Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers

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

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

Thanks to your contributions, we are:

  • setting the stage for one of the most important marshland restoration projects in California;
  • working to establish Oregon’s largest and newest state park; and
  • protecting land in the Bear River delta to expand an internationally important migratory bird refuge.

California’s North Coast: Victory for the Eel River Estuary

Western Rivers Conservancy (WRC) is thrilled to announce that the Riverside Ranch property is being conveyed to the California Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Conservation Board for permanent stewardship.

The 440-acre property, which WRC purchased in 2007, is prized for its location on the Salt River, a critical piece of the Eel River estuary. Land acquisition will enable restoration habitat for 30 species of fish that use the estuary as a feeding, spawning and nursery area.

Historically, the Eel River was amongst the region’s strongest fisheries, and the property has been identified as one of the most restorable tidal marshlands in California. The former dairy farm will have levees and tide gates removed, allowing the tidal marshland to once again take over. Regular tidal washings will help to restore normal hydrological conditions along two miles of the Salt River frontage, preventing over-sedimentation that smothers habitat. The project will provide rearing habitat for coho and Chinook salmon, cutthroat trout and the endangered tidewater goby. Additionally, shorebirds and migratory waterfowl will benefit from renewed nesting habitat.

We eagerly await the restoration efforts ahead, in partnership with the California Department of Fish and Game, Humboldt County Resource Conservation District, California Coastal Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Wildlands Conservancy, Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Central Oregon: State Park Takes Shape on John Day River

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski visited our John Day River project in October 2010 as the state moves forward with plans for the grand opening of Cottonwood Canyon State Park by 2013.

“This new park will highlight one of Oregon’s treasures – the John Day River,” Governor Ted Kulongoski said. “In touring the beauty of this land, the river, streams and the wildlife I know this will become a unique recreational resource place for all Oregonians and our visitors to enjoy today and for generations.”

Western Rivers Conservancy purchased the 8,114-acre ranch, together with its 8,000-acre BLM grazing lease, in 2008. Our goal was to protect this significant stretch of the John Day River, one of the great, free-flowing salmon and steelhead rivers of the West.

Western Rivers Conservancy has conveyed the first 2,400 acres to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), which will acquire the remainder of the property in the next biennium that begins in July 2011.

While holding the lands, WRC has undertaken an aggressive restoration program to address invasive species and recover sensitive steelhead habitat. Meanwhile, the OPRD is soliciting public input to shape the park’s master plan. Proposals include keeping select historic structures and barns to serve as reminders of the ranch’s history. Camping areas and trails are slated, while the vast majority of the sagebrush steppe landscape will remain open and natural.

“We’re receiving tremendous positive feedback to help us create a premier recreation experience that also protects the treasured ruggedness of this place,” said Mark Davison, Oregon Parks and Recreation planner.

When Cottonwood Canyon State Park opens, it will serve as a place where runs of wild salmon and steelhead can thrive, and where hikers, anglers, hunters and visitors can experience the spectacular canyon. Visit or email for more information and to submit comments for the planning process.

Oregon Coast: Alsea Bay Frontage Acquired

On November 1, 2010, WRC bought a 287-acre property that is some of the last unprotected salt marsh fronting the Alsea River estuary. This project will complete an effort to restore some of the best coastal coho salmon habitat remaining in Oregon.

The land, which WRC purchased from Forest Capital Partners, straddles Drift Creek and the North Channel of the Alsea River, a brackish area with eelgrass beds and unusually large areas of high-quality salt marsh in excellent condition. This area provides vital nursery habitat for coho and other anadromous fish, as well as spawning habitat for marine species.

The property will merge with an adjacent 1,400 acres that WRC protected in 2002 and become part of the Siuslaw National Forest. Combining these properties will expand a large coho recovery effort that is already underway along the lower five miles of Drift Creek. Land acquisition enabled the Siuslaw National Forest and partners to remove dikes and plugs, reconnect side channels and restore native vegetation.

This acquisition is a top priority for protecting and restoring anadromous fish habitat in the Pacific Northwest. The result will be dramatic improvement of habitat not only for coho, but for fall and spring Chinook, winter steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout.

Oregon Coast: More Good News For Coastal Coho Salmon

Fisheries biologists working on Oregon’s mid-Coast have reason to celebrate: Western Rivers Conservancy has committed to buy key properties on two streams that bring real hope to the recovery of mid-Coast’s salmon and steelhead.

First, Western Rivers Conservancy will purchase 520 acres along nearly four miles of the North Fork Smith River, a salmon and steelhead stronghold for the large Umpqua River system. The Smith River’s cold water and complex habitat provide a refuge for Umpqua River fish in summer months.

This is WRC’s second acquisition on the North Fork Smith River. In 2003, we protected a private inholding of the Kentucky Falls Special Interest Area, a spectacular seven-mile-long corridor of old-growth forest in the Siuslaw National Forest.

Additionally, WRC will buy 478 acres along two miles of West Fork Indian Creek, a critical tributary to the Siuslaw River. The Siuslaw’s fish runs have declined, but West Fork Indian Creek maintains such a strong run of wild winter steelhead that it serves as a research site for this population. The land also contains rare riparian meadows that provide winter forage to a large herd of Roosevelt Elk.

Western Rivers Conservancy is purchasing both tracts from Davidson Industries of Mapleton, Oregon, and hopes to secure funding to convey them to the Siuslaw National Forest to be managed for fish and wildlife habitat while providing public access. 

Bear River, Utah: First Phase Complete

On the edge of the Great Salt Lake, the marshes at the mouth of the Bear River are some of the top producers of waterfowl in the country. Here, Western Rivers Conservancy has just completed protection of 696 acres of wetlands in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Friends of the Bear River Refuge.

We began acquiring this property, the former Feather and Finn Club, in 2008. Now, the entire ownership will become part of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

The acquisition includes rich wetland and riverfront habitat, as well as nesting and rearing areas used by species such as tundra swan, black-necked stilts, white pelicans and marbled godwits. WRC had previously conveyed 424 acres of this property to the Refuge, utilizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Now, we will complete the remainder, thanks to funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Conservation Fund.

This is the first of several properties that Western Rivers Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hope to acquire in order to expand the 74,000-acre marshland complex that is preserved within the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Set aside in 1929, the Refuge plays host to more than 200 species and millions of birds each year on their migratory journeys. More than 50,000 people visit each year to witness the phenomenal gathering and diversity of birds. 


With the support of GlobalGiving donors, Western Rivers Conservancy is expanding our efforts to protect riverlands for fish, wildlife and people. Please contact David Wilkins at 503-241-0151, ext. 14 (or with any questions or for further information. Thank you.

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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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Organization Information

Western Rivers Conservancy

Project Leader:
Anne Tattam
Administrative and Development Associate
Portland, OR United States
$6,691 raised of $100,000 goal
87 donations
$93,309 to go
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