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Dec 17, 2019

Western Rivers Conservancy: Winter 2019 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:   

  • Protected a steelhead stronghold in the heart of the sagebrush-steppe on Oregon’s John Day River
  • Created a new wellness park for the City of Alamosa on the banks of Colorado’s Upper Rio Grande     

Oregon’s John Day River:

On Oregon’s Wild and Scenic John Day River, WRC has wrapped up a major accomplishment at Thirtymile Creek that will benefit the river’s critical run of wild steelhead, conserve prime habitat for wildlife and improve public river access at the heart of a spectacular river canyon.

After a five-year effort, we completed transfer of the Rattray and Campbell ranches to the Bureau of Land Management, forever protecting the lower nine miles of Thirtymile Creek, right where it flows into the John Day. The effort protected 10 miles of the main-stem John Day and 22,032 acres of prime wildlife habitat. At the same time, we secured prized public boating access to a prime stretch of the river and created a new recreational gateway to 78,000 acres of rugged sagebrush country—public land that was previously impossible to reach without a boat. Now open to the public, these lands deliver the only public river access on a remote, 70-mile stretch of the John Day. Boating this reach—one of the most scenic multi-day wilderness floats in the Pacific Northwest—previously required a five-day float from the upstream put-in at Clarno Bridge, unless you paid to drop your boat in (or take it out) at Rattray Ranch. Now, this mid-way access point is open to all, free of charge.

Beneath brick-red cliffs, Thirtymile Creek feeds the lower John Day with its largest source of cold water. When the John Day runs low and warm in summer and fall, Thirtymile Creek comes through with reliable, cold flows just when wild salmon and steelhead need them most. The creek contains key spawning and rearing habitat that will keep lower-river steelhead—one of the healthiest wild populations in the Columbia system—going strong. Thirtymile Creek is also vital for Chinook salmon and for the John Day’s diverse wildlife, including Oregon’s largest herd of California bighorn sheep.

Throughout the project, we worked with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, BLM and Gilliam County Soil and Water Conservation District to remove four fish-passage barriers in Thirtymile Creek and transform two former cattle ranches into thriving fish and wildlife habitat. With the land in BLM hands, the restoration work will continue with a number of local partners.

While this chapter is complete, WRC continues its efforts to improve the health of the Wild and Scenic John Day River—and to keep its water flowing for fish and wildlife and its unique outdoor adventures open to all.

Colorado’s Upper Rio Grande:     

On the banks of the upper Rio Grande, we’ve added a stunning new riverfront park to the city of Alamosa. In October, we cut the ribbon on Alamosa Riparian Park, which now protects more than a mile of open space along the Rio Grande. Long-anticipated by the community, the park joins the city’s growing green-space offerings, which connect residents to their backyard river. The park itself adds more than five miles of nature trails where people can stay active and reconnect with the outdoors.

Beneath the shade of tall cottonwoods (or alamosas, in Spanish), visitors can walk, run, bike and view birds and wildlife year-round. The park is also a de facto sanctuary for creatures like endangered southwest willow flycatcher, river otter and bald eagle.

Before October, access to the Rio Grande was limited, even though the river winds along the edge of town. The community has wanted better access to the river for years and, in 2017, we partnered with the city to make this a reality. WRC purchased two adjacent properties from families who, like WRC, wanted to keep the land undeveloped as public open space. This fall, we conveyed the land to the city, and now Alamosa Riparian Park is open for all.

Creation of this outstanding public resource inspired broad local support, including from the city, Alamosa County, San Luis Valley Great Outdoors, the Gates Family Foundation, Rio Grande Watershed Conservation and Education Initiative, Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and many others. Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), which is funded by the Colorado Lottery, ranked Alamosa Riparian Park as its top Open Space Project in 2018 and awarded a major grant to the project so the city could buy the land.

WRC’s efforts in Alamosa are part of our broader work in the San Luis Valley, where we are conserving tens of thousands of acres of key habitats and providing new public access to the Rio Grande and its tributaries. In 2015, we established the San Luis Valley Conservation Fund together with the LOR Foundation, Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust and Colorado Open Lands, with the goal of accelerating conservation efforts

Conclusion

The John Day and the Alamosa Riparian Park projects are just some of our recent projects. WRC currently has over two dozen active projects in six 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 Anne Tattam at 503-241-0151, ext. 219 (or atattam@westernrivers.org) for further information. Thank you.


Attachments:
Sep 18, 2019

Western Rivers Conservancy: Fall 2019 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 is:   

  • Saving Open Space and Salmon Streams in Washington’s Methow Valley
  • Protecting the Place Where Bighorns are Born along Idaho’s Snake River

    

Washington’s Methow and Chewuch Rivers:     

Flowing cold and clear beneath the snowcapped peaks of Washington’s North Cascades, the Methow River is a salmon stream of great importance. It is the centerpiece of the scenic Methow Valley, fed by icecold creeks that tumble out of the rugged Pasayten Wilderness at the edge of the Canadian border. For years, the river was heavily diverted for irrigation, but today it is the focus of extensive efforts to recover its surviving fish runs. With much of the system protected within national forests and wilderness, there are high hopes that the Methow will once again become a haven for salmon and steelhead of the upper Columbia basin.

The Methow Valley is also a hugely popular travel destination. Tens of thousands of people visit each year to chase wild steelhead, ski the largest cross-country trail system in North America, raft, climb, hunt and enjoy a string of tiny, historic towns.

In the heart of the Methow Valley, Western Rivers Conservancy acquired two properties in 2018 to improve fish habitat and preserve the valley’s natural beauty. The opportunity is tremendous, as both properties trace designated Critical Habitat for Upper Columbia River spring Chinook and contain key habitat for Columbia River steelhead and bull trout. First we acquired the 328- acre Wagner Ranch, which spans 1.6 miles of the Chewuch River, the Methow’s largest tributary. Situated next to the Methow Wildlife Area, the ranch is one of the largest blocks of private river frontage left in the valley and is highly vulnerable to development. Then we purchased the 35-acre Stafford Ranch along the Methow River, including a critical groundwater right needed to reestablish flows in dry side channels that are crucial to fish.

WRC will convey the properties to the Yakama Nation, which is committed to stream restoration and conservation in the Methow Valley. Through its capable stewardship program, the tribe plans to restore offchannel areas, floodplains, wetlands and riparian vegetation, making a lasting difference for salmon and steelhead and moving the needle on our shared greater vision to save the fish runs of the upper Columbia Basin.

The Wagner Ranch itself was once owned by the Haub family, longtime community leaders in the valley and the developers of historic Winthrop. On top of the ecological benefits, the project will uphold the rich natural heritage, history and rural character of this part of the Methow Valley.

 

Idahos’s Snake River:

As the Snake River makes its way toward the Columbia, it carves the rugged depths of Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America and one of the most stunning river reaches on Earth. High above, bighorn sheep defy gravity as they poke along the sheer rock walls of the canyon cliffs. Populations of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep were once abundant here, icons of the Snake, but today, Idaho’s Hells Canyon herd has only 150 head—a fraction of historic numbers. Remarkably, most of the ewes in this herd birth and rear their lambs on a single property: Ten Mile Creek Ranch.

This exceptional parcel of land traces four miles of the Snake River, just upstream of Hells Gate State Park and downstream of Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area and Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. The 2,920-acre ranch is the herd’s best nursery, with as much as 80 percent of the Idaho ewes giving birth here in spring. What’s more, the ranch provides a critical link between these neighboring protected lands, expanding this habitat assemblage and increasing the Snake River’s ability to sustain these animals.

The reach of the Snake River flowing past the ranch also provides habitat for federally listed Snake River spring and fall Chinook and steelhead—fish that must overcome eight massive dams to reach their spawning waters high in the Rockies. Several Chinook redds are found in front of the property, and one of the Snake’s best steelhead runs lies just off the ranch’s banks. In addition to bighorns, the ranch is home to black bear, Rocky Mountain elk, mountain lion and mule deer.

In summer 2018, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased Ten Mile Creek Ranch. We are now working with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to place a conservation easement on the property, preventing a 24-home subdivision and ensuring this crucial landscape remains intact, protected forever and healthy for the Snake River’s outstanding fish and wildlife.

 

Conclusion

The Methow, Chewuch and the Snake River/Ten Mile Creek Ranch projects are just some of our recent projects. WRC currently has over two dozen active projects in six 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 Anne Tattam at 503-241-0151, ext. 219 (or atattam@westernrivers.org) for further information. Thank you.


Attachments:
Jun 19, 2019

Western Rivers Conservancy: Summer 2019 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:    

  • Preserved a crucial stretch of Arizona’s East Verde River 
  • Added 117 acres to Cottonwood Canyon State Park along Oregon’s John Day River

Arizona’s East Verde:     

In March, 2019, Western Rivers Conservancy preserved a crucial stretch of Arizona’s East Verde River and secured a recreational gateway to the Mazatzal Wilderness.

Thanks to Western Rivers Conservancy’s supporters, and to funding from the (recently reauthorized!) Land and Water Conservation Fund, we conserved the strategically located Doll Baby Ranch. It is now officially protected within the Tonto National Forest, and the primary access point for more than 250 square miles of public lands is now permanently open to all. These lands include a vast portion of the Mazatzal Wilderness, the Arizona National Scenic Trail and the Verde Wild and Scenic River corridor.

Just outside of Payson and roughly two hours from Phoenix, the Doll Baby Ranch traces a mile of the East Verde River, a lifeline for the diverse fish and wildlife on the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert. The East Verde is the least disturbed arm of the Verde, an outstanding Arizona river that flows into the Salt. Together, these streams sustain some of the most diverse fish and wildlife in the American Southwest.

With the completion of this project, a critical stretch of the East Verde has been conserved, and access to some of Arizona’s greatest outdoor recreation has been guaranteed for good. 

Oregon’s John Day River:

Also in spring 2019, WRC added 117 acres to Cottonwood Canyon State Park in Oregon. In March, we transferred the former Kirkpatrick Homestead to Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, significantly improving the park’s ability to manage a remote boating access site, roughly 10 miles downstream of the park’s main entrance.

Located at the northern end of the John Day Wild and Scenic River corridor, Cottonwood Canyon is Oregon’s second largest state park. It lies adjacent to vast, public BLM wilderness study areas, making it one of Oregon’s wildest state parks, set in sagebrush country with a dramatic river canyon and impressively diverse wildlife. The heart of the park is the John Day River, which hikers, anglers, hunters, boaters and birders visit year-round.

WRC created the park in partnership with OPRD in 2013, and has long sought to add this second property to enhance management. Now that we have, the stage is set for OPRD to make improvements to a crucial boating access site that anglers, hunters and paddlers rely on for trips down the John Day. The project also provides OPRD an important presence in this remote area of the state park.

Conclusion

The Ease Verde and the John Day projects are just some of our recent successes. WRC currently has over two dozen active projects in six 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 Anne Tattam at 503-241-0151, ext. 219 (or atattam@westernrivers.org) for further information. Thank you.


Attachments:
 
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