This month, Western Rivers Conservancy launched an effort that will revitalize a series of crucial salmon and steelhead streams in the very headwaters of Idaho’s famed Middle Fork Salmon River. The project will conserve 159 acres of prime fish and wildlife habitat and allow us to return critically needed water to Knapp and Marsh creeks.
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.