Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers

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

Project Report | Mar 16, 2020
Western Rivers Conservancy: Spring 2020 Report

By Anne Tattam | Associate Director of Foundation Relations

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:   

  • Expanding Oregon’s Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge by purchasing a 2,200-acre ranch.
  • Protecting Critical Salmon Habitat at the Headwaters of the Middle Fork Salmon River.

Oregon’s Williamson River:

Every year, millions of birds—ducks and geese, songbirds and swans, herons, grebes and others—take to the skies along the Pacific Flyway, an aerial super-highway stretching from Patagonia to Alaska. Along the way, fully two-thirds of them descend on the upper Klamath Basin, where six national wildlife refuges protect a freshwater mosaic of lakes and meadows that draw more than 350 bird species throughout the year.

Western Rivers Conservancy has the rare opportunity to expand one of these refuges— the Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge— with vital wetlands and stream flows that will rejuvenate a watery paradise for birds and bird-lovers.

Our new effort centers on the Williamson River, a renowned trout stream that winds through the 40,000-acre Klamath Marsh and then provides much of the inflows to Upper Klamath Lake, the source of the Klamath River.

Where the Williamson enters the wildlife refuge, WRC purchased the 2,200-acre Timmerman Ranch, which holds significant water rights along the river. Three miles of the Williamson meander through the property and feed a series of wet meadows that provide excellent feeding and nesting habitat for waterfowl and crucial water for the adjacent refuge. We plan to convey the land, along with the ranch's water rights, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to expand the wildlife refuge.

Run as a cattle ranch since the 1900s, the property was largely drained for pasture, and the river was channelized and diverted. Once we transfer the property to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency can recreate the river’s natural meanders along this reach and ensure that the Williamson’s consistent, spring-fed flows help sustain these vast wetlands.

Each season, tens of thousands of birds arrive on the property, including sandhill crane, Foster’s tern, dowitchers, sandpipers, trumpeter swans, gadwall, cinnamon teal and dozens of others. Some 200 pairs (roughly half of the West’s breeding population) of the secretive, rarely-seen yellow rail, a tiny marsh bird, nest in the Klamath Marsh. Deer, elk, antelope and the state-sensitive American fisher all rely on the property’s ponderosa pine forests. The project will also benefit the Williamson’s scale-tipping native redband and rainbow trout, as well as two endangered sucker fish and the state-sensitive Miller Lake lamprey.

Our efforts at Timmerman Ranch will improve water conditions in the upper Williamson and Klamath Marsh, benefitting the Klamath River system as a whole. By delivering increased headwater flows and better water quality, this project will bolster the efforts of all who depend on a healthy Klamath River: the Klamath Tribes, the agricultural community and recreationists alike. Most of all, we’ll improve conditions for the fish and wildlife of this remarkable river system, which sustains some of the most diverse bird life and greatest salmon runs in the West.

Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon:     

Some of the West’s best salmon runs have gained newly protected habitat and desperately needed water for spawning and rearing fish, thanks to WRC’s recent success at the source of the Middle Fork Salmon River. In September, WRC transferred the 158-acre Cape Horn Ranch to the Salmon-Challis National Forest. The ranch is tucked between the Sawtooth and Frank Church/River of No Return wilderness areas, and the property’s streams and wetlands are prime cold-water fish nurseries at the Middle Fork’s headwaters. The ranch controls water rights along a half-mile of Knapp Creek, which feeds Marsh Creek. Below the property Marsh Creek flows into Bear Creek, and there, the famed Middle Fork begins.

The project is of special importance when it comes to water and fish. Cape Horn Ranch historically used up to 75 percent of Knapp Creek’s water, severely limiting habitat for salmon, steelhead and bull trout. WRC was able to transfer those rights to the state of Idaho, ensuring this water stays permanently in-stream for fish.

Both streams contain Critical Habitat for Snake River Chinook salmon and steelhead, as well as sockeye, westslope cutthroat and bull trout. The property’s forests and grasslands are home to Rocky Mountain elk (which calve on the property), mule deer and pronghorn, and its wet meadows draw multitudes of Rocky Mountain sandhill cranes in the spring.

We were also able to guarantee permanent recreational and management access to the Cape Horn Guard Station, a popular destination for hikers and cross-country skiers


The Williamson and Middle Fork Salmon 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 for further information. Thank you.

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Organization Information

Western Rivers Conservancy

Project Leader:
Anne Tattam
Administrative and Development Associate
Portland , OR United States

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