Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers

by Western Rivers Conservancy
Protecting Land on the West's Outstanding Rivers
Jan 27, 2011

Western Rivers Conservancy Winter 2011 Report

With the support of GlobalGiving donors, Western Rivers Conservancy is buying land along outstanding rivers across the western United States. General support gifts help pay for the essential operating costs of purchasing land and placing properties in permanent conservation stewardship. Your donation is dedicated to such activities as: developing relationships with willing seller landowners; restoring salmon and steelhead habitat; and creating new hiking trails, boating access and recreational opportunities.     

Thanks to your contributions, we are:

- Making major gains in our work to establish a major salmon sanctuary along Blue Creek, a vital coldwater    tributary to the lower Klamath River.

- Completing our first purchase on the Gunnison River in Colorado and moving forward with additional riverland acquisitions.

California’s Lower Klamath River

Western Rivers Conservancy has reached a major milestone in our partnership with the Yurok Tribe on the lower Klamath River. WRC has purchased the second installment of a 47,000-acre property that traces nearly 20 miles of the lower Klamath on California’s North Coast.

The goals of the project are twofold: to recreate the Yurok reservation as an economic and cultural base for the Tribe; and to establish the Yurok Tribal Preserve as a salmon sanctuary and safety net for fish and wildlife in the face of climate change.

In this phase, Western Rivers Conservancy is buying more than 4,000 acres from Green Diamond Resource Company, utilizing a loan from the Packard Foundation. This adds to 5,500 acres we purchased in 2009. Piece by piece, we are working together with the Tribe to assemble this large conservation acquisition, and making tremendous progress. The reward will be a salmon sanctuary preserved forever, and a cornerstone for restoring the greater Klamath River basin.

More work is ahead. In the coming months, WRC will purchase another 12,600 acres and convey the entire 22,200-acre assemblage to become a Yurok Tribal Community Forest. The Yurok’s sustainable forestry management approach will significantly improve water quality and fish habitat along three lower Klamath tributaries: Pecwan, Ke’pel and Weitchpec Creeks. The Tribe's approach to forestry will also enhance and maintain suitable habitat for several federally-listed and candidate species, including: marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl, fisher, Humboldt marten and mardon skipper. Forests and rivers in the project area will benefit from species diversity, fewer roads, wider stream buffers and carbon reserves.

In addition to being an unprecedented conservation achievement, this will also be a major cultural accomplishment. The Yurok Tribe has long sought to regain this ancestral territory to rejuvenate tribal cultural practices, including subsistence fishing, hunting, gathering and traditional basket-weaving.

Ultimately, Western Rivers Conservancy’s vision will be complete with the protection of Blue Creek. We will purchase an additional 25,000 acres, including the entire lower Blue Creek Watershed, so it can be set aside as a salmon sanctuary and Yurok Tribal Preserve. Blue Creek is not only sacred to the Yurok people, it is a coldwater haven for salmon when water temperatures rise in the main-stem Klamath. Blue Creek is predicted to stay colder longer in the face of climate change, providing crucial habitat for the survival of native Chinook, coho, steelhead, cutthroat trout and other species. Protecting the lower part of Blue Creek will complement its protected headwaters in the Siskiyou Wilderness.

Colorado’s Gunnison River

The Gunnison is a vital branch of the Colorado River system, and a new and exciting focus area for Western Rivers Conservancy. With its long free-flowing length and habitat for rare flora and fauna, the Gunnison is a thread of life flowing through desert and rocky mountain canyonlands.

Below dams in its upper reaches, it carves one of the most exceptional canyons in the West at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument. Hikers, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts are drawn to breathtaking scenery, rapids and fishing in this section, which is in Bureau of Land Management jurisdiction.

Along its lower reaches, the Gunnison’s gradient slows to sweep past rocky bluffs, desert slopes and riparian thickets of cottonwood. Western Rivers Conservancy has launched a multi-year land acquisition program along this area of the Gunnison River. In December 2010, we made our first land purchase along the Gunnison: 131 acres that lie within two inholdings of the BLM Bangs Canyon Special Recreation Management Area (SRMA), located just outside of Grand Junction. The acquisition of these two parcels will protect one river mile inside the SRMA. Acquisition of these parcels along the lower Gunnison within the SRMA will open the area to hiking, horseback riding and river access, while ensuring that the lands are publicly managed for wildlife and watershed protection. 

The land traces a lower reach of the river that is one of few places where four species of Colorado Basin warm-water fish still survive. Conserving this river frontage will help ensure the survival of endangered Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, bonytail chub and razorback sucker. When Western Rivers Conservancy conveys the land to the BLM, it will merge into the adjacent SRMA, enhancing recreational access to backcountry trails, rare desert plants and beautiful redrock canyons. This section is also one of few in the southern Rockies available for an extended trip of gentle-water canoeing.

Just upstream, we are obligated to purchase 403 acres along several miles of the Gunnison River – land that will become an expansion of the newly designated Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area. Together, these acquisitions will conserve a critically important river landscape for endangered species, desert habitat and public enjoyment.


With the support of GlobalGiving donors, Western Rivers Conservancy is expanding our efforts to protect riverlands for fish, wildlife and people. Please contact David Wilkins at 503-241-0151, ext. 14 (or with any questions 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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