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Mar 22, 2019

Western Rivers Conservancy: Spring 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:   

  • Conserving a First Rate Trout Stream in Colorado
  • Protecting habitat for Salmon and Steelhead in California’s Wine Country

Colorado’s Rio de Los Pinos:   

Completing our efforts on the Rio de Los Pinos, Western Rivers Conservancy has permanently protected some of the finest trout water in Colorado. In fall 2018, we conveyed our second property on the Los Pinos to the Rio Grande National Forest, protecting an additional 260 acres of prime open space and securing public access to a stunning stretch fly fishing water. Combined with the adjacent parcel we conserved last year, the land traces more than a mile of the Rio de Los Pinos along some its most accessible reaches, just off Highway 17, northeast of Chama, New Mexico.

The Los Pinos is a gem of a trout stream, with healthy populations of brown and rainbow trout. Native Rio Grande cutthroat once thrived here, and the river’s excellent cold-water habitat—including the reach that flows through these two properties—provides hope that these imperiled fish may one day be reintroduced.

Flowing from a series of alpine lakes in the San Juan Mountains, the Los Pinos tumbles through conifer forests, lush meadows and granite canyons over its 40-mile course. It loops into New Mexico before crossing back into Colorado and eventually feeds into the San Luis Valley of the Rio Grande.

Near Cumbres Pass, the Los Pinos enters a small, perched valley and slows to a broad meander, hemmed by open meadows and forests of spruce and fir, and an 1880s-era narrow-gauge train—the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad—carries sightseers up and down the valley.  

The valley’s unbroken natural beauty is highly desirable for subdivision and home construction. One of the largest blocks of private frontage near Cumbres Pass was owned by a family with deep, multi-generational ties to the San Luis Valley. The family wished to see their former summer pasture lands, which include wetlands and other features that attract migratory birds in spring and fall, permanently conserved as open space. WRC committed to protecting the properties, helping the family ensure these lands were permanently conserved.

We purchased both parcels, and with funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, conveyed the lands to the adjacent Rio Grande National Forest. Rather than being subdivided and developed, the properties will now remain intact, providing habitat for fish and wildlife and sustaining the hope that Rio Grande cutthroat can one day be reintroduced to the Rio de Los Pinos.

California’s Gualala River:

At the edge of Northern California’s wine country, Western Rivers Conservancy has launched an effort to protect a rare swath of old-growth redwood forest and rolling oak woodlands along the Wheatfield Fork Gualala River. The Wheatfield Fork is the largest of three major tributaries of the main-stem Gualala, one of the state’s most important and still-viable salmon and steelhead rivers.

The Wheatfield Fork, which meets the South Fork Gualala near the coastal town of Gualala, provides cold water and vital habitat for winter steelhead and coho salmon, populations that are dwindling throughout California. Like all forks of the Gualala, the Wheatfield Fork also supports abundant wildlife in an area that is threatened by vineyard and residential development.

Upstream from the town of Gualala, we are working to place a conservation easement on an extraordinary property—the 4,344-acre Silva Ranch. Conservation of the ranch will protect an important reach of the Wheatfield Fork as well as a series of cold tributary streams that flow through the property—more than six miles of fish-bearing streams in all. Our efforts will also protect 41 acres of majestic old-growth redwood trees and a landscape of rolling oak woodlands, grasslands and mixed conifer forest.

With its prime location and potential for more than 20 home sites, the ranch is highly vulnerable to both building development and intensive grape production. Instead, the conservation easement will forever protect the property’s ancient redwoods, its burbling fresh-water streams and rare oak studded chaparral that are so important to the region’s fish and wildlife. At the same time, roughly five percent of the ranch will be reserved for limited development or small-scale agriculture so the family can continue to earn a living, making the project viable and a true win-win for all.

The Silva Ranch is especially important because it lies next to 75,000 acres of already protected lands. Adding it to this assemblage will connect key habitats and multiply the benefits for fish and wildlife on a scale far greater than the property itself.

The future of coho and steelhead in California depends on rivers like the Gualala. The river harbors one of the southernmost runs of Northern California Steelhead, a threatened population. The Gualala River is also critical to the state’s recovery strategy for Central California Coast Coho, a distinct unit of endangered salmon. The Gualala Roach, a small minnow endemic to its namesake river, will also benefit from our conservation of the Silva Ranch.

Additionally, the property’s old growth redwoods provide superb habitat for threatened northern spotted owl. Bald eagles, red-legged frogs, tiger salamanders and a host of other animals that define Northern California all inhabit the ranch. Given the tremendous biological value of the property, our effort enjoys strong local and state support, and the state of California has dedicated funding to ensure the project’s success.

WRC anticipates placing the conservation easement on the ranch in the next year. Once we do, California’s redwood coast will have another critical refuge for native fish and wildlife, an outcome that meets the needs of conservation, a great river, family agriculture and California alike.

Conclusion

The Rio de Los Pinos and the Gualala 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:
Dec 22, 2018

Western Rivers Conservancy: Winter 2018 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:   

  • Protecting an Oasis on California’s Mojave River
  • Launching Our First Project in Washington's Methow Valley

California’s Mojave River:   

We did it! In October 2018 Western Rivers Conservancy permanently protected a rare stretch of California’s Mojave River as a haven for imperiled fish and wildlife.

Most of the Mojave River flows below ground, but along one very special stretch, the river is pushed to the surface by the underlying bedrock and forms a lush oasis in heart of the Mojave Desert. Thanks to your support, we protected a critical 3.5 miles of this stretch, including the most important stands of riverside forest along this entire reach of the river.

The property we protected is called Palisades Ranch, and its stands of cottonwoods and willows, along with the presence of a perennially flowing river, make it one of the Mojave Desert’s most important habitat areas for fish and wildlife. A true oasis, the property attracts 39 federally and state listed special-status wildlife species.

In October 2018, we conveyed the 1,647-acre ranch to our partner, the Mojave Desert Land Trust, which will now manage the property to ensure it forever remains a refuge for the region's diverse plants and wildlife. The California Wildlife Conservation Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service generously funded our transfer of the ranch to MDLT for permanent protection.

Washington’s Methow Valley:

The Methow Valley is a spectacular notch of cold rivers, pristine wilderness areas, rolling foothills and tiny, historic towns that cuts across eastern Washington. At the heart of the valley is the Methow River, a critical salmon and steelhead stream fed by smaller tributaries that tumble cold and clear from the North Cascade Mountains. The largest of these tributaries is the Chewuch River, where WRC has launched one of its newest conservation efforts.

The Chewuch is the headwaters of the Methow and provides healthy, unspoiled habitat for imperiled Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout. North of the town of Winthrop, WRC has purchased the historic 328-acre Wagner Ranch, which spans 1.6 miles of the Chewuch and abuts the 14,800-acre Methow Unit of Washington’s Methow Wildlife Area. The ranch was one of the largest contiguous tracts of privately owned riverfront left in the Methow Valley, which presented WRC with a tremendous conservation opportunity.

By purchasing the ranch and transferring it to the Yakama Nation, WRC will prevent hundreds of acres along this critical stretch of the Chewuch River from being subdivided and developed, the likely outcome if the ranch were left on the market. Our efforts will instead preserve the remote beauty of this historic ranch, while providing the Yakama the rare opportunity to restore a key stretch of the river where over a dozen different salmon habitat restoration opportunities have been identified. The project will enable improvements to side-channel and wetland connectivity and to riparian habitat that fish and wildlife depend on.

On top of the many benefits for fish and wildlife, the project will be a boon for people. Our efforts will safeguard the untouched character of this part of the valley, a setting that is cherished by countless hikers, cross-country skiers, hunters, birders, paddlers and anglers who visit and live in the Methow Valley. The Wagner Ranch itself is woven into the cultural fabric of the valley, formerly owned by the family who developed the Old West town of Winthrop, and later by the family who created the famed Sun Mountain Lodge. In the hands of the Yakama Nation, its existing open space and riparian habitat will remain undeveloped, serving the needs of fish and wildlife and all who enjoy the beauty of this unique slice of northern Washington.

Conclusion

The Mojave and Methow 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:
Sep 24, 2018

Western Rivers Conservancy: Fall 2018 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 a Treasured Mountainside for Fish, Wildlife and People in North-Central Washington

• Expanding Our Efforts on Oregon’s Wild and Scenic John Day River

Washington’s Nason Creek:

On Washington’s Lake Wenatchee, a 3,714-acre parcel of forested mountainside known as Nason Ridge rises above the lakeshore, surrounded almost entirely by the Okanogan National Forest. It is crisscrossed by a network of hiking, mountain-biking and cross-country skiing trails enjoyed by people from all over, and which link to an equally robust trail system in the neighboring Lake Wenatchee State Park.

The property also spans 2.5 miles of Nason Creek, a critical source of cold, clean water for the Wenatchee River and a lifeline for imperiled salmon, steelhead and bull trout that depend on the stream for survival. Nason Ridge is a highly visible swath of the mountainside and part of the scenic splendor of Lake Wenatchee, which sits in a bowl of conifer-blanketed mountains in north central Washington.

Until this summer, the future of all of this—public access, the trail system, the views, the forest and the stability of the very slopes themselves—was uncertain. That future took a positive turn in June, when Western Rivers Conservancy purchased the land from Weyerhaeuser, a Seattle based timber company that put the property on the market following local opposition to a planned clear-cut.

WRC jumped on the opportunity to conserve the property, which could have been logged, parceled up, developed and permanently closed to the public. Because the property is easily accessible from State Highway 2, which travels along Nason Creek, and is a major artery between Seattle (just two hours to the west) and eastern Washington, it would be highly attractive for development. But given its importance to fish and wildlife, WRC had a different vision for the property, the same one held by the community of Lake Wenatchee and beyond: conserving the land in perpetuity, for all to enjoy.

WRC acquired the property in June, and launched a fundraising campaign with the Wenatchee-based Chelan-Douglas Land Trust to raise the money needed to permanently conserve the property. For now, WRC will hold the land, allowing public use and enjoyment of the property while we work to secure funding to permanently protect this special place.

Oregon’s John Day River:

On Oregon’s lower John Day River, between two spectacular BLM wilderness study areas, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased a second ranch on Thirtymile Creek. The purchase complements our ongoing effort to conserve Thirtymile Creek and ten miles of the lower John Day, while creating new recreational access to over 75,000 acres of public BLM lands surrounding the ranches.

Thirtymile Creek is the largest tributary to the lower John Day and one of the most important spawning streams for the river’s critical run of wild summer steelhead. It’s also a vital source of cold water for the John Day. The 2,939 acres we purchased in June, part of the Campbell Ranch, span five miles of the creek, immediately upstream of the Rattray Ranch. Combined, these projects will enable restoration and protection of nine crucial miles of Thirtymile Creek.

What makes our effort at Thirtymile especially exciting is the access we’re delivering for anglers, boaters, hunters, hikers and other recreationists. The ranches lie directly between the Thirtymile and North Pole Ridge Wilderness Study Areas, which are in turn adjacent to tens of thousands of acres of additional BLM lands—all of it cut off from the public by private land, until now. The project also lies at the midway point between the Clarno Bridge boating access site, upstream, and Cottonwood Canyon State Park, downstream.

WRC is now working to transfer the ranches to the BLM, creating the only public access to a 70-mile stretch of the Wild and Scenic John Day River corridor. This means people will be able to float a stretch of the wild and scenic river in two to three days, rather than the much longer float required before.

Restoration efforts have already begun on Thirtymile Creek and will continue as WRC transfers the ranchlands to the BLM. While we are proud to deliver public access to this great Oregon river, what matters most of all is the biological integrity of Thirtymile Creek. Protecting and restoring this stream is key to the long-term vitality of one of the Pacific Northwest’s healthiest runs of wild summer steelhead. It’s only with vibrant riverbanks, strong runs of fish and healthy wildlife that people can truly enjoy a river—especially one as important as the John Day.

Conclusion

The Nason Creek and John Day River 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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