Early this spring, Western Rivers Conservancy celebrated a major success in Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley when we conserved the 369-acre Goat Falls Ranch and transferred the ranch’s water rights to the state to keep them permanently in-stream. The effort will improve flows in two critical headwater tributaries of the Salmon River and add 369 acres to the spectacular Sawtooth National Recreation Area.
Western Rivers Conservancy is about to set a new precedent for river conservation in Idaho. In the Sawtooth Valley, at the headwaters of the Salmon River, we recently purchased a property called Goat Falls Ranch. The ranch has key water rights on Goat and Meadow creeks, two critical headwater streams that once contained some of the best rearing habitat for Chinook salmon in the entire Columbia Basin.
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.
By acquiring riverland properties with associated water rights, WRC can have an even greater impact on river systems, especially when rivers are strained by summer heat, water withdrawals and low flows.
Western Rivers Conservancy has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to permanently conserve one of the few remaining parcels of private land along Idaho’s spectacular South Fork Salmon River. In doing so, we will create unprecedented new access to over 100,000 acres of public lands that surround the ranch, and which are otherwise nearly impossible to reach.