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Annual Report

2010

Western Rivers Conservancy

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Western Rivers Conservancy acts to protect outstanding river ecosystems in the western United States. We acquire land to conserve critical habitat, provide public access for compatible use and enjoyment, and cooperate with other agencies and organizations to secure the health of the whole ecosystem.

Beaver Creek & Marsh Hoh River Cowlitz River Hood River Sandy River John Day River Elk River Redwood Creek Estuary Lower Klamath Creek Eel River Deer Creek Bear River


Letter from the Chair and President

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he two of us have been shaped by a single stream—Big Chico Creek—which flows from the Ponderosa foothills of the Northern Sierra Nevada through a deep oak woodland canyon, bisects the city of Chico, CA, and empties into the Sacramento River. Ken lives in the canyon today; Phil hiked and swam the creek as a kid. Big Chico is a wonderful example of a river that is special—to us as individuals, to the city of Chico, to salmon and salamanders and all the life forms that make up a wild river ecosystem. That is why Western Rivers Conservancy bought approximately five miles of the Big Chico Creek canyon in 2000, with grants from the Packard Foundation, California Wildlife Conservation Board, and others, and turned it over to California State University at Chico as a teaching and research facility. In this annual report, we highlight other special rivers where Western Rivers Conservancy bought and conserved vital lands in our 2009 fiscal year. Some are special for runs of endangered wild salmon and steelhead; some for spectacular canyons; some for the richness of native flora; and some for recreational value. Each of these streams, shown in the map at left, is a vital arterial for the flow of life and energy in the western United States. We thank each of you for contributing, in your own way, to this past year of accomplishment by Western Rivers Conservancy: real results, land that you and your children can walk on, float through, and cast a line from. We invite you to adopt Western Rivers Conservancy as your means for conserving wild rivers for all time for people and wildlife. Please visit www.westernrivers.org or call our offices at 503-241-0151 to learn more. For our rivers,

Western Rivers Conservancy

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Gunnison River

The vision

• Conserve several significant gaps in an otherwise unbroken stretch of protected land along the lower Gunnison River, home to endangered fish. • Prevent harmful development and gravel mining, protect cultural sites and provide new access for people to enjoy the river and surrounding canyons. Accomplishments

• Entered contract to purchase a 396-acre property that will expand the Dominguez Escalante National Conservation area approximately four miles down the lower Gunnison. This acquisition, under current threat of gravel mining, is the BLM’s number one national priority. • Signed an agreement to buy 131 riverfront acres that will become part of the adjacent BLM Bangs Canyon Special Recreation Management Area. Land acquisition has allowed restoration of hundreds of acres, including Hay Creek, a rare spawning tributary for summer steelhead on the lower John Day, running cold through the hot, dry summer.


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major tributary to the Colorado River, the Gunnison is a ribbon of life flowing through desert and Rocky Mountain canyonlands. Its upper reaches carve one of the most spectacular gorges in North America at Black Canyon. From here it flows north, slowing to a gentler gradient beneath colorful rock formations, nourishing riverside greenways of cottonwood, and joining the Colorado River at Grand Junction. This lower stretch of the Gunnison is one of the last places where four species of Colorado basin warmwater fish still survive: Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub and bonytail chub. Rare desert flora like the Uinta hookless cactus also thrive in this largely untouched setting. The surrounding landscape is knitted together in a nearly unbroken stretch of protected lands, including Dominguez Escalante National Conservation Area, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Bangs Canyon Special Recreation Management Area, and the Colorado National Monument. Western Rivers Conservancy is purchasing strategic properties to fill in remaining gaps in protection to help ensure the health of the river and survival of the species that depend on it.

Western Rivers Conservancy

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he Bear River brings cold water down from three Rocky Mountain states and pours into the Great Salt Lake as its largest source of fresh water. Where these two water bodies merge, a vast marshland spreads across the landscape, beneath the panorama of the Promentory and Wasatch Mountain ranges. Here, a thunderous assembly of millions of birds gathers each year to rest, feed and nest during long, migratory journeys. In fact, the marshes at the mouth of the Bear River are one of the greatest producers of waterfowl in the nation, drawing visitors by the tens of thousands annually. In 1929, the area was protected under the stewardship of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. This designation signified for the nation its great importance for more than 200 bird species that eventually disperse among a vast network of flyways across the western hemisphere. The Refuge’s incredible productivity is due to its combination of open water with sheltered marshes and grasslands, ideal for protecting young broods. Western Rivers Conservancy is purchasing areas that provide just these characteristics, and will soon become part of the adjacent Bear River Refuge.


Bear RIver

The vision

• Preserving one of the West’s premier strongholds for migratory waterfowl by purchasing strategic private inholdings that will become part of the adjacent Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. • Accomplishments

• Purchased 304 acres near the entrance to the refuge, and conveyed 424 acres to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including lands we previously acquired. • Committed to purchase a second property, totaling 600 acres, to further expand the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Land acquisition has allowed restoration of hundreds of acres, including Hay Creek, a rare spawning tributary for summer steelhead on the lower John Day, running cold through the hot, dry summer. Western Rivers Conservancy 7


Deer & Mill Creeks

The vision

• Conserve vulnerable stretches of Deer and Mill Creeks that bridge the Lassen National Forest and the Ishi Wilderness, helping to ensure the future health of these outstanding streams and the imperiled Sacramento River salmon they support. Accomplishments

• Purchased 600 acres from Sierra Pacific Industries, including beautiful Lower Deer Creek Falls and surrounding hiking trails.

Land acquisition has allowed restoration of hundreds of acres, including Hay Creek, a rare spawning tributary for summer steelhead on the lower John Day, running cold through the hot, dry summer.


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umbling from Mount Lassen’s foothills, through rugged canyons, oak woodlands, and over beautiful waterfalls, Deer Creek is one of the finest streams in the Sierra Nevada. While most Sierra rivers have been blocked by dams, Deer Creek, along with its near-pristine sister stream to the north, Mill Creek, remains free flowing. Retaining remarkable biodiversity, Deer and Mill Creeks are among few Sacramento tributaries where threatened spring-run Chinook salmon and winter steelhead still thrive. These top Sierra streams are the keys to recovering struggling Sacramento River fish runs. Conserving their unprotected reaches is of the utmost priority, and Western Rivers Conservancy has been working for several years to do just that.

Western Rivers Conservancy

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Klamath river

The vision

• Preserving one of the West’s premier strongholds for migratory waterfowl by purchasing strategic private inholdings that will become part of the adjacent Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. • Accomplishments

• Purchased 304 acres near the entrance to the refuge, and conveyed 424 acres to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including lands we previously acquired. • Committed to purchase a second property, totaling 600 acres, to further expand the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Land acquisition has allowed restoration of hundreds of acres, including Hay Creek, a rare spawning tributary for summer steelhead on the lower John Day, running cold through the hot, dry summer. Western Rivers Conservancy 11


Hood River

The vision

• A series of major wild fish sanctuaries on all three forks of the Hood River, protecting vital habitat and providing new recreational access for the community. Accomplishments

• Purchased 82 acres from Longview Fibre, which will complete conservation of the confluence of the West and East forks of the Hood River, including Punch Bowl Falls. WRC purchased the adjacent half of the confluence in 2006. • Collaborating with public agencies to establish a park and natural area from the 102-acre complex of lands we now own at the confluence.

Land acquisition has allowed restoration of hundreds of acres, including Hay Creek, a rare spawning tributary for summer steelhead on the lower John Day, running cold through the hot, dry summer.


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n a valley known for its fruit orchards, the Hood River has sustained as great a diversity of fish species as any stream in Oregon. This is in large part due to its location on the cusp between healthy forests surrounding Mt. Hood, the river’s glacial source. With runs of bull trout, summer and winter steelhead, spring and fall Chinook, coho salmon, cutthroat trout and rainbow trout, the Hood River is an extremely important system for the health of lower Columbia River salmonids. The Hood River is also a scenic, recreational treasure for the community. In the face of mounting development pressures, it is essential that the river be kept natural and wild. In summer 2010, a long anticipated event signaled a rebirth for the Hood River: Pacificorp removed Powerdale Dam, the only main-stem impoundment, and donated 600 acres to conservation on the lower River. Building on this milestone, Western Rivers Conservancy is acquiring land to extend the salmon sanctuary upstream on all three forks of the Hood River.

Western Rivers Conservancy

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he John Day River is the beating heart in a sea of sagebrush, a land of goose-neck canyons and braided silver channels, where jaw-dropping panoramas reveal the occasional big horn sheep or fish rising. Among all of the rivers of the vast Columbia system, the John Day River has the most diverse fishery, including the healthiest runs of summer steelhead remaining. Chinook salmon, bull trout, redband, rainbow and cutthroat trout also thrive in its waters, which flow undammed for a longer stretch than any other river west of the Yellowstone. A treasure in Oregon and indeed the entire West, the John Day is threatened, like many disappearing shrub-step landscapes, by fragmentation. Western Rivers Conservancy’s land-buying strategy is an extremely effective way to conserve large blocks of habitat before they can be sub- divided. With this approach, WRC is seizing every opportunity to keep this landscape whole and the river natural. In 2008, we purchased 16,000 acres of deeded and leased lands along the lower John Day. This property will soon become Oregon’s largest state park, preserving the rich diversity of habitat offered by the land and its waterways. Cottonwood Canyon State Park will be a place where fish and numerous wildlife species can thrive, and where people can venture to touch the wild.


john day river

The vision

• By 2013, sixteen miles along both banks of the lower John Day will be conserved as Cottonwood Canyon State Park, setting aside a valuable remnant of sagebrush country and protecting endangered fish and wildlife habitat. • The new park will offer an extraordinary wildland recreation experience on the river and in the surrounding canyons. Accomplishments

• While holding the lands, WRC began a comprehensive restoration strategy, treating hundreds of acres of noxious weeds and replanting riparian areas with native vegetation. Special focus was put on restoring Hay Creek, a vital coldwater steelhead tributary.

Land acquisition has allowed restoration of hundreds of acres, including Hay Creek, a rare spawning tributary for summer steelhead on the lower John Day, running cold through the hot, dry summer. Western Rivers Conservancy 15


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