Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers

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

Project Report | Jul 10, 2015
Western Rivers Conservancy: Summer 2015 Report

By David Wilkins | Development Director

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:

• Expanded on a two-decade conservation effort that has preserved 17 miles of Oregon’s Sandy, Little Sandy, Bull Run and Salmon Rivers.

• Purchased the last piece of unprotected land along Arizona’s Fossil Creek, a tributary to the Verde River and one of only two Wild and Scenic Rivers in the state.

Oregon’s Sandy River:

Building upon a 20-year conservation effort that has protected 17 miles of Oregon’s Sandy, Little Sandy, Bull Run and Salmon Rivers, in July 2015, WRC will purchase a 120-acre tract of forest along Little Joe Creek, a coho and steelhead-bearing tributary to the Sandy. This is an important project for fish and creates a buffer of protected forest along a stretch of the Sandy Ridge Mountain Bike Trail, the country’s largest trail system built specifically for mountain bikes.

In the summer of 1999, Western Rivers Conservancy and Portland General Electric (PGE) formed a partnership to restore the Sandy and Little Sandy rivers to health. PGE carried out its plans to remove Marmot Dam on the main-stem Sandy in 2007 and the Little Sandy Dam in 2008, making the rivers completely free flowing. Complementing WRC’s acquisitions, PGE has also donated more than 1,000 acres of land to Western Rivers Conservancy over the course of the project. WRC has conveyed the vast majority of these lands to the BLM to conserve unprotected stretches of the Sandy and its tributaries.

To date, WRC has established a nearly 4,500-acre conservation and recreation area along the Sandy, Little Sandy, Salmon, Bull Run and other tributaries. The BLM is now working to incorporate the lands into an existing Area of Critical Environmental Concern, a conservation designation that will ensure these lands are managed for the sake of the Sandy’s imperiled fish and wildlife. Few cities the size of Portland feature such a world-class river park so well conserved near its urban hub.

Within the Columbia Basin, the Sandy River system is crucial for its runs of wild salmon and steelhead and is unmatched as an easily-accessible recreation destination for people in and around the Portland area. From its headwaters to the Columbia River, the Sandy offers outstanding fishing, biking, boating, hiking and wildlife watching opportunities year-round.

WRC is excited to add this key property to the assemblage of riverlands we have been working to conserve for two decades. For people, and for the region’s unique and imperiled fish and wildlife, the Sandy is immeasurably important—and we will keep on working to protect it.


Arizona’s Fossil Creek:

Western Rivers Conservancy has purchased the last piece of unprotected land along Arizona’s Fossil Creek, a tributary to the Verde River and one of only two Wild and Scenic Rivers in the state. WRC intends to convey the property to the Coconino National Forest for inclusion and protection within the Wild and Scenic River corridor, affording these vital riverlands one of the best protections a river can get.

Fossil Creek rises from a series of mineral springs in central Arizona’s Mogollon Rim, and its high mineral content creates slick limestone formations and spectacular blue-green travertine pools throughout much of its length. Within the arid landscape of the Sonoran Desert, Fossil Creek is an oasis, providing important habitat for rare native fish, beavers, otters, leopard frogs, bats and an extraordinary array of bird species. The creek is home to nine native fish species and plays a vital role within the greater ecosystem of the Verde River, Arizona’s other Wild and Scenic River.

Looking at the stream today, you would likely never notice that Fossil Creek was dewatered by a hydroelectric project for nearly a century. During that time, the creek was reduced to a trickle, and riparian and stream habitat were degraded throughout much of the basin. Then, beginning in 1999, state and federal agencies and restoration groups embarked on what would become the largest river recovery effort in the Southwest. In 2005, following six years of hard work, the diversion dam was removed from the stream, and Fossil Creek became a wild, free-flowing river once again. Four years later, Congress designated 17 miles of the stream—nearly the entire river—Wild and Scenic, making it the second Wild and Scenic River in all of Arizona.

WRC’s purchase of this property will improve the integrity of both the Fossil Creek and Verde scenic river corridors and conserve prime habitat within the Verde River basin. As more and more people discover and visit Fossil Creek, WRC’s efforts will help the Coconino National Forest ensure public access while minimizing impact on this fragile desert ecosystem.


The Sandy River and Fossil Creek are two of our recent successes. WRC currently has two dozen active projects in seven 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 David Wilkins at 503-241-0151, ext. 214 (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
$6,741 raised of $100,000 goal
88 donations
$93,259 to go
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