March 10, 2016

WRC Boosts Efforts to Recover Crucial Tributary to the Salmon River

Photography | Photo by Ed Knight.

Idaho’s Salmon River plays host to one of the greatest fish migrations on earth, a journey of more than 900 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains. As if distance weren’t enough, humans threw in eight dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, which salmon and steelhead must navigate before they even reach the Salmon River. After their epic journey, these fish finally reach their natal streams in the headwaters of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Up here, the snowcapped Sawtooths tower over small tributary streams that provide crucial habitat for chinook and sockeye salmon, steelhead and bull trout.

Western Rivers Conservancy recently launched an effort on Pole Creek, a key tributary to the Salmon River with extensive designated Critical Habitat for chinook, steelhead and bull trout. We signed an agreement to purchase 619 acres near the confluence of Pole Creek and the Salmon River, an acquisition that will protect more than a mile of the creek and a stretch of the main-stem Salmon itself.

Pole Creek’s unique geology is what makes the stream especially important. Unlike tributaries on the western side of the Sawtooth Valley, which have granite streambeds, Pole Creek is sedimentary and volcanic in origin, which means more nutrients for insects and riparian life. The Sawtooth National Forest has ranked Pole Creek its highest priority for recovery due to this richness of habitat and its potential for restoration. There has also been a major effort between state and federal agencies, organizations and local landowners to improve fish passage and increase flows in the stream during peak irrigation season. 

WRC’s purchase of these lands builds on these extensive conservation efforts. Habitat quality within the creek is on the upswing, and protecting the stream’s sensitive riparian areas is crucial to preventing setbacks to the conservation investments already made. By conserving the property, we can prevent future development along this key reach of the creek and eliminate grazing in the riparian areas. And we will ensure that a mile of prime salmon and steelhead habitat is protected forever.

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