Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers

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

Project Report | Apr 5, 2016
Western Rivers Conservancy: Spring 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 is:   

  • Conserving a riverland oasis in California’s Mojave Desert
  • Boosting efforts to recover a crucial tributary to Idaho’s Salmon River

California’s Mojave River:

In December 2015, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased 1,640 acres along one of Southern California’s most imperiled streams: The Mojave River. In a region stressed by ongoing drought and where residential development continues to chisel away at sensitive desert habitat, the Mojave River is a lifeline. It provides the only significant corridor of riparian habitat in the western Mojave Desert.

The Mojave is unlike most rivers in that it flows underground for much of its length. Even when it flows subsurface, however, the river nourishes important habitat for imperiled southern California animals. But the rare stretches of the Mojave that flow above ground create the most fertile and important habitat of all.

Between the towns of Victorville and Helendale, the underlying geology forces the Mojave River to the surface, and year-round flows nourish a lush 15-mile corridor of cottonwoods and willows. This oasis in the Mojave Desert, known as the Transition Zone, is where WRC is focusing its efforts. The ranch we acquired contains the most significant stand of riparian habitat within this unique stretch of the Mojave.

Protection of the Mojave, especially where it flows above ground, is crucial to the recovery of numerous imperiled bird species, including endangered southwestern willow flycatcher, endangered least Bell’s vireo and threatened yellow-billed cuckoo. It is also critical to the recovery of the endangered Mojave tui chub. Conservation of the ranch will support populations of migratory birds and several California species of special concern, including the Mojave River vole, southwestern pond turtle, brown-crested flycatcher, long-eared owl, summer tanager and yellow warbler.

Now that we have acquired the ranch, we are working to convey it to the Helendale Community Services District so the lands can be managed as a reserve with low-impact public use. The property has long been a target for conservation by the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the State of California and local and national conservation organizations. Our purchase of these lands will finally make this a reality and ensure that this vital reach of the Mojave River is permanently conserved.

Idaho’s Salmon River and Pole Creek:  

Idaho’s Salmon River plays host to one of the greatest fish migrations on earth, a journey of more than 900 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains. As if distance weren’t enough, humans threw in eight dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, which salmon and steelhead must navigate before they even reach the Salmon River. After their epic journey, these fish finally reach their natal streams in the headwaters of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Up here, the snowcapped Sawtooths tower over small tributary streams that provide crucial habitat for chinook and sockeye salmon, steelhead and bull trout.

In spring 2016, Western Rivers Conservancy launched an effort on Pole Creek, a key tributary to the Salmon River with extensive designated Critical Habitat for Chinook, steelhead and bull trout. WRC purchased 620 acres near the confluence of Pole Creek and the Salmon River, an acquisition that will protect more than a mile of the creek and a stretch of the main-stem Salmon itself.

Pole Creek’s unique geology is what makes the stream especially important. Unlike tributaries on the western side of the Sawtooth Valley, which have granite streambeds, Pole Creek is sedimentary and volcanic in origin, which means more nutrients for insects and riparian life. The Sawtooth National Forest has ranked Pole Creek its highest priority for recovery due to this richness of habitat and its potential for restoration. There has also been a major effort among state and federal agencies, organizations and local landowners to improve fish passage and increase flows in the stream during peak irrigation season.

WRC’s purchase of these lands builds on these extensive conservation efforts. Habitat quality within the creek is on the upswing, and protecting the stream’s sensitive riparian areas is crucial to preventing setbacks to the conservation investments already made. By conserving the property, we can prevent future development along this key reach of the creek and eliminate grazing in the riparian areas. And we will ensure that a mile of prime salmon and steelhead habitat is protected forever.

Conclusion

The Mojave River and Salmon River-Pole 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 dwilkins@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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