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Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers

by Western Rivers Conservancy
Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers
Sep 18, 2019

Western Rivers Conservancy: Fall 2019 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 Open Space and Salmon Streams in Washington’s Methow Valley
  • Protecting the Place Where Bighorns are Born along Idaho’s Snake River

    

Washington’s Methow and Chewuch Rivers:     

Flowing cold and clear beneath the snowcapped peaks of Washington’s North Cascades, the Methow River is a salmon stream of great importance. It is the centerpiece of the scenic Methow Valley, fed by icecold creeks that tumble out of the rugged Pasayten Wilderness at the edge of the Canadian border. For years, the river was heavily diverted for irrigation, but today it is the focus of extensive efforts to recover its surviving fish runs. With much of the system protected within national forests and wilderness, there are high hopes that the Methow will once again become a haven for salmon and steelhead of the upper Columbia basin.

The Methow Valley is also a hugely popular travel destination. Tens of thousands of people visit each year to chase wild steelhead, ski the largest cross-country trail system in North America, raft, climb, hunt and enjoy a string of tiny, historic towns.

In the heart of the Methow Valley, Western Rivers Conservancy acquired two properties in 2018 to improve fish habitat and preserve the valley’s natural beauty. The opportunity is tremendous, as both properties trace designated Critical Habitat for Upper Columbia River spring Chinook and contain key habitat for Columbia River steelhead and bull trout. First we acquired the 328- acre Wagner Ranch, which spans 1.6 miles of the Chewuch River, the Methow’s largest tributary. Situated next to the Methow Wildlife Area, the ranch is one of the largest blocks of private river frontage left in the valley and is highly vulnerable to development. Then we purchased the 35-acre Stafford Ranch along the Methow River, including a critical groundwater right needed to reestablish flows in dry side channels that are crucial to fish.

WRC will convey the properties to the Yakama Nation, which is committed to stream restoration and conservation in the Methow Valley. Through its capable stewardship program, the tribe plans to restore offchannel areas, floodplains, wetlands and riparian vegetation, making a lasting difference for salmon and steelhead and moving the needle on our shared greater vision to save the fish runs of the upper Columbia Basin.

The Wagner Ranch itself was once owned by the Haub family, longtime community leaders in the valley and the developers of historic Winthrop. On top of the ecological benefits, the project will uphold the rich natural heritage, history and rural character of this part of the Methow Valley.

 

Idahos’s Snake River:

As the Snake River makes its way toward the Columbia, it carves the rugged depths of Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America and one of the most stunning river reaches on Earth. High above, bighorn sheep defy gravity as they poke along the sheer rock walls of the canyon cliffs. Populations of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep were once abundant here, icons of the Snake, but today, Idaho’s Hells Canyon herd has only 150 head—a fraction of historic numbers. Remarkably, most of the ewes in this herd birth and rear their lambs on a single property: Ten Mile Creek Ranch.

This exceptional parcel of land traces four miles of the Snake River, just upstream of Hells Gate State Park and downstream of Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area and Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. The 2,920-acre ranch is the herd’s best nursery, with as much as 80 percent of the Idaho ewes giving birth here in spring. What’s more, the ranch provides a critical link between these neighboring protected lands, expanding this habitat assemblage and increasing the Snake River’s ability to sustain these animals.

The reach of the Snake River flowing past the ranch also provides habitat for federally listed Snake River spring and fall Chinook and steelhead—fish that must overcome eight massive dams to reach their spawning waters high in the Rockies. Several Chinook redds are found in front of the property, and one of the Snake’s best steelhead runs lies just off the ranch’s banks. In addition to bighorns, the ranch is home to black bear, Rocky Mountain elk, mountain lion and mule deer.

In summer 2018, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased Ten Mile Creek Ranch. We are now working with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to place a conservation easement on the property, preventing a 24-home subdivision and ensuring this crucial landscape remains intact, protected forever and healthy for the Snake River’s outstanding fish and wildlife.

 

Conclusion

The Methow, Chewuch and the Snake River/Ten Mile Creek Ranch projects are just some of our recent projects. 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.


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Organization Information

Western Rivers Conservancy

Location: PORTLAND, OREGON - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Anne Tattam
Administrative and Development Associate
Portland, OR United States

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