The lowland forests and wetlands of the Willamette Basin are one of the most remarkable ecosystems in Oregon. These increasingly rare forests are so lush and rich with bird and insect life that, on a warm day, you could almost mistake them for the tropics. But alas, this is Oregon. And if you were to find yourself on WRC’s newest Willamette Valley conservation project, you’d be in just such a forest, on the North Santiam River, less than an hour from the state capitol.
Expanding a 20-year conservation effort that has protected 17 miles of Oregon’s Sandy, Little Sandy, Bull Run and Salmon Rivers, in July WRC will purchase a 120-acre tract of forest along Little Joe Creek, a coho and steelhead-bearing tributary to the Sandy. It’s a great 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.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, one of the founders of the modern-day craft brewing industry, has for years been an unwavering supporter of WRC and our efforts to save outstanding rivers across the West. This spring, the Chico, California-based brewer released River Ryed, a limited edition IPA brewed specially for WRC to support our work on the West’s most outstanding rivers, including Idaho’s Salmon River.
Western Rivers Conservancy pushed ahead this month in our effort to create a major cold-water salmon sanctuary in the heart of the Klamath-Siskiyou, one of the earth’s biodiversity hotspots. We successfully completed our third land acquisition on the Klamath River and Blue Creek, which brings us three-quarters of the way toward conserving 47,000 acres in partnership with the Yurok, California’s largest Native American tribe. The acquisition adds 6,479 acres of vital forest and riverland to the Blue Creek Salmon Sanctuary, as well as extensive forestland to the recently created Yurok Tribal Community Forest.
Colorado’s Little Cimarron River is a magnificent wild trout stream on its upper reaches. Portions of its middle reaches, however, are dewatered through withdraws during the hot months of summer, segmenting habitat between the upper and lower river. Western Rivers Conservancy has been working in partnership with Colorado Water Trust to return perennial flows to the Little Cimarron. CWT recently wrote a great piece for "Your Water Colorado" blog that explains this project in detail – and how, together, we are making history on this small but important Colorado trout stream.
"When standing on the ranch, you can’t quite see the river. If it’s a good autumn, the snowy peaks of the San Juan Mountains within the Uncompahgre Wilderness Area backstop the narrow valley to the south, and the tops of the turning cottonwoods peek out of a ravine to the west. Just standing there among the cow pies you’d suspect, and be correct, that the river nearby but just out of sight is renewed by those melting snows each spring. The cottonwoods betray the river’s path below the ranch.
During most springs, runoff on the Little Cimarron River that meanders through those cottonwoods fills each water right’s claim to its flows to the brim and then some. Water taken out at the McKinley Ditch headgate upstream winds along the steep slopes and eventually to this tableland, where acres irrigated since federal government patent and first appropriation in 1886 produce hay and cattle. Back at the river, water flows down the Little Cimarron to the Cimarron and eventually to the Gunnison River, upstream of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and then, finally, to the Colorado River."