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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:
Jun 25, 2018

Western Rivers Conservancy: Summer 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:   

  • Creating a new refuge for fish, wildlife and people in Colorado’s San Luis Valley
  • Returning water to vital Salmon River tributaries in Idaho’s Sawtooth valley

 

Colorado’s Upper Rio Grande:   

We are excited to announce that Colorado’s San Luis Valley has a new state wildlife area, thanks to WRC’s purchase of 17,019 acres along the upper Rio Grande. This month, we transferred those lands to Costilla County, reconnecting a community to a river that has been off-limits to the public here for generations. In the process, we conserved thousands of acres of outstanding natural habitat, a major boon to the fish, birds and other wildlife of southern Colorado.

With the property now under county ownership, the lands will be managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as the new San Luis Hills State Wildlife Area and forever protected through a conservation easement held by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The wide-open, rolling hills and shrublands of the property are a special place and were one of the last large, intact tracts of private land within the Rio Grande Natural Area. The river and surrounding uplands are crucial for imperiled animals like the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher and for mule deer, pronghorn and Rocky Mountain elk.

For the local community, this is an exciting accomplishment. In Costilla County, 99 percent of all land is private. Until now, public river access was virtually nonexistent. With the completion of this project, more than 4.5 miles of the Rio Grande and thousands of acres of spectacular uplands are now protected and open to the public.

This is one of several WRC projects in the San Luis Valley, including the 1,180-acre Olguin Ranch, directly across the river from the new state wildlife area. Through these acquisitions, WRC is reconnecting communities to the valley’s rivers and conserving habitat for the area’s fish and wildlife. Our partners in this effort are the LOR Foundation, Colorado Open Lands and The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust. Together, and with funding from the LOR Foundation, we created the San Luis Valley Conservation Fund to conserve land and bolster local conservation efforts throughout the valley.

Creation of the San Luis Hills State Wildlife Area was made possible through a loan from the LOR Foundation and funding from Great Outdoors Colorado, the Gates Family Foundation and USFWS. Through this broad collaboration with funders and our on-the-ground partners, we are having an impact that will improve people’s lives—and the health of the upper Rio Grande—for generations.

 

Idaho’s Goat and Meadow Creeks:

Early this spring, Western Rivers Conservancy celebrated a major success in Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley when we conserved the 369-acre Goat Falls Ranch and transferred the ranch’s water rights to the state to keep them permanently in-stream. The effort will improve flows in two critical headwater tributaries of the Salmon River and add 369 acres to the spectacular Sawtooth National Recreation Area. This marks the first time the Idaho Water Resources Board has acquired water rights for the purpose of dedicating them permanently in-stream, an approach we hope serves as a model for balancing agricultural needs with native species recovery.

Goat and Meadow Creeks, the streams that flow through the ranch, are both crucial, ice-cold creeks that tumble from the Sawtooth Mountains and provide salmon and steelhead with reliable, cold water—the homecoming they need after their epic, 900-mile journey from the Pacific Ocean.

WRC is focusing on these headwater streams because they are a key to sustaining the Salmon River’s native fish in the face of rising water temperatures, low flows and earlier spring runoff. Goat and Meadow Creeks once contained some of the highest densities of rearing salmon in the Columbia Basin, but water withdraws and grazing have undermined their health. Despite this, the streams are still among the best nurseries for salmon and steelhead on the upper Salmon River.

In 2017, WRC purchased the ranch, along with its 12.08 CFS of water rights, providing the rare opportunity to protect habitat and enhance stream-flows for fish. While WRC owned the ranch, we spearheaded creative solutions with adjoining landowners to meet local water needs while placing significant flows back in-stream.

As part of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, the ranch will be protected from development and allowed to recover from grazing. Additionally, the Forest Service and other partners will implement priority habitat restoration and monitoring projects for the benefit of fish and wildlife. The ranch also hosts important winter range for elk and habitat for 18 sensitive species, including gray wolf, sage grouse, bald eagle, peregrine falcon and Columbia spotted frog.

With cold water, restored habitat and improved flows, Goat Falls Ranch has a far greater chance at again becoming a haven for salmon, steelhead and wildlife, with benefits extending across the vast Snake and Columbia basins.

 

Conclusion

The Upper Rio Grande and Goat and Meadow Creeks 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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