some 90 miles west of Steamboat Springs, to the Bureau of Land Management. The acquisition permanently conserves 2.5 miles of the Yampa River and places 920 acres at the very entrance to the canyon into public hands.

Bordering the ranch to the northeast, the Cross Mountain Wilderness Study Area is home to one of the largest Rocky Mountain elk herds in all of North America and is legendary among big-game hunters. Now that the ranch is in BLM hands, access to the ranch and the WSA is open to all. The project also improves access to Cross Mountain Canyon itself, which is famous among rafters and kayakers for its formidable whitewater.

From a conservation perspective, this project is equally important. Acquisition of the ranch creates a refuge for four species of Endangered fish: razorback sucker, humpback chub, bonytail chub and Colorado pikeminnow. All four of these species are native to the Colorado Basin and migrate hundreds of miles from the White River to the Yampa to spawn. Colorado pikeminnow can reach six feet in length and were once an important food source for Native Americans. Ensuring the health of the Yampa River is critical to their long-term survival.

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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