Ranch Along Oregon's Deer Creek will be Dedicated to Conservation, Research
Oregon's Wild and Scenic Illinois River valley will soon have a nationally significant center for ecological research, environmental education and riparian restoration. Western Rivers Conservancy (WRC) has signed an agreement to purchase an 870-acre ranch along Deer Creek, a major tributary to the Illinois River. The ranch will be set aside as a field research station and educational facility.
Deer Creek is located in the heart of the Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion, an area of top-quality streams in southern Oregon and one of the richest and most diverse bioregions in the world. WRC is working to acquire the site in partnership with a consortium of educational institutions that will manage and utilize the facility on Deer Creek: The Siskiyou Field Institute, Southern Oregon University, Humboldt State University (CA) and Rogue Community College.
"This site will allow Siskiyou Field Institute to expand its cadre of field-based natural history courses to serve people aged six to eighty with comprehensive, year-round programs," says Sue Parrish, Director of the Siskiyou Field Institute. "This will build southern Oregon's brain trust, its commitment to a pristine environment and a sustainable economy for generations to come - truly a rare opportunity!"
The Deer Creek Ranch is strategically located near biological "hot spots" for research and education, including Eight Dollar Mountain, the Illinois River and the Squaw Creek watershed. Forested lands include bogs that host an abundance of the carnivorous Darlingtonia californica (cobra lily), as well as other rare plants and animals. A ranch house, once frequented by actor John Wayne, on the scenic property will lend itself well to the program. Water rights for the irrigated fields are some of the most senior on Deer Creek.
A private foundation in Atlanta, Georgia has committed a $3 million challenge grant to fund the project. Western Rivers Conservancy will purchase the Deer Creek Ranch this fall and convey it to a permanent steward, likely the Siskiyou Field Institute, in 2006. The Illinois River valley struggles with such issues as logging, mining and the aftermath of the huge Biscuit Fire while it tries to rebuild its economy around ecotourism. The educational programs offered at Deer Creek Ranch will help connect the local community with the ecological treasure that lies in its backyard.