Western Rivers Conservancy has set its sights on preserving one of the most important fisheries in Oregon’s Willamette basin: the North Santiam River. Fish in the basin are imperiled: upper Willamette River Chinook salmon and winter steelhead have both been listed as Threatened, and Oregon Chub is listed as Endangered. On December 21, Western Rivers Conservancy (WRC) took an important step toward restoring these runs by purchasing 160 acres of critical fish, wildlife and plant habitat along the North Santiam River, a vital Willamette River tributary.
The North Santiam River features some of the best remaining salmon, steelhead, trout and chub habitat in the Willamette basin. Currently, the North Santiam is designated as a salmon stronghold for its high level of winter steelhead production. Historically, it is the largest producer of winter steelhead in the basin and is the source of approximately one-third of spring Chinook salmon.
The property WRC purchased is located near the town of Stayton and has two miles of North Santiam frontage, seven side channels/sloughs and frontage on the smaller Dieckman Creek. It is the most intact riparian assemblage within 50 square miles. Besides the large number of aquatic species, four wildlife species of concern also call this property home: the pileated woodpecker, hooded merganser, western pond turtle and red-legged frog.
Purchasing and restoring property along the North Santiam River is a critical step for native fish and wildlife, and will aid in the recovery of listed species in the Willamette basin. WRC is hopeful that this first purchase along the North Santiam will lead to the conservation of additional properties with high quality habitat and good restoration potential.