This article ran in the November 1, 2017 edition of The Sacramento Bee.
By Jane Braxton Little, Freelance Writer
Before rushing to join the Klamath River, the waters of Blue Creek pause in a turquoise pool beside a bed of stone-gray cobbles. Salmon pause here, too – coho and fall Chinook, basking in the cool-water refuge to rally for the upstream swim to spawning grounds.
The journey up Blue Creek takes them past groves of redwoods and Douglas firs, over boulder-strewn cascades in a 4,000-foot climb to the misty Siskiyou Mountains. This ascent leads to what Yurok People call the “high country,” a hallowed place where they have gone for millennia to gather medicinal and ceremonial plants, and to commune with the sacred.
This arcticle ran on October 4, 2017 online at Intermountain West Joint Venture.
As a kid growing up in the San Luis Valley, Brian Bechaver, now a district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, had free run of his family’s ranch, plus the sagebrush and riverside cottonwood groves on neighboring ranches, too. Over several decades he’s watched familiar agricultural land go up for sale and end up in hands that might not continue the access-friendly neighbor practices of the past.
But at least a few of the ranches Bechaver roamed will always be open to everyone. In 2016, with the goal of protecting prime fish and wildlife habitat and improving public access, the non-profit Western Rivers Conservancy purchased the Brownie Hills and Olguin Ranch properties in the San Luis Valley.
Ten years ago, Oregon’s Sandy River became wild and free once again!
In 2007, Portland General Electric blew Marmot Dam into a cloud of dust and rubble, dramatically initiating the decommissioning process that would allow the Sandy River to again flow unimpeded, from the glaciers of Mount Hood to the Columbia River.
In Idaho’s scenic Sawtooth Valley, Western Rivers Conservancy has successfully purchased the 364-acre Goat Falls Ranch, which controls crucial water rights on Goat and Meadow Creeks, two key tributary streams of the Salmon River. Historically, these streams contained some of the highest density Chinook salmon rearing habitat in the Salmon River system. Due to habitat degradation and low in-stream flows, the creeks now harbor only a fraction of the salmon and steelhead they once did. During the critical seasons of late summer and fall, when stream flows are already low and rearing juvenile Chinook are most susceptible, portions of both creeks are reduced to only a trickle, or dewatered entirely.
Building on our work in California’s Klamath River basin, Western Rivers Conservancy has embarked on an effort to improve stream flows within the South Fork Scott, the largest, cleanest and coldest tributary to the Scott River. The Scott flows to the Klamath and is the state’s single most important stream for native coho salmon, which are threatened or endangered throughout California and Oregon.