Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers

by Western Rivers Conservancy
Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers

Project Report | Jun 25, 2018
Western Rivers Conservancy: Summer 2018 Report

By Anne Tattam | Grants Manager

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.



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 for further information. Thank you.

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Mar 27, 2018
Western Rivers Conservancy: Spring 2018 Report

By Anne Tattam | Grants Manager

Dec 27, 2017
Western Rivers Conservancy: Winter 2017 Report

By Anne Tattam | Grants Manager

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Organization Information

Western Rivers Conservancy

Project Leader:
Anne Tattam
Administrative and Development Associate
Portland , OR United States
$6,741 raised of $100,000 goal
88 donations
$93,259 to go
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