This spring, Western Rivers Conservancy continued an exciting project on Oregon’s North Santiam River that will complete an assemblage of protected riverlands for the benefit of salmon, steelhead and other imperiled Willamette Valley wildlife. In March, we committed to purchase another crucial property along the North Santiam that will add a unique expanse of closed-canopy riparian forest and rare wetlands to the much larger “Chahalpam” property that WRC conserved last year. When combined with an adjacent BLM-managed property, these lands will compose the largest, most important riverland forest on the lower North Santiam.
Formerly a family farm, the 92-acre property includes an exceptional mix of bottomland forest, main-stem frontage, side-channel habitat and wetlands. It also has good potential for wet prairie and floodplain restoration. Willamette Valley wetlands and wet prairies are some of the most endangered habitat types in Oregon, yet within the Willamette Basin, little of this habitat is managed for conservation. In addition to the benefits this project will have for fish, it offers a great opportunity to restore a small but important swath of this rare ecosystem.
Despite the tremendous habitat values associated with the property, the land was slated for gravel mining. Once WRC completes the project, the lands will be managed for the sake of fish and wildlife, especially the recovery of rare and imperiled species like spring Chinook, winter steelhead, Oregon chub, red-legged frog and western pond turtle.
WRC plans to convey the property to the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, which already cares for the larger “Chahalpam” property that WRC conveyed to the Tribe last year. With its natural resource expertise and cultural connections to the river, the Tribe makes the perfect conservation steward. Once conveyed to the Tribe, the land will become part of “Chahalpam.” The name means “Place of the Santiam Kalapuya people.” With the Tribe as a steward, the lands will also be a place conserved—a refuge for salmon, steelhead and the diverse wildlife that makes the North Santiam a remarkable western stream.
From WRC's Riverlands newsletter