Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers

by Western Rivers Conservancy
Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers
Mar 8, 2021

Western Rivers Conservancy: Winter 2021 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 has:     

  • Protected Nursery Grounds for Idaho’s Hells Canyon Bighorn Sheep
  • Conserved Another Mile Along the Gunnison River in Colorado

Idaho’s Snake River:

Stately and sure-footed, bighorn sheep are a sight to behold in river canyons across the western United States. Yet their survival depends on the West’s ability to preserve what remains of the region’s outstanding sheep habitat, and in eradicating disease that has taken a toll on bighorns for decades. To address both of these challenges, Western Rivers Conservancy completed a two-year conservation effort on Idaho’s Snake River that will preserve some of the finest nursery grounds and range habitat for bighorns in the Pacific Northwest.

Downstream of Hells Canyon, near Lewiston, Idaho, WRC has permanently conserved the 2,920-acre Ten Mile Creek Ranch, an intact property that is critical to the survival of Idaho’s northern Hells Canyon herd of Rocky Mountain bighorns.

Once ubiquitous in Hells Canyon, bighorns have seen steady declines since the mid-1800s, and today the Idaho Hells Canyon herd numbers only about 150 head. That’s where Ten Mile Creek Ranch comes in. With its steep breaks and rugged cliffs, the property offers sheep protection from predators and ideal lambing grounds for birthing and raising their young.

Remarkably, over half of the lambs on the Idaho side of the herd are born on this property. The ranch also provides an expanse of habitat that helps keep bighorns distanced from domestic sheep and goats, which can spread infectious disease.

To remove the potential of a 24-lot subdivision and protect this critical property, WRC purchased Ten Mile Creek Ranch in 2018. While we held the land, we worked with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to place a conservation easement on it. Once the ranch was protected, we sold the land to a private conservation buyer, who will partner with the state to keep the land forever wild and unbroken for the sake of its sheep and other wildlife.

In addition to its bighorn habitat, the ranch spans four miles of the Snake River, a reach that includes Chinook salmon spawning redds and migration habitat for sockeye salmon, Chinook and steelhead. With its proximity to Hells Gate State Park to the north and the 78,000-acre Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area to the south, the property will help unify a block of wild lands along the lower Snake River where bighorns, bears, elk and other wildlife still roam free, and where more than 100 species of birds are found.

With victories like this one at Ten Mile Creek, we hope the mighty bighorn will forever roam the river canyons of the West. They’re a great reminder that rivers are critical not just for fish, but for wildlife everywhere.

Colorado’s Gunnison River:     

WRC has protected another prized mile of Colorado’s lower Gunnison River by adding 150 acres to the Bureau of Land Management’s Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area!

The lower Gunnison is one of the West’s great geologic sculptors, carving dramatic sandstone formations and deep river canyons before meandering down to its confluence with the Colorado River at Grand Junction.

A haven for rare desert fish, the lower Gunnison is protected along much of its length, including within the Dominguez Escalante NCA. Yet even within the boundaries of the NCA, 16 miles of the river remained undesignated and therefore vulnerable to development.

To help fill that gap, WRC has been working to purchase strategic Gunnison River frontage for over a decade. Our first success came in 2012, when we conserved 400 acres at the entrance to the NCA and prevented a gravel mine on the banks of the river. A year later, we purchased 150 acres directly across the river, including another critical mile of Gunnison frontage and prime campsites for boaters. In September, we successfully added this property to the NCA, utilizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund to convey it to the BLM. The cooperation of the Colorado West Land Trust was crucial to the success of the project.

In all, we have conserved more than 8 miles of river frontage along the lower Gunnison within both the NCA and the Bangs Canyon Special Recreation Management Area, downstream. Our efforts are helping to secure a healthy future for four rare species of Colorado Basin warm-water fish, including razorback sucker and Colorado pikeminnow. The projects also benefit desert bighorn sheep, river otter, bald eagle and Rocky Mountain elk, not to mention the many human visitors who have the opportunity to canoe, camp and otherwise explore this spectacular slice of the Colorado Plateau.

Conclusion

The Snake and Gunnison River 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
$6,141 raised of $100,000 goal
 
80 donations
$93,859 to go
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