In western Oregon, another great reach of Willamette Valley fish and wildlife habitat is on its way to being forever protected. We recently purchased our third property on Oregon’s lower North Santiam River, an effort that will conserve over 2.5 miles of outstanding river and side-channel habitat along this key Willamette River tributary.
WRC’s purchase of 411 acres comes on the heels of two previous acquisitions that conserved 429 acres and over 2.5 miles of river, side-channel and wetland habitat on the North Santiam. Our partner in all three of these acquisitions is the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, who now steward the riverlands that WRC conveyed to the Tribe in 2013 and 2014. Once we convey the third property to the Tribe, 840 acres and more than five miles of river and side-channel habitat will be forever protected for the sake of fish and wildlife.
The North Santiam has always been a powerhouse of salmon and steelhead production in the Willamette Valley. It once produced two-thirds of the Willamette’s winter steelhead run and a third of its spring Chinook. Today, both species listed are as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and habitat protection and restoration is vital to their recovery.
The importance of these projects to salmon and steelhead is only part of the story. As with our earlier efforts, this acquisition will protect seasonally flooded wetlands and magnificent swaths of both closed- and open-canopy forest. Stands such as the ones found on these properties are increasingly rare in the Willamette Valley and provide important habitat for numerous at-risk and listed wildlife species, including pileated woodpecker, hooded merganser, western pond turtle and red-legged frog.