Western Rivers Conservancy has reached another milestone in our partnership with the Yurok Tribe on the lower Klamath River. This week, WRC is purchasing the second installment of a 47,000-acre property that traces nearly 20 miles of the lower Klamath on California’s North Coast.
In this installment, Western Rivers Conservancy is buying more than 4,000 acres from Green Diamond Resource Company, utilizing a loan from the Packard Foundation. This adds to 5,500 acres we purchased in 2009. Piece by piece, we are working together with the Tribe to assemble this large conservation acquisition, and making tremendous progress. The reward will be a salmon sanctuary preserved forever, and a cornerstone for restoring the greater Klamath basin.
More work is ahead. Early next year, WRC will purchase another 12,600 acres and convey the entire 22,200-acre assemblage to become a Yurok Tribal Community Forest. The Yurok’s sustainable forestry management approach will significantly improve water quality and fish habitat along three lower Klamath tributaries: Pecwan, Ke’pel and Weitchpec Creeks. The Tribe's approach to forestry will also enhance and maintain suitable habitat for several federally-listed and candidate species, including: marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl, fisher, Humboldt marten and mardon skipper. Forests and rivers will benefit from stand age and species diversity, fewer roads, wider stream buffers, setting aside carbon reserves and other management prescriptions.
In addition to being a major conservation achievement, this will also be a major cultural accomplishment. The Yurok Tribe has long sought to regain this ancestral territory to rejuvenate tribal cultural practices, including subsistence fishing, hunting, gathering and traditional basket-weaving.
Ultimately, our vision will be complete with the protection of Blue Creek. We will purchase an additional 25,000 acres, including the entire lower Blue Creek Watershed, so it can be set aside as a salmon sanctuary and Yurok Tribal Preserve. Blue Creek is not only sacred to the Yurok people, it is a coldwater haven for salmon when water temperatures rise in the main-stem Klamath. Blue Creek is predicted to stay colder longer in the face of climate change, providing crucial habitat for the survival of native Chinook, coho, steelhead, cutthroat trout and other species. Protecting the lower part of Blue Creek will complement its protected headwaters in the Siskiyou Wilderness.