Dec 27, 2017

Western Rivers Conservancy: Winter 2017 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:   

  • Completing a Preserve at the Mouth of Washington’s Chehalis River
  • Delivering More Riverland Conservation and Outdoor Adventure on Oregon’s Sandy River

Washington’s Chehalis River:   

The Chehalis River drains a massive area of western Washington, forming the largest river basin in the state, after the Columbia. Fed by rivers and streams that flow from the Cascade foot­hills, Willapa Hills and Olympic Mountains, the Chehalis eventually drains into Grays Harbor on the Pacific, where it forms the largest, highest-quality tidal surge plain in Washington. Here, where salt water from the Pacific surges inland with the tide to meet the freshwater of the Chehalis River, a diverse and highly productive wetland ecosystem is formed.

In the surge plain, sheltered sloughs provide crucial habitat for spring and fall Chinook, coho, chum, steelhead, river otter, beaver and the endemic Olympic mudminnow. Dense stands of Sitka spruce and western red cedar, draped with mosses and lichens, are home to bald eagle, osprey and other birdlife. And throughout the year, hikers and paddlers visit the area to explore the tidal channels by foot, canoe and kayak.

In 1989, Washington Department of Natural Resources created the Chehalis River Surge Plain Natural Area Preserve to protect this important ecosystem. Yet, for nearly 30 years, the preserve has been incomplete, with 1,500 acres at the heart of it privately owned and unprotected. Western Rivers Conservancy, in partnership with Weyerhaeuser, has taken the first steps toward completing the preserve and ensuring the lasting integrity of this extraordinary place. This summer, WRC signed an agreement to purchase 1,472 acres of Weyerhaeuser forestlands, which will be permanently protected when conveyed to WDNR to complete the Natural Area Preserve.

WRC’s efforts will benefit the river, its wildlife and the thousands of people who visit each year by completing the original vision for the preserve and eliminating the threats of development and timber harvest. The project will conserve more than six miles of river frontage, including exceptional water-trail systems through three separate sloughs. Canoe and water trails will be joined to upland parcels, and both scientific and educational activities will be enhanced. And once WDNR acquires these lands, the Chehalis River Surge Plain will be protected not in fragments, but in its entirety.

Oregon’s Sandy River:

Western Rivers Conservancy’s most recent victory on Oregon’s Sandy River has delivered more riverland conservation and outdoor ad­venture on the flanks of Mount Hood. Near the town of Brightwood, we preserved 186 acres along North Boulder Creek, including some of the most important habitat in the entire basin for coho salmon and winter steelhead. Both coho and steelhead are threatened species, and habitat preservation is vital to their long-term survival.

The property also features the only public access to the Sandy Ridge Trail System, one of the best mountain biking trail systems ever de­signed on public lands. The project will ensure upwards of 150,000 annual visitors can contin­ue to enjoy this “roller coaster in the woods,” which has become a model for ecosystem-com­patible mountain biking trail design.

WRC purchased the property and con­veyed it to the Bureau of Land Management in September 2017. The land adjoins other protected BLM lands, including WRC’s recent acquisition along Little Joe Creek, another important fish-bearing tributary. Together these two projects protect over 300 acres, more than a mile of critical salmon habitat, and significant portions of the expanding Sandy Ridge Trail System. The bike trails, located away from the river, feature innovative designs that limit erosion and sedimentation, reduce pooling and ruts and minimize impact on the ecosystem.

Protection of the North Boulder Creek property comes at a celebratory moment. This year marks a decade since the Sandy became wild and free once again, after Portland Gener­al Electric (PGE) blew Marmot Dam into a cloud of dust and rubble. In partnership with PGE, WRC committed to conserving 4,500 acres of habitat—a goal we have now exceeded. The re­sult is a conservation corridor tracing 14 miles of the Sandy and its tributaries, protecting salmon, steelhead and wildlife habitat and en­suring public access to one of the Northwest’s favorite wild river playgrounds.

Conclusion

The Chehalis and Sandy River projects are two 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 27, 2017

Western Rivers Conservancy: Fall 2017 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 more habitat for fish and wildlife on Oregon’s John Day River
  • Creating new access to a hidden gem in southern Colorado

Oregon’s John Day River:   

Forty-four miles upstream from Cotton­wood Canyon State Park, Thirtymile Creek enters the John Day River at the heart of a spectacular river canyon. As the larg­est tributary to the lower river, the creek provides reliable, cold water and crucial spawning and rearing habitat for wild sum­mer steelhead, producing more of these threatened fish than all other tributaries to the lower river combined. Simply put, without Thirtymile Creek, lower John Day steelhead—a unique Columbia Basin run— would be hard pressed to survive.

Thirtymile Creek is a key component of Western Rivers Conservancy’s long-term commitment to the John Day River. In 2014, we acquired the creek’s lower four miles when we purchased the Rattray Ranch. We are now working with the BLM to conserve this reach of the stream and secure a rare public access road to the spectacular and largely inaccessible river canyon. Last month, we expanded our efforts when we signed a contract to acquire 3,093 acres of the Campbell Ranch, which spans five additional miles of the creek, immediately upstream.

Like the Rattray Ranch, this property will be the site of extensive habitat resto­ration to benefit the John Day’s imperiled fish and wildlife, and it includes riparian stands, native grasslands and excellent sagebrush steppe habitat. More than 2,000 acres of upland agricultural lands will remain with the Campbell family, who will continue to work the land.

Together, the Rattray and Campbell properties will allow for meaningful protec­tion and restoration of the lower nine miles of Thirtymile Creek—a big win not just for the John Day’s steelhead, but for everyone.

Colorado’s Rio de los Piños:

Nestled in the eastern foothills of the South San Juan Mountains, just a dozen miles from Chama, New Mexico, the Rio de los Piños is often overshadowed by the nearby Conejos River when it comes to fishing. This is partially due to the fact that accessing the river’s most attractive fly water is a challenge along most of its length. That changed this summer when Western Rivers Conservancy acquired 368 acres along the Los Piños, just off Highway 17, near Cumbres Pass. WRC then conveyed the land to the Rio Grande National Forest, creating new access to an angler’s paradise and ensuring perma­nent protection of this important stretch of the Los Piños River.

Born at 10,000 feet in a series of pristine, alpine lakes near the Continental Divide, the Rio de Los Piños tumbles several thousand feet over a stretch of 40 miles, crossing the Colorado-New Mexico Border twice before meeting the Rio Grande in the scenic San Luis Valley. Below Cumbres Pass, the river’s rapid decent slows to a meander across the valley floor, hemmed by lush, open meadows and forests of spruce and fir. A historic narrow-gauge steam train trundles along the river, offering passengers picture-perfect views and adding to the valley’s charm.

Like many near-pristine slices of the West, portions of the valley have been subdivided for second home development. However, the majority of Los Piños frontage remains undeveloped. WRC is buying this land to preserve the remainder of the valley’s unbroken, natural beauty while ensuring that its tremendous recreational opportunities remain a public resource for all.

WRC purchased the 368-acre property from a family with deep, multi-generational ties to the San Luis Valley who wished to see their former summer pasture lands permanently preserved as open space. The family found a solution working with WRC, which will ensure the lands are protected in perpetuity. Directly to the north, WRC is also negotiating purchase of a second parcel from the family. Together, these holdings will protect nearly 650 acres and more than a mile of the Rio de los Piños, including one of the most accessible reaches of the river. The properties include high-altitude wetlands and a natural pond, which host migratory waterfowl in the spring and fall. The land is also home to Rocky Mountain elk, black bear, mule deer and mountain lion.

While some anglers know the Los Piños for its abundant brown and rainbow trout, the river also has excellent habitat for native Rio Grande cutthroat, which once thrived here. Several of the Los Piños’ remote tributaries serve as refuges for populations of these native fish. Conservation efforts provide new hope that this endemic cold-water species may once again inhabit the Rio de los Piños.

Our work on the Los Piños is part of WRC’s larger strategy in the San Luis Valley, where we are preserving thousands of acres of meadows, oxbows, riparian corridors and prime habitat for several imperiled fish species and more than 200 species of birds. Taken together, these efforts will preserve important tributaries to the Rio Grande in areas where precious little riverfront is accessible to the public.

Conclusion

The John Day River and the Rio de los Piños projects are two of our recent successes. WRC currently has 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 28, 2017

Western Rivers Conservancy: Summer 2017 Report

South Fork Scott - Nate Wilson Photo
South Fork Scott - Nate Wilson Photo

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:   

  • Returning Water to the South Fork Scott for Imperiled Coho Salmon
  • Permanently Protecting the Swiftwater Park on Oregon’s North Umpqua

California’s Scott River:   

Building on our work in California’s Klamath River basin, Western Rivers Conservancy has embarked on an effort to improve stream flows within the South Fork Scott, the largest, cleanest and coldest tributary to the Scott River. The Scott flows to the Klamath and is the state’s single most important stream for native coho salmon, which are threatened or endangered throughout California and Oregon.

The Scott River produces more native coho than any stream in California, yet their numbers are so low, many fear coho could become extinct within the river barring meaningful, ongoing recovery work. To that effect, state and federal agencies and organizations have invested heavily in improving habitat within the South Fork and mainstem Scott rivers. This work has been crucial for the Scott and its fish, but its long-term success hinges upon one key ingredient: water.

The Scott is vital to coho because of its clear water, abundant spawning beds and lack of mainstem dams to impede fish migration. But the Scott and its fish—which include Chinook and steelhead—face a myriad of challenges, from water diversion and diking to deforestation and drought. The latter, which has been ongoing in California until just this year, has taken a tremendous toll on salmon. Frequently, there is simply too little water in the river and its tributaries to sustain healthy populations of spawning, holding and rearing fish. Our goal is to change that.

WRC purchased a property called the Bouvier Ranch and gained control of a critical water right on the South Fork Scott River. Control of that right will allow us to keep more water in-stream during summer to benefit coho, Chinook salmon and steelhead. Adjusting the irrigation schedule may increase summer-time flows in the South Fork by up to 20 percent, exactly when the river and its fish need those flows the most.

WRC’s purchase of the Bouvier Ranch will also allow us to conserve two miles of designated Critical Habitat for southern Oregon/northern California Coast coho. Combined with our rare opportunity to return water to the South Fork Scott, this will be a major step in the right direction for the Scott River and its fish. We are now working with local organizations to identify the best long-term steward to manage the lands as working lands, with conservation and public access the top priority.

Our efforts at the Bouvier Ranch also provide the opportunity for WRC to protect a viewshed on the Pacific Crest Trail by acquiring a nearby property that has been a top priority for the Pacific Crest Trail Association for years. The PCT skirts this property at the northeast edge of the Trinity Alps Wilderness before crossing the South Fork Scott River, upstream of the Bouvier Ranch. Our hope is to protect the views that make the PCT so scenic while ensuring the river that hikers encounter is healthy both for people and the salmon that return each year to spawn.

Oregon’s North Umpqua:  

Two years ago, the future was uncertain for Douglas County’s Swiftwater Park on Oregon’s North Umpqua River. The 211-acre park controls the western end of the 79-mile North Umpqua National Recreation Trail, at the beginning of some of the most coveted fly fishing water in the West. It also harbors stands of ancient forest, prime habitat for salmon and steelhead and over a mile of river frontage. When the county was forced to sell the park, Western Rivers Conservancy stepped in to buy it, ensuring this reach of the North Umpqua remains protected, rather than harvested or developed, and open to the public forever.

The Umpqua and Rogue are the only two coastal rivers in Oregon with headwaters in the Cascade Range. All other coastal rivers rise in the lower-elevation Coast Range. Fed by snowmelt, the North Umpqua flows clean and cold year-round, its chilly emerald waters a contrast to the nearby rivers that warm dramatically in summer. This anomaly is what makes the North Umpqua so crucial to cold-water fish, including Chinook and coho salmon, sea-run cutthroat and summer and winter steelhead.

WRC completed the project this month when we conveyed the lands to the Bureau of Land Management for inclusion and protection within the North Umpqua Wild and Scenic River Corridor. This was WRC’s first effort on the North Umpqua, and we are now working to conserve additional reaches of this vitally important West Coast river.

Conclusion

The South Fork Scott and the North Umpqua River Projects are two of our recent successes. WRC currently has 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.

North Umpqua River - Tyler Roemer photo
North Umpqua River - Tyler Roemer photo

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