Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers

 
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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:

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.


Attachments:

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:

- Protecting fish and wildlife habitat and a popular recreation access point above Idaho’s legendary Salmon River.

- Completing conservation of a treasured Arizona stream, Fossil Creek.

Idaho’s Salmon River:

On a scenic bend in Idaho’s legendary Salmon River, Western Rivers Conservancy has successfully protected a dramatic viewshed and ensured the widely-loved Pine Bar Recreation Site remains forever accessible. The project, our first on the Salmon River, began in 2012 when we acquired 1,284 acres on a spectacular bend above the river. WRC purchased the land with the goal of conserving both the viewshed and the high-gradient creeks that tumble down the mountainside to nourish the river. The streams that flow through the property directly influence habitat quality for five imperiled fish species, including sockeye, Chinook, steelhead and migratory bull trout.

In August 2014, we conveyed this strategically located property to the Bureau of Land Management, which will now steward the lands for the sake of the Salmon River’s fish and wildlife and to ensure public access to Pine Bar remains compatible with conservation.

WRC’s efforts at Pine Bar are integral to our larger vision to ensure the Salmon River and its unique riverland habitat stay healthy and accessible to all. The Salmon River is the longest, wildest and cleanest major river in the Rockies, flowing 425 miles from its headwaters in the Sawtooth Mountains to its confluence with the Snake River in Hells Canyon. Its salmon and steelhead, which migrate farther than any anadromous fish in the West, navigate over 900 miles on their epic journey from the Pacific Ocean.

The project conserves prime winter range for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer and habitat for black bear and mountain lion. The steep grasslands are believed to shelter two plants—Spalding’s catchfly and MacFarlane’s four o’clock—and to support sensitive species like peregrine and prairie falcon, mountain quail and western toad.

Arizona’s Fossil Creek:

Flowing from a series of mineral springs in central Arizona, Fossil Creek is known for its travertine pools and stunning aquamarine water. In an arid landscape it is a lush oasis, providing habitat for rare native fish, beavers, otters, leopard frogs, bats and an extraordinary array of bird species.

For over a century this gem of a stream was dewatered by a hydroelectric project that left Fossil Creek almost totally dry. But restoration efforts by Arizona Game and Fish Department, US Forest Service and others brought the creek back to life. In 2005, the dam was removed and healthy flows returned to the river. Today, Fossil Creek is considered the most successful river recovery project in the Southwest. It is now one of only two Wild and Scenic Rivers in all of Arizona.

In summer 2014, WRC committed to purchase the last unprotected parcel of land within the Fossil Creek Wild and Scenic River corridor. Although at 20 acres the property is relatively small, the impact of buying the land will be significant. The effort will benefit the creek’s rich fish and wildlife, protect outstanding scenic areas and archeological resources, and improve efforts by the Cococino National Forest to manage an increasing number of visitors. This freshwater resource provides people with the unique experience of viewing and playing in clear blue-green pools while providing relief from the desert heat.

What makes the effort truly worthwhile is the diversity of wildlife the creek supports. In all, more than 80 special-status species inhabit the area. Fifteen bat species occur in the river corridor, as do numerous bird species, including black hawks, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, Bell’s vireos, Lucy’s warblers and verdins. Following a decade of recovery work, the stream again supports nine native fish species, including spikedace, loach minnow, Gila topminnow, speckled dace and Sonora sucker. Along with the stream’s unique mineral formations, the presence of these fish gives the creek national significance.

Fossil Creek also contains evidence of thousands of years of human habitation, including pit house villages, pueblo sites and rock art sites. Today, as more and more people rediscover and visit Fossil Creek, WRC’s efforts will help Cococino National Forest ensure public enjoyment while minimizing impact on this fragile desert river ecosystem.

Conclusion

The Salmon River and Fossil Creek are two of our recent successes. WRC currently has 25 active projects in eight 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:

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.


Attachments:

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:

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Organization

Project Leader

David Wilkins

Portland, OR United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers