Aug 13, 2010

Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers

With the support of GlobalGiving donors, Western Rivers Conservancy is purchasing land along outstanding rivers in the western United States. General support gifts help pay for the essential operating costs of buying land and placing properties in permanent conservation stewardship. Your donation is dedicated to such activities as: developing relationships with willing seller landowners; restoring salmon habitat; and creating new hiking trails and recreational opportunities.

Thanks to your contributions, we are: - working to establish Oregon’s largest and newest state park; - returning sacred ancestral lands to California’s largest Native American tribe; and - protecting land in the Bear River delta to expand an internationally important migratory bird refuge.

John Day River, Oregon - Establishing the Largest State Park in Oregon and Conserving the Longest Undammed River West of the Rockies: The John Day is one of the West’s great rivers and a regionally significant stronghold of wild steelhead and salmon. In October 2008, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased the 8,114-acre Murtha Ranch along the lower John Day River. The ranch includes an additional 8,000-acre Bureau of Land Management grazing lease. Our purchase is protecting 16 river miles and will ultimately ensure a unique wild land recreational experience for people. The Murtha Ranch acquisition fills a large gap in the John Day Wild and Scenic River Corridor, one of Oregon’s finest natural landscapes. In September 2009, Western Rivers Conservancy sold the first portion of the ranch, totaling 2,403 acres, to Oregon State Parks. On Murtha Ranch, we adapted our approach and laid the foundation for extensive restoration. With community partners, we began implementing a comprehensive restoration plan, completed fencing along riparian areas, removed noxious weeds, and planted 3,000 trees and shrubs along Hay Creek and main stem John Day lands. We are already seeing results in the form of enhanced fish habitat along Hay Creek, a critical steelhead spawning tributary.

Hood River, Oregon - Protecting Land along Three Forks of the Hood River: Western Rivers Conservancy is working to create a major sanctuary for fish, wildlife and people on all three forks of the Hood River, in conjunction with the summer 2010 removal of Powerdale Dam. We are building constituencies among individual and agricultural landowners, forest products companies, and others. We launched this effort in 2006 with the purchase of 20 acres of uplands at the confluence of the East and the West Forks of the Hood River. In July 2009, we signed an agreement to purchase the adjacent 82 acres from PacifiCorp, including the confluence itself and thundering Punch Bowl Falls.

Sandy River, Oregon - Creating a World-Class Salmon Sanctuary and Urban River Park: Western Rivers Conservancy (WRC) is establishing a world-class salmon sanctuary and conservation and recreation corridor along 19 river miles of the Sandy, Little Sandy and tributaries. To date, we have protected more than 3,000 acres in our effort to create a 5,000-acre area that will be accessible for public enjoyment. In 2010, WRC is buying properties from Clackamas County to protect the ecological and recreational values along the Wild and Scenic Salmon River, the best fish-producing tributary to the Sandy.

Alsea River, Oregon - Preserving One of Oregon’s Healthiest Estuaries: In 2001, Western Rivers Conservancy began creation of a landscape-scale conservation and recreation corridor by acquiring more than 1,400 acres along lower Drift Creek and the Alsea River Estuary. Community partners, including the MidCoast and Alsea Watersheds Council, Waldport Schools, Siuslaw National Forest, Siletz Tribes and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are now restoring these lands. Western Rivers Conservancy has protected more than 80% of the project area. In May 2010, we signed an agreement to purchase the adjacent 287-acre property to complete this estuarine project. WRC is working with the Siuslaw National Forest and several community partners to position the Alsea Bay estuary property for permanent stewardship. With our partners, we will complete the restoration and recreation area and ensure long-term protection for this vital coho rearing habitat.

Hoh River, Washington - Conserving One of the Most Revered Salmon Rivers on the Pacific Rim: The Hoh River is a place of legends: the most rainfall of any place on the continent, the finest rainforest in the country, the proudest pioneer heritage on the Olympic Peninsula, the strongest salmon runs in the Northwest, the biggest steelhead in the state, and the site of one of the best conservation projects in the United States. Below the Hoh’s pristine headwaters in Olympic National Park, Western Rivers Conservancy has been working for a decade to acquire land along the Hoh’s lower thirty miles. In April 2010, we conserved three more main stem properties totaling 60 acres and conveyed the land to the Hoh River Trust. We have now protected nearly 7,000 acres and 20 river miles on the Hoh.

Lower Klamath River and Blue Creek, California - Establishing a Cornerstone for Klamath River Restoration: In the coastal temperate rainforest of northwestern California, Western Rivers Conservancy is seizing an unprecedented opportunity to conserve salmon and wildlife habitat in one of the most biologically diverse areas on Earth. We are purchasing 47,000 acres of sacred ancestral lands along the lower Klamath River and Blue Creek. On behalf of California’s largest Native American tribe, WRC is buying these lands from Green Diamond Resource Company and placing them in permanent conservation stewardship. In a new model of resource ownership, the Yurok Tribe will establish a 25,000-acre salmon sanctuary and tribal preserve, as well as manage 22,000 acres for restoration of meadows, redwood forest preservation and sustainable forestry. In September 2009, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased the first 5,518 acres of land along the lower Klamath River.

Deer and Mill Creeks, California - Protecting Important Salmon Habitat along Tributaries to the Sacramento River: In the northern Sierra Nevada foothills, a series of stream canyons are home to numerous at-risk species and hold the hope for restoration of wild salmon and steelhead runs on the Sacramento River. Deer Creek and Mill Creek are two of the top five streams in the Sierras for aquatic life, rare California waterways with healthy runs of Chinook salmon and steelhead. In November 2009, Western Rivers Conservancy bought the 600-acre Lower Deer Creek Falls property from Sierra Pacific Industries with a $1 million loan from a foundation.

Bear River, Utah Bear River, Utah - Preserving One of the West’s Premier Migratory Bird Strongholds: Western Rivers Conservancy is in the process of protecting crucial parts of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem. The marshes at the mouth of the Bear River are among the greatest producers of birds in the country, providing habitat for millions of waterfowl, shorebirds and other migratory birds. In spring 2010, WRC finalized a purchase and sale agreement for the 580-acre Lucky Seven-Pintail Club in the internationally important Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Box Elder County. This property provides important wetland habitat for thousands of birds during their migration. This site is less than two miles southwest of our 696-acre Feather and Finn acquisition. WRC is adding nearly 1,300 acres of wetlands to the Refuge and expanding opportunities for environmental education and restoration at this critical intersection of migratory bird flyways.

Gunnison River, Colorado - Conserving Essential Habitat on the Colorado Plateau and Adding More Than Four Miles of River Frontage to a New Conservation Area: One of the great tributaries to the Colorado River is the Gunnison, which is the second largest river in the state. Here on the lower Gunnison, Western Rivers Conservancy is building a long-term conservation strategy within the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area (NCA). The NCA, newly designated in 2009, is home to vital fish and wildlife habitat, ancient fossil beds, red rock canyons and desert flora and fauna, such as the Uinta hookless cactus. In 2010, Western Rivers Conservancy signed an agreement to acquire nearly 400 acres of spectacular canyon country along several miles of the Gunnison. A few miles downstream, Western Rivers Conservancy is also buying more than two hundred acres of additional inholdings within the BLM-managed Bangs Canyon Special Recreation Management Area. Together, these acquisitions will protect and enhance a critically important landscape for endangered species, recreational opportunities and historical and cultural attributes.

Conclusion: This is an exciting time for Western Rivers Conservancy and our efforts to protect riverlands for fish, wildlife and people. We have doubled our staff from seven to fourteen people in the past three years.

Please contact David Wilkins at 503-241-0151, ext. 14 for further details. Thank you.

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