The lowland forests and wetlands of the Willamette Basin are one of the most remarkable ecosystems in Oregon. These increasingly rare forests are so lush and rich with bird and insect life that, on a warm day, you could almost mistake them for the tropics. But alas, this is Oregon. And if you were to find yourself on WRC’s newest Willamette Valley conservation project, you’d be in just such a forest, on the North Santiam River, less than an hour from the state capitol.
Building on our recent conservation successes downstream, Western Rivers Conservancy signed an agreement to purchase 411 acres of outstanding riverland habitat along the North Santiam. The river is a stronghold for salmon and steelhead and home to some of the finest remaining riparian habitat in the Willamette Valley.
The project, our third acquisition on the North Santiam, will conserve nearly three miles of main-stem and side-channel frontage, as well as nearly 18 acres of seasonally flooded wetlands. The side-channels of the lower North Santiam are critical for spawning and rearing salmon and steelhead, and protecting them is key to improving runs within the basin. The project will also protect crucial swaths of forest, including more than 209 acres of closed-canopy riparian forest and 82 acres of open-canopy forest. The property harbors a diverse array of native tree species, including grand fir, western hemlock, Pacific yew, western red cedar, Oregon white oak and red alder.
WRC’s partner in this project is the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, which shares WRC’s conservation vision for the property and will steward the lands for the sake of the region’s imperiled fish, wildlife and native fauna. WRC will buy and hold the property until funding becomes available to convey the lands to the Tribe. Those funds will be provided by Bonneville Power Administration and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife through the Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program.
Once this project is complete, another outstanding stretch of this key Willamette River tributary will be forever conserved. When combined with our recent projects downstream, WRC and its partners will have protected over five miles of the North Santiam River, as well as extensive side-channel frontage, wetland habitat and hundreds of acres of native forest.