Why do we protect rivers? There are many persuasive reasons why we should protect them, but why we do protect rivers can be more complicated, even mysterious. In the U.S., rivers feed us by irrigating millions of acres of farmland. They store our drinking water. Their dams provide much of our electric power. They carry boats that carry our freight. Yet we sometimes declare part or all of a river off-limits to alteration, obstruction, diversion, or motorized use. Why?
Last week, the Public Lands Foundation presented Western Rivers Conservancy with a 2014 Landscape Stewardship Certificate of Appreciation for our work along Oregon’s Sandy River. We feel very honored to receive this award and equally proud to have worked in partnership with the BLM to conserve over 17 river miles along the Sandy River and its key tributaries.
Snaking across eastern Oregon, the John Day River winds through a land of basalt canyons and sweeping river bends, where bighorn sheep outnumber cars and the scent of sagebrush fills the air. In spring and summer, boaters put in at sites like Service Creek, Twickenham and Clarno and spend multiple days floating the river, bass fishing and soaking up the spectacular scenery. Each fall, hunters and anglers return to the river just as surely as the wild steelhead do with the coming of higher water.
Flowing from a series of mineral springs in central Arizona, Fossil Creek is known for its travertine pools and stunning aquamarine water. In an arid landscape it is a lush oasis, providing habitat for rare native fish, beavers, otters, leopard frogs, bats and an extraordinary array of bird species.
On a scenic bend in Idaho’s legendary Salmon River, Western Rivers Conservancy has successfully protected a dramatic viewshed and ensured the widely-loved Pine Bar Recreation Site remains forever accessible. The project, our first on the Salmon River, began in 2012 when we acquired 1,284 acres on a spectacular bend above the river. We purchased the land with the goal of conserving both the viewshed and the high-gradient creeks that tumble down the mountainside to nourish the river. The streams that flow through the property directly influence habitat quality for five threatened or endangered fish species, including sockeye, Chinook, steelhead and migratory bull trout.