One of Western Rivers Conservancy's top priorities is the Smith River on California's northern coast, which is considered to be the finest river ecosystem in the state. California's last major undammed river, the Smith's clear, cold waters flow through redwood and Douglas fir forests, supporting the state's healthiest wild runs of chinook salmon, steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout.
Beginning in 2005, Western Rivers Conservancy worked for three years to protect the Smith's largest tributary, Goose Creek, which supplies the South Fork Smith with cold, clean water even in times of drought. In one of WRC's largest acquisitions, we purchased 9,500 acres from Green Diamond Resource Company, conserving 13 miles of river frontage and the vast majority of the Goose Creek watershed.
Goose Creek is now permanently preserved and managed as part of the Smith River National Recreation Area. Western Rivers Conservancy acquired the land over several years at a cost of $6 million. In November 2005, WRC purchased and conveyed 3,518 acres - over one-third of the project lands. In 2006, we purchased the remainder of the project area. Then in February 2008, we brought the project to completion when we conveyed the final 4,836 acres to the NRA. In partnership with the Smith River Alliance and California Trout, WRC secured $3.1 million in appropriations from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for Goose Creek in FY05 and FY06. The Forest Service used this and other funding sources to acquire the lands from WRC. Western Rivers Conservancy also donated 17 acres of the project area to Del Norte County for use as public open space.
Goose Creek remains a haven, not only for wild salmon and steelhead but also for native trout and other imperiled aquatic species. Protection of the Goose Creek watershed helped secure the future of California's finest wild river ecosystem.
Our work on Goose Creek was funded by grants from the Compton Foundation, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, Heller Charitable and Educational Fund, Norcross Wildlife Foundation, Page Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, Weeden Foundation and Wildlife Forever (MN).
Photo credits: Ken Morrish (1), Rick Hiser (2,3), Pat Clayton (4), Rick Hiser (5)