Early this summer, Western Rivers Conservancy completed a successful conservation effort on the North Santiam River, bolstering hopes that salmon and steelhead may one day approach their former abundance in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
In June, WRC conveyed a former farm on the North Santiam to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. The project conserves over two miles of river and side-channel habitat and forever safeguards one of the largest tracts of native riparian forest on the lower river. At the same time, it places 338 acres of culturally important land into the hands of the Tribe, which will manage the property for the sake of native fish and wildlife. The Tribe will rename the area “Chahalpam,” meaning “place of the Santiam Kalapuya people” in Kalapuyan.
The North Santiam River drains a large portion of the Central Oregon Cascades into the Willamette River. At one time, it produced an incredible two-thirds of the Willamette River’s winter steelhead and a third of its spring Chinook. These runs have declined steeply and today are listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The property is also home to imperiled Oregon chub (a tiny fish only recently removed from the Endangered Species list) and rare animals like western pond turtle, pileated woodpecker, hooded merganser and red-legged frog.
WRC’s efforts on the North Santiam, combined with the Confederated Tribes’ long-term stewardship and funding from Bonneville Power Administration, will help ensure these creatures remain part of the Willamette Valley landscape for generations to come.