Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers

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

Project Report | Jan 8, 2016
Western Rivers Conservancy: Winter 2016 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:

  • Forever conserved a rare wildlife corridor along northeastern Washington’s Big Sheep Creek.
  • Completed a project along Oregon’s Catherine Creek, enabling restoration of 2.5 miles of top-priority salmon and steelhead habitat.

Washington’s Big Sheep Creek:

In the wild country of northeastern Washington, Western Rivers Conservancy has protected part of the primary route for grizzly bears and other large mammals to move between Canada and the United States: Big Sheep Creek.

Flowing south from Canada’s Monashee Mountains, Big Sheep Creek snakes through gentle, fertile terrain en route to the Columbia River, drawing an impressive array of wildlife through the valley to hunt and forage. Exceptional streamside habitat, ponds and hundreds of acres of wetlands anchor a thriving food chain from insects to carnivores.

At the heart of this movement corridor is the 2,440-acre Bennett Meadows property, which WRC purchased in 2014. We are excited to announce that, in December 2015, WRC conveyed the lands to the Colville National Forest for permanent conservation stewardship.

The property includes prime habitat for many charismatic and rarely seen animals, including more than half of Washington’s recovering grizzly bear population as well as moose, mountain lion, fox, pine marten and the elusive wolverine, an endangered species. On snowy mountainsides, Canada lynx, Rocky Mountain elk, mountain goats and bighorn sheep make their own route through the property, which also has suitable habitat for wolves.

This four-mile stretch of river is also home to imperiled redband rainbow trout, and it provides cold water and gravel to sustain threatened bull trout downstream.

Beyond fish and wildlife, the project offers tremendous recreational value. WRC’s efforts ensured access to a key reach of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail. This 1,200-mile trail runs from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean and bisects the southern sector of the property. WRC’s acquisition of the parcel placed a unique stretch of the trail into public hands, improving wildlife viewing opportunities and helping ensure this recreational treasure remains public forever.

Oregon’s Catherine Creek:

The best hope for recovering imperiled Columbia and Snake River salmon and steelhead are high-quality tributaries where fish spawn and rear in large numbers. Perhaps the most stunning example of this is Catherine Creek in northeast Oregon, where WRC has just completed a game-changing project for a key wild run of Chinook salmon.

Catherine Creek pours cold and clear from the Wallowa Mountains and runs through the town of Union before entering the fabled Grande Ronde, a tributary to the Snake. It is a nurturing arm for the entire Snake River system and a top priority to recover the purest wild run of Snake River spring Chinook.

On its upper reaches in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Catherine Creek’s pristine spawning habitat is so productive that the creek’s lower, more developed stretches cannot support all of the young fish coming down to rear. Downstream, the creek is channelized and lacks the complex habitat of a healthy salmon stream. But that’s poised to change.

In 2014, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased 545 acres along this lower stretch to help revive this critical run of salmon. This fall, we conveyed the land to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, which is using funding from the Bonneville Power Administration to extensively restore the original, winding channel of Catherine Creek. Additionally, the property’s water rights have been dedicated in-stream, helping ensure not only enough habitat but ample flows to support a strong comeback for Chinook and summer steelhead.

When restoration is complete, the project may tip the scales for some of the Pacific Northwest’s most fragile fish populations.


Big Sheep Creek and Catherine Creek are two of our recent successes. WRC currently has 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 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

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