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report from the field

D E T A D UP Western R ivers Conservancy 2018-2019


RIVER NAME

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Methow River, WA

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Little Sur River, CA 35

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Upper Rio Grande, CO

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McDermitt Creek, OR & NV

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Snake River, ID

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Williamson River, OR

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. aR

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Columb i

PG

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40

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Salmon River, ID

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Gualala River, CA

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Fall River, CA

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John Day River, OR

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Klamath River & Blue Creek, CA

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South Fork Antelope Creek, CA

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32 16

R ke S na

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29 28

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Alamosa Riparian Park, Rio Grande, CO Nason Creek, WA

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Freemon’s, Upper Rio Grande, CO

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Chehalis River, WA

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South Fork Salmon River, ID

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Rio de Los Pinos, CO

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Cottonwood Canyon, John Day River, OR

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Mojave River, CA

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Conejos River & the Rio Grande, CO

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Gunnison River, CO

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Little Cimarron River, CO Report from the Field

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lora do . R

East Verde River, AZ

Co

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. Gila R

2018/19 PROJECT IMPACT AREAS

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North Umpqua River, OR

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32

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in aqu

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Sacra m to R. en

South Fork Scott River, CA

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29

20

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Report from the Field

Mi ss

Saving the great rivers of the west

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Sue Doroff, President

Tim Wood, Board Chair

Yours in conservation,

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onserving land along the West’s great rivers is heavy lifting but the results are indisputable: habitat protected, better public access and permanence. These are the outcomes that have driven us for over 30 years. (The scenery is inspiring, too!) As you make your way through the pages of our first ever biennial Report from the Field, you’ll journey from some of the West’s driest places to its wettest, from the cactus-lined Verde River in the Sonoran Desert, to California’s fog-drenched Redwood Coast, where salmon and steelhead swim up the Klamath River to the ancient pulse of the spawning migration. You’ll see our successes on Oregon’s John Day River in sagebrush country and journey to the headwaters of the mighty Rio Grande, where we are conserving prime river habitat for birds and other wildlife. From the North Cascades to the Colorado plateau, Western Rivers Conservancy is preserving cherished landscapes in every corner of the American West. While we work to outpace the many changes affecting our rivers, one thing becomes clear: Now more than ever, the West needs WRC’s focused, effective approach to river conservation. Ultimately, we hope these pages reveal the heart and soul of the rivers we’re protecting with your support. Together we are making a real and lasting difference for the West’s remarkable fish and wildlife, for its forests and deserts, for its people and for people everywhere. After all, the great rivers of the West are also the great rivers of the world.

Sue Doroff Tim Wood President Board Chair

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PROJECT

Report from the Field RIVER NAME

STATE

Saving Open Space and Salmon Streams in the Methow Valley >> Flowing cold and clear beneath the snow-

capped peaks of Washington’s North Cascades, the Methow River is a salmon stream of great importance. It is the centerpiece of the scenic Methow Valley, fed by icecold creeks that tumble out of the rugged Pasayten Wilderness at the edge of the Canadian border. For years, the river was heavily diverted for irrigation, but today it is the focus of extensive efforts to recover its surviving fish runs. With much of the system protected within national forests and wilderness, there are high hopes that the Methow will once again become a haven for salmon and steelhead of the upper Columbia basin. The Methow Valley is also a hugely popular travel destination. Tens of thousands of people visit each year to chase wild steelhead, ski the largest cross-country trail system in North America, raft, climb, hunt and enjoy a string of tiny, historic towns. In the heart of the Methow Valley, Western Rivers Conservancy acquired two properties in 2018 to improve fish habitat and preserve the valley’s natural beauty. The opportunity is tremendous, as both properties trace designated Critical Habitat for Upper Columbia River spring Chinook and contain key habitat for Columbia River steelhead and bull trout. First we acquired the 328acre Wagner Ranch, which spans 1.6 miles of the Chewuch River, the Methow’s largest tributary. Situated next to the Methow Wildlife Area, the ranch is one of the largest blocks of private river frontage left in the valley and is highly vulnerable to development. Then we purchased the 35-acre Stafford Ranch along the Methow River, including a critical groundwater right needed to reestablish flows in dry side channels that are crucial to fish.

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WRC will convey the properties to the Yakama Nation, which is committed to stream restoration and conservation in the Methow Valley. Through its capable stewardship program, the tribe plans to restore offchannel areas, floodplains, wetlands and riparian vegetation, making a lasting difference for salmon and steelhead and moving the needle on our shared greater vision to save the fish runs of the upper Columbia Basin. The Wagner Ranch itself was once owned by the Haub family, longtime community leaders in the valley and the developers of historic Winthrop. On top of the ecological benefits, the project will uphold the rich natural heritage, history and rural character of this part of the Methow Valley.

WRC’s work in the Methow Valley will benefit salmon, steelhead and countless other animals that depend on the Methow River, including the Northwest’s favorite rodent, the beaver. At right, the Methow River glows beneath an early-summer sunset.


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In 2018, WRC launched a new effort in the Methow Valley, acquiring two ranches along the Methow and Chewuch rivers. The project will protect native fish habitat and open space and help keep the valley’s remote natural character intact.

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One of Central California’s most pristine rivers, The Little Sur flows from the Santa Lucia Mountains to the Pacific, where it meets the sea 20 miles south of Monterey. On its way, it passes through the ranch (right) that WRC is working to conserve.


Report from the Field RIVER NAME

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Saving Redwoods and Summer Steelhead on the Big Sur Coast On California’s Central Coast, Big Sur captivates everyone who sets eyes on it. From the turquoise surf that pummels sheer sandstone cliffs, the coastline gives way to rugged mountains studded with oak trees and wildflowers. Soaring high above the cliffs, California condor scout for their next meal, while below, crystal-clear streams flow

beneath Big Sur’s iconic redwood groves—the southernmost stands of redwoods on Earth. Few intersections of land and sea are more celebrated. Lesser known are the fish that swim within its redwood-shaded streams, like the Little Sur River. A haven for wild steelhead, the Little Sur pours from wilderness in the Santa Lucia mountains and meets the Pacific Ocean 20 miles south of Monterey. Steelhead once returned to the

Little Sur River by the thousands, but today they number in the hundreds—if that. Still, the Little Sur is considered one of the most important wild steelhead rivers south of San Francisco Bay. In 2019, Western Rivers Conservancy launched a partnership with the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County to protect a mile of the Little Sur River and return ancestral lands to the tribe. WRC plans to buy a near-pristine 1,199-acre ranch that includes old-growth redwood stands and productive steelheadspawning reaches in the Little Sur and a tributary stream. The property’s ridgetop grasslands and redwoods are ideal for condor feeding and nesting, and conservation of the ranch will aid recovery efforts for this endangered bird. If sold on the open market, the ranch would likely be developed for private use. Instead, WRC plans to transfer the lands to the Esselen people for permanent habitat conservation and protection of sacred cultural sites. The tribe shares our vision to preserve the stream and surrounding wildlands, as do our partners the Big Sur Land Trust and the Conservancy for the Range of the Condor. In October 2019, the California Natural Resources Agency awarded $4.52 million to the tribe to acquire the land. Together, we hope to deliver permanent conservation results that benefit the Little Sur River, the Esselen people, and the fragile fish and wildlife of this unquestionably magical place.

WRC launched an effort in partnership with the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County to preserve a mile of the Little Sur River and some of the world’s southernmost redwood trees, a project that will benefit steelhead, California condor and other rare wildlife. westernrivers.org

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The upper Rio Grande is the centerpiece of Colorado’s San Luis Valley and provides vital habitat for fish and wildlife. The valley is famed for its Rocky Mountain sandhill cranes (right), which visit the valley by the thousands every year.


Report from the Field STATE

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New State Wildlife Area Connects People to the Rio Grande

>> Near its source in the Colorado Rockies,

the Rio Grande weaves a verdant tapestry through the San Luis Valley, where it sustains diverse wildlife and numerous rural communities. Many of these communities, despite their proximity to the Rio Grande, lack a meaningful connection to the river. This is especially true in Costilla County, where less than one percent of land is public, and river access is almost nonexistent. That all changed in 2018 when WRC transferred 17,019 acres of prime open space to Costilla County, opening exceptional new access to 4.5 miles of the Rio Grande and creating a 27-square-mile refuge for birds, elk and other wildlife of the San Luis Valley.

With its expansive rolling hills, shrublands and extensive riverfront, the property was one of the last large intact tracts of private land within the Rio Grande Natural Area. Both the river and the uplands are critical for the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher and for animals like mule deer, pronghorn and Rocky Mountain elk. WRC conveyed the property to Costilla County with funding from Great Outdoors Colorado and the Gates Family Foundation. With the property now under county ownership, the land will be managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as the San Luis Hills State Wildlife Area and forever protected through a conservation easement that was purchased by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service using funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The result of this diverse partnership is a major win for the communities of Costilla County and the fish, songbirds, waterfowl and wildlife of southern Colorado. This project is part of our long-term effort to conserve river lands, open space and habitat in the San Luis Valley. In 2015, we established the San Luis Valley Conservation Fund together with the LOR Foundation, Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust and Colorado Open Lands. The fund bolsters efforts to preserve the region’s rich natural resources and cultural heritage, all while enhancing livability for San Luis Valley communities.

In 2018, WRC created the San Luis Hills State Wildlife Area in partnership with Costilla County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and others, protecting 17,019 acres of prime wildlife habitat and 4.5 miles of the upper Rio Grande. westernrivers.org

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Report from the Field RIVER NAME

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Last Chance to Save the Great Basin’s Imperiled Lahontan Cutthroat >> Trout have adapted to live in every region

of the West—even the driest. Lahontan cutthroat, the state fish of Nevada, have thrived for millennia in the footprint of Lake Lahontan, an ice-age relic that left behind thousands of miles of cold streams threading across the now-arid Great Basin. But today, these large trout are on the brink of extinction because the cold-water habitat they need has been dwindling for a century. Within their shrinking range, they are further threatened by competition and interbreeding from non-native fish. The best hope for Lahontan cutthroat are the few remaining streams that flow cold year-round through the dry sea of sagebrush. Of these streams, one rises to the top for Lahontan cutthroat survival: McDermitt Creek. Flowing from the Trout Creek Mountains of remote southeast Oregon, where sage-grouse often outnumber people, McDermitt Creek meanders across the Nevada state line and then winds down to the Great Basin floor. To save this lifeline stream, WRC plans to buy Disaster Peak Ranch and conserve the 15 miles of McDermitt Creek and key side streams that run through the 3,345-acre property. WRC’s efforts will allow our partners to restore and reconnect 55 river miles of habitat both upstream and downstream of the property, doubling the number of stream miles available to Lahontan cutthroat in the region. The project will also enable biologists to remove non-native trout and then reintroduce genetically pure populations of Lahontan cutthroat to the full length of McDermitt Creek, where they once thrived. Disaster Peak Ranch, a cattle ranch for generations, owes its outstanding condition

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to the Zimmerman family, who have owned the ranch for over 50 years and priorized healthy habitat alongside ranching since the 1950s. WRC’s efforts will build on that legacy, keeping the ranch in operation to contribute to the local economy while prioritizing habitat for fish. The ranch is surrounded by seven BLM wilderness study areas, and the landscape will continue to support animals like greater sagegrouse, Columbia spotted frog, pygmy rabbit, mule deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, great horned owl and sandhill crane. As WRC works to secure the ideal longterm steward for the land, we are working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Nevada Department of Wildlife and other partners. Together, our vision is to reestablish thriving runs of Lahontan cutthroat along the full length of McDermitt Creek to ensure this important fish has a future in the West.

Conserving Disaster Peak Ranch (right) on McDermitt Creek would bring new hope of recovering the Lahontan cutthroat trout, which has been listed under the Endangered Species Act since 1970.


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In 2019, WRC embarked on a last-chance effort to save one of the West’s most imperiled fish species, Lahontan cutthroat trout, by conserving one of its last strongholds in the Great Basin: McDermitt Creek.

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Report from the Field

Rivers are tied to their landscapes, which is why WRC is able to have a profound impact on them when we purchase and protect riverlands. Conserving evergreen forests, sagebrush-steppe, oak woodlands or alpine wetlands is the same as conserving habitat for fish, those emblems of healthy rivers that dwell in a world we rarely see.

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Bighorn sheep populations have plummeted across the West, making nursery sites like Ten Mile Creek Ranch critical to their survival. The ranch sits on the Snake River (right) and provides the best lambing habitat for Idaho’s Hells Canyon herd.


Report from the Field STATE

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Protecting the Place Where Bighorns are Born >> As the Snake River makes its way toward the

Columbia, it carves the rugged depths of Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America and one of the most stunning river reaches on Earth. High above, bighorn sheep defy gravity as they poke along the sheer rock walls of the canyon cliffs. Populations of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep were once abundant here, icons of the Snake, but today, Idaho’s Hells Canyon

herd has only 150 head—a fraction of historic numbers. Remarkably, most of the ewes in this herd birth and rear their lambs on a single property: Ten Mile Creek Ranch.

This exceptional parcel of land traces four miles of the Snake River, just upstream of Hells Gate State Park and downstream of Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area and Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. The 2,920-acre ranch is the herd’s best nursery, with as much as 80 percent of the Idaho ewes giving birth here in spring. What’s more, the ranch provides a critical link between these neighboring protected lands, expanding this habitat assemblage and increasing the Snake River’s ability to sustain these animals. The reach of the Snake River flowing past the ranch also provides habitat for federally listed Snake River spring and fall Chinook and steelhead—fish that must overcome eight massive dams to reach their spawning waters high in the Rockies. Several Chinook redds are found in front of the property, and one of the Snake’s best steelhead runs lies just off the ranch’s banks. In addition to bighorns, the ranch is home to black bear, Rocky Mountain elk, mountain lion and mule deer. In summer 2018, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased Ten Mile Creek Ranch. We are now working with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to place a conservation easement on the property, preventing a 24-home subdivision and ensuring this crucial landscape remains intact, protected forever and healthy for the Snake River’s outstanding fish and wildlife.

In an effort to protect some of the West’s best lambing habitat for bighorn sheep, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased the 2,920-acre Ten Mile Creek Ranch along the Snake River, 35 miles downstream of Hells Canyon. westernrivers.org

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Expanding a National Wildlife Refuge on a Famed Wild Trout Stream >> When the dams are removed from the

Klamath River in the coming decade, it will signal a rebirth for what was once one of the greatest salmon rivers on the continent. But even dam-free, the Klamath will need enough cold water and high-quality habitat to sustain its tremendous biodiversity. With this in mind, Western Rivers Conservancy has worked for more than a decade to preserve key rivers and streams in the Klamath system, including Blue Creek, the South Fork Scott and the South Fork Trinity—rivers that supply clean, cold water and superb habitat for fish and wildlife. Now, we are turning to the source of the Klamath: the Williamson River, a famed trout stream that feeds Upper Klamath Lake. Here, we are working to expand the Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge and rejuvenate a haven for birds and a critical source of nutrient-rich water for the Klamath system’s fish and wildlife. Where the Williamson River enters the wildlife refuge, WRC purchased the 2,200acre Timmerman Ranch. A former cattle ranch, the property features lush waterfowl habitat and substantial water rights. When we conveyed the land and water rights to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in April 2020, we successfully expanded the 40,000-acre refuge and paved the way for improving the quantity and quality of water that enters the Klamath system. The agency can now recreate the river’s natural meanders along this reach and reconnect the Williamson’s consistent, spring-fed flows to the marsh. Klamath Marsh boasts some of the West’s finest waterfowl habitat, including roughly half of the West’s breeding population of rare yellow rail. The ranch itself receives

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tens of thousands of birds each season, including sandhill crane, Foster’s tern, dowitchers, trumpeter swans, cinnamon teal and numerous others. Water flowing out of the marsh nourishes the Williamson’s scaletipping native redband and rainbow trout, as well as imperiled sucker fishes and lamprey. Mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk and the statesensitive American fisher all depend on the property. By improving water conditions in the upper Williamson and Klamath Marsh, our efforts will benefit the Klamath River system as a whole. Increased headwater flows and better water quality will bolster the efforts of all who depend on a healthy Klamath River: the Klamath Tribes, the agricultural community and recreationists alike. Most of all, our efforts will improve conditions for the fish and wildlife of this remarkable river system.

Northern shoveler (above) is one of more than 263 bird species that depend on the marshes and wetlands of the upper Klamath Basin, where WRC is improving flows into Klamath Marsh from the Williamson River (right).

WRC ac importa William Nationa marshe flows to


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cquired and conserved a strategically ant ranch to protect three miles of the mson River; expand the Klamath Marsh al Wildlife Refuge; and rejuvenate es and wetlands that supply crucial o the Klamath River system.

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Knapp Creek on Cape Horn Ranch is one of the Middle Fork Salmon River’s headwater tributaries and provides critical water and habitat to Chinook, steelhead and bull trout. At right, the entrance to Goat Falls Ranch, where WRC dedicated much-needed water in-stream.


Report from the Field STATE

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Reviving Natal Salmon Streams High in the Rockies

>> Idaho’s lofty Rocky Mountains are the

finish line for salmon and steelhead in their tenacious, 900-mile journey from the ocean. These mighty fish navigate eight dams and up to 7,000 vertical feet to reach their home waters in the upper Salmon River, where small tributaries pour from icy peaks. Cold and pure, these streams are some of the best wild fish nurseries in the West—that is, if they’re healthy and have enough water for fish. Stream by stream, Western Rivers Conservancy is protecting these highelevation lifelines so that plenty of cold water and healthy habitat are there for salmon and steelhead after their epic migration. In 2018, we conserved one of these vulnerable salmon nurseries in the Sawtooth Valley: the 369-acre Goat Falls Ranch, which possesses senior water rights on Goat and Meadow Creeks. These creeks were once among the most productive Chinook streams in the

Columbia Basin, but for years were seasonally dewatered for irrigation. After WRC bought the ranch, we worked with the state of Idaho and the U.S. Forest Service to transfer the land to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and place the ranch’s water rights permanently in-stream. The project made history, marking the first time the Idaho Water Resources Board acquired water rights for the purpose of dedicating them permanently in-stream. On the heels of this success, we turned our focus to the 158-acre Cape Horn Ranch at the very headwaters of the Middle Fork Salmon River. The ranch controls senior water rights and a stretch of Knapp Creek, which flows into Marsh Creek and eventually the celebrated Middle Fork, home to the healthiest wild salmon runs in the Columbia Basin. Both creeks contain designated Critical Habitat for Snake River Chinook and steelhead, but water diversions can completely dry up Knapp Creek and sever its connection to the Salmon River system. To ensure the streams have enough water for salmon, WRC will transfer Cape Horn Ranch’s water-rights to the state of Idaho and the land to the Salmon-Challis National Forest. At that point, the state can remove the water rights diversion, increasing streamflows by 75 to 80 percent. Taken together, these efforts on Goat, Meadow and Knapp creeks will ensure cold water and productive habitat for these fish after their arduous journey, with benefits cascading across the vast Columbia Basin.

In 2018, WRC made water-rights history in Idaho when we transferred Goat Falls Ranch to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and partnered with the state to dedicate the property’s water permanently in-stream for fish. The same year, we purchased Cape Horn Ranch, launching a similar effort in the headwaters of the Middle Fork Salmon. westernrivers.org

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Report from the Field RIVER NAME

STATE

Protecting an Iconic Landscape in California’s Wine Country >> From redwood forests to sandy beaches, the

Gualala River touches some of California’s most emblematic landscapes. It begins in the rugged Coast Range and then winds past giant redwoods, through rolling oak woodlands and on to the white-capped waves of the Pacific, where a small, historic beach town shares the river’s name. With no dams, plentiful cold water and large swathes of untouched habitat, the Gualala and its forks provide excellent habitat for coho salmon and winter steelhead—two imperiled runs that have dwindled or disappeared from other coastal rivers. Fortunately, the Gualala’s fish are holding on. But Northern California’s wine country continues to grow, and grape production and other development threaten the Gualala and its tributary streams. To improve the odds that the Gualala system stays healthy for fish and wildlife, Western Rivers Conservancy is placing a conservation easement on the spectacular 4,344-acre Silva Ranch, in the Gualala’s headwaters. Our goal is to protect a critical stretch of the Wheatfield Fork Gualala, the main-stem Gualala’s largest tributary, as well as a series of cold feeder creeks that flow through the ranch—more than six miles of cold-water, fish-bearing streams in all. The easement will conserve 40 acres of magnificent old-growth redwoods and thousands of acres of oak woodlands, while ensuring part of the property can provide an ongoing livelihood for the landowners. It’s not a moment too soon. The property could be developed for more than 20 home sites. Fortunately, the Silva Family shares our conservation vision and is partnering with us to forever protect this critical piece of the

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Gualala River system. The property also lies adjacent to 75,000 acres of lands that have already been protected. Adding the Silva Ranch to this assemblage will improve habitat connectivity for wildlife at a landscape scale. The result will be a lasting, unbroken haven for imperiled wildlife like California redlegged frog, northern spotted owl, western pond turtle, California tiger salamander and the Gualala roach, a small fish found nowhere else in the world. If salmon and steelhead are to survive in California, it will be because of rivers like the Gualala. The Silva Ranch provides the rare opportunity to protect habitat for native fish runs by striking a balance between conservation and agriculture, ensuring the future of an outstanding Northern California river.

The California tiger salamander is one of many imperiled species that depend on the Gualala River system and the 4,344-acre Silva Ranch (right), which WRC is working to protect.


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In 2018 and 2019, WRC continued its effort to conserve the 4,344-acre Silva Ranch in Sonoma County to protect a vital stretch of the Wheatfield Fork Gualala River and majestic stands of old-growth redwood.

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The Fall River (right) is the largest spring-fed river in North America. It provides outstanding habitat for migratory birds and cold-water fish and is famous among fly anglers for its world-class trout fishing—all watched over by the snow-capped Mount Shasta.


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New Effort for Fish and Birds on a Revered Spring-fed River Beneath ancient lava flows in northern California, a series of massive, underground springs give rise to one of the West’s most revered trout streams: the Fall River. Unlike most rivers, which collect rain and snowmelt above ground, the Fall River is born from a powerful underground aquifer, which delivers cold, consistent flows to the river even during periods of drought. As California faces a drier

future, the Fall River is a critical source of fresh water that feeds the Sacramento River system with nearly a billion gallons of cold flows each day. Against the backdrops of Mount Lassen and Mount Shasta, the Fall River meanders

lazily down the broad Fall River Valley, beckoning trout anglers from far and wide. Even when air temperatures heat up in summer, the river’s big, wild rainbow trout thrive in the year-round 50-degree water, nourished by abundant, big bugs that flourish in the volcanically enriched system. The Fall River and its associated wetlands are also important for migrating birds. Located on the Pacific Flyway, the fertile valley draws multitudes of ducks, geese, raptors and other migratory birds. In 2019, Western Rivers Conservancy set out to protect a vital reach of the Fall River, a 1,158-acre ranch that adjoins the Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park in the heart of the Fall River Valley Important Bird Area. Throughout 2019 and into 2020, we worked with the community and with local and state agencies to explore ways we might conserve this outstanding property. If we are successful, our efforts will protect four miles of the Fall River and three miles of the Tule and Little Tule Rivers, two major tributary streams, while setting the stage to rejuvenate the ranch’s extensive wetlands and waterfowl habitat. We will also create new, compatible public access to the river, which is as well known for its lack of access as it is for its blue-ribbon trout. All told, this effort will be a tremendous boon for the river, its worldclass fishery, its stunning array of bird life and for everyone who has the opportunity to visit this rare, spring-fed treasure.

WRC launched a new effort to protect outstanding riverland habitat along the renowned Fall River, the largest spring-fed river in North America and a cold-water lifeline for birds, fish and other wildlife. westernrivers.org

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Report from the Field RIVER NAME

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In Sagebrush Country, a Place for Fish, Wildlife and People >> Reliable cold water—it’s everything in the arid

shrub-steppe of north-central Oregon, where the John Day River reigns over a wild landscape that is disappearing across the West. Dam-free for all of its 280 miles, the John Day is home to the healthiest populations of wild summer steelhead in the Columbia basin. To survive, these steelhead rely on a handful of cold side streams that flow steadily into the John Day, even during summer months. Chief among these is Thirtymile Creek, the largest and most important steelhead spawning tributary on the lower river. To protect these vital waters, WRC acquired two adjacent ranches along Thirtymile Creek and spanning some of the finest sagebrush country left in the West. In 2014, we purchased the Rattray Ranch, which includes 8,290 acres of conservation lands, 10 miles of John Day River frontage, the lower four miles of Thirtymile Creek and a 10,798-acre BLM grazing lease. Then, in 2018, we purchased 2,939 acres of the Campbell Ranch, which spans another five miles of Thirtymile Creek. All told, our efforts protect the lower nine miles of this critical tributary and a key stretch of the main-stem John Day while setting the stage for muchneeded habitat restoration. Together the properties support Oregon’s largest herd of California bighorn sheep and are home to diverse wildlife, including Rocky Mountain elk, mountain lion, pronghorn, burrowing owl and sagebrush lizard. The project is also great news for anglers, boaters, hikers, hunters and other recreationists. That’s because Rattray Ranch at Thirtymile Creek now provides the first and only public river access on a remote 70-mile stretch of the Wild and Scenic John Day River.

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To boat this stretch of river — one of the most scenic multi-day wilderness floats in the Pacific Northwest—formerly required paid private access. Had we not purchased the Rattray Ranch, this access could have been closed entirely. The project also opens access to 78,000 acres of rugged backcountry within the BLM’s North Pole Ridge and Thirtymile Creek Wilderness Study Areas, public lands that were previously inaccessible except by boat. In summer 2019, we completed conveyance of both ranches to the BLM, which now manages all 11,154 acres as a haven for native fish, wildlife and visitors who may now explore this spectacular slice of Oregon along a wild, free-flowing river.

A group of friends walks to camp during a John Day fishing trip. WRC’s purchase of the Rattray and Campbell ranches protected nine miles of Thirtymile Creek, the most important steelhead spawning tributary on the lower John Day River (right).


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In summer 2019, WRC completed its efforts to protect the vital waters of Thirtymile Creek and 10 miles of the John Day River by conserving two adjacent ranches with critical habitat for summer steelhead. Our efforts ensured permanent boater access to the river and created new access to 78,000 acres of public land.

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Rivers are the lifelines of the West, nourishing wildlife in the driest deserts, the emptiest plains and the wettest rainforests. By conserving the great rivers of the West, WRC hopes to ensure there will always be healthy habitat for the remarkable wildlife that depend on our streams.

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Klamath River & Blue Creek, CA

Lifeline of the Klamath River Protected at Last After a 10-year, all-hands-ondeck effort, WRC and the Yurok Tribe successfully established the Blue Creek Salmon Sanctuary, forever protecting the cold-water lifeline of the Klamath River system.

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The year 2018 was a watershed moment for California salmon: Western Rivers Conservancy and the Yurok Tribe established the Blue Creek Salmon Sanctuary, the culmination of a 10-year effort to protect the cold-water lifeline of the Klamath River system. California’s Redwood Coast is now home to a salmon sanctuary and tribal community forest unlike any in the Lower 48, a conservation area triple the size of Manhattan, dedicated to native fish runs, forest health, wildlife and Yurok cultural rejuvenation. Tumbling from the fog-shrouded Siskiyou Wilderness, Blue Creek is the most important tributary to the lower Klamath. The river flows strong and cold, even in times of drought, and nearly every Klamath River salmon stops here to cool down during its migration upstream to spawn. For the Yurok Tribe, Blue Creek is a cornerstone of spiritual life and its so-called “stairway to heaven,” the sacred route to the high Siskiyou Mountains. Yet the tribe has been

Morning sun shines through the redwoods on the Klamath River, where WRC and the Yurok Tribe protected 47,097 acres of temperate rainforest for the sake of salmon, steelhead and the region’s diverse wildlife.

separated from Blue Creek for generations. WRC saw a rare opportunity to conserve this vital stream and help the tribe reclaim these ancestral waters. In 2006, we partnered with the Yurok Tribe to buy 47,097 acres of land from Green Diamond Resource Company, a 73-square-mile swath of temperate rainforest that reaches from the Siskiyou Wilderness to the banks of the Klamath, and includes the entire lower half of Blue Creek. Over the course of a decade we raised $60 million to buy the land and transfer it to the tribe. In 2018, WRC conveyed the first landholdings along Blue Creek ever to be returned to the Yurok people. With strict protections established for Blue Creek, the salmon sanctuary at last became a reality. For salmon, the Yurok, the Klamath River and WRC alike, this was a celebratory moment. It was a monumental victory for West Coast salmon, one that will boost the long-term health of one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet.


South Fork Antelope Creek, CA

California’s first wolf in decades, known as OR-7, recently spent a winter on the South Fork Antelope property that WRC is working to conserve.

The future of Sacramento River salmon depends on streams like Antelope Creek, one of just a handful of tributaries that retain superb habitat for salmon and steelhead. A vital arm of this system is South Fork Antelope Creek. Flowing from Mount Lassen to the valley floor, it traverses a wildly varied landscape that supports some of the highest species diversity in the region. In 2018, WRC purchased a 1,150-acre property to protect 2.5 miles of South Fork Antelope Creek. The parcel’s secluded river canyon is lined with old-growth ponderosa pine and incense cedar, which give way to rolling grasslands

Protecting a Salmon Stronghold at the Foot of Mount Lassen and live oak savanna. It’s a kaleidoscope of plant communities that nourishes a thriving web of life. California’s first documented wolf in decades, OR-7 (pictured above), recently spent a winter on the property—a testament to its outstanding habitat. The property hosts an important herd of Tehama black-tailed deer as well as mountain lion, black bear and peregrine falcon. WRC is working to convey the land to the Lassen National Forest for permanent conservation and to extend a scenic trail from the nearby Tehama Wildlife Area into the national forest.

South Fork Scott River, CA

Bolstering Hopes for California’s Wild Coho A crucial piece of our work in the Klamath River basin is the Scott River, which produces more wild coho salmon than any other stream in California. Despite this, coho populations are so low in California that they risk extinction in the face of dwindling habitat and low stream flows. One remarkable tributary can provide plenty of both: the South Fork Scott River, the largest, cleanest and coldest arm of the Scott. WRC continued its efforts to protect 2,236 acres that we purchased in the Scott Valley in 2017, including two miles of designated Critical Habitat for coho on the South Fork Scott. The senior water rights that WRC purchased offer the rare opportunity to increase flows in the South Fork by up to 20 percent, ensuring water is there when salmon and steelhead need it most.

California’s Scott River produces more wild coho salmon than any other river in the state, and its health is crucial to the species’ survival.

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Report from the Field

Alamosa Riparian Park, Rio Grande, CO

Community Wellness on the Banks of the Rio Grande To connect the people of Alamosa to the Rio Grande, WRC continued its effort to create the 203-acre Alamosa Riparian Park along a mile of the river. WRC’s efforts on the Rio Grande in Alamosa will create a stunning new riverfront park for the community to enjoy and replenish themselves throughout the year.

Set astride the Rio Grande, Alamosa is the largest city in Colorado’s high San Luis Valley and the economic hub for one of the poorest rural areas of the state. With an eye toward community well-being, the city recently surveyed its residents about the future of their hometown. One message came through loud and clear: The people of Alamosa embrace the Rio Grande as the city’s natural treasure, and they long for new outdoor trails and recreational opportunities that connect them to the river. Access to open space and outdoor physical activity would not only boost community health, it would nourish the community spirit. To help the city realize its vision for a new river park, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased 203 acres of land that was slated for development along a mile of the Rio

Grande. Our goal would be to transfer the lands to the city to create Alamosa Riparian Park. Underscoring the importance of the effort, the project soon received top-priority funding from Great Outdoors Colorado, the LOR Foundation, Gates Family Foundation, San Luis Valley Health, San Luis Valley Federal Bank, local foundations and the city and county of Alamosa. In 2019, WRC continued its work to convey the land to the city of Alamosa. Upon completion, the park will provide an upstream anchor for a citywide, river-focused park network, integrating many of Alamosa’s recreational assets. Most importantly it will realize the needs of the community and its desire to experience and connect with the great river flowing through its own backyard.

San Luis Valley Conservation Fund In 2015, Western Rivers Conservancy, the LOR Foundation, Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust and Colorado Open Lands created the San Luis Valley Conservation Fund. The fund is a four-year collaborative effort to bolster local conservation efforts in Colorado’s scenic San Luis Valley and to preserve the region’s rich cultural heritage, all while enhancing livability for valley communities. Five projects in this report are the result of this effort: Alamosa Riparian Park (above), San Luis Hills State Wildlife Area (p8), Rio de Los Pinos (p39), the Conejos River (p42) and our project near the old Freemon General Store (p34).

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Nason Ridge, Nason Creek, WA

Saving a Treasured Forest above Lake Wenatchee and Nason Creek From the southeast shore of Lake Wenatchee, a forested mountainside rises steeply into the Washington sky, surrounded almost entirely by the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Known as Nason Ridge, the 3,714acre property features panoramic views of the surrounding peaks. A network of trails crisscrosses the property and connects to trails in the neighboring Lake Wenatchee State Park and national forest. This excellent trail system draws cross-country skiers and snowshoers from all over in winter, and hikers and mountain bikers throughout the summer. The property is equally important for fish. It spans 2.5 miles of Nason Creek, one of the most important sources of cold, clean water for the Wenatchee River and one of the Columbia Basin’s top-priority streams for imperiled salmon, steelhead and bull trout. Upstream and downstream from the property, extensive restoration efforts are underway to keep Nason Creek healthy, clear and cold. But Nason Ridge was privately owned, and its future uncertain. Would the Weyerhaeuser Company, which owned the property, continue to grant public access to these coveted trails? Would the place be harvested? Could

the property be sold and developed? In 2018, Western Rivers Conservancy was able to provide a solution that worked for everyone: It successfully negotiated a deal with Weyerhaeuser to buy and permanently protect Nason Ridge. Our vision for the property was directly in line with the local community, which has long wanted to see Nason Ridge protected. After gaining control of the property, WRC partnered with the Wenatchee-based Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, which then helped raise over a million dollars of the purchase price in a matter of months, a true testament to the importance of Nason Ridge. After acquiring the property, we facilitated continued public use of its trails, ensuring people from near and far could continue to enjoy this special place. We are now working to identity a long-term steward that will permanently own and manage Nason Ridge for conservation and public access. Once the project is complete, it will be a victory not just for people with connections to this landscape, but also for the native fish and wildlife of north-central Washington.

In 2018, WRC purchased the muchloved Nason Ridge property, a forested mountain-side above Lake Wenatchee and Nason Creek, with a network of cherished trails and valuable habitat for fish and wildlife. Above, Nason Ridge rises from the shore of Lake Wenatchee. In the foreground, the Wenatchee River flows out of the lake just upstream of the river’s confluence with Nason Creek.

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Report from the Field

North Umpqua River, OR

Upping our Commitment to a Legendary Oregon River Continuing our efforts to preserve forests, fish habitat and public access along the famed North Umpqua River, WRC committed to purchase 247 acres of riverfront, upstream of the Swiftwater Park property that we protected in 2017. Above, an angler casts into the cold waters of the North Umpqua River, which is legendary for its hard-to-catch steelhead.

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The emerald waters of the North Umpqua River elicit a degree of reverence that few rivers can match—and for good reason. Veiled in a cathedral of ancient forests, the river carves through cliffs of moss-clad basalt, with a waterfall seemingly around every bend. Its signature green comes from deep stores of cascade snowmelt, which keep it running cold and clean all year, even when other streams are low and warm. These exceptional flows support some of the healthiest wild fish runs in the Northwest, including summer and winter steelhead, spring Chinook, coho salmon, and rainbow and cutthroat trout. Anglers from all over make the pilgrimage to the legendary 33-mile fly-fishing-only water, beckoned by hard-fighting fish and the spectacular setting. For more than a century, a community of anglers and citizens has rallied to keep the river healthy. In 2017, when county parklands inside the North Umpqua Wild and Scenic River corridor went up for sale, Western Rivers Conservancy joined that conservation

heritage, setting out to protect the river and preserve access to coveted fly waters and a world-famous trail. We began by acquiring the 211-acre Swiftwater Park at the entrance to the 79-mile North Umpqua Trail, one of the nation’s premier hiking and mountain biking trails. After we transferred that property to the BLM to permanently protect the park, WRC began working to conserve another four parcels totaling 247 acres, just upstream. The properties span a mile of river frontage, including key spawning and rearing areas for coho salmon. Stands of old-growth forest are home to northern spotted owl, Roosevelt elk, black bear and river otter. As with the Swiftwater parcel, we plan to convey these lands to the BLM for management within the North Umpqua Wild and Scenic River corridor, helping ensure this great western river remains the storied stream it’s always been: a place of tenacious wild fish, emerald waters and ancient forests open to all.


East Verde River, AZ

Securing a Recreational Gateway to Arizona Wildlands In the Sonoran Desert, healthy, perenniallyflowing rivers like the Verde, Salt and Gila shoulder the lion’s share of the region’s fragile biodiversity. Together with tributaries like the East Verde River, these streams are pockets of abundance in the otherwise parched landscapes of the arid Southwest. In 2017, WRC launched an effort to conserve a rare unprotected reach of the East Verde River by buying a property called Doll Baby Ranch and transferring it to the Tonto National Forest. Flowing from headwaters on the Mogollon Rim, the East Verde courses through nearly 30 miles of backcountry within the Tonto National Forest and Mazatzal Wilderness, where it finally meets the Verde River against a backdrop of sunbaked boulders and saguaro cacti. In 2019, we successfully conveyed the ranch to the Forest Service, protecting a mile of the stream and securing a critical public access point into the Mazatzal Wilderness, the Verde Wild and Scenic River corridor and the Arizona National Historic Trail.

The project also safeguarded the only access to the Crackerjack Mine Loop Road, a popular off-highway vehicle destination outside of the wilderness area. Both access points would likely have been closed to public use had WRC not purchased the property. The Verde is one of only two wild and scenic rivers in Arizona, and the East Verde is its most intact tributary. It is a stream of great importance, providing crucial habitat for imperiled native fish populations, clean water for communities, and opportunities for people to enjoy the rarest of rare: a stream that flows year-round in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. WRC’s transfer of the ranch to the Forest Service bolsters one of the state’s best freshwater ecosystems while enabling some of its greatest outdoor adventures.

In 2019, WRC secured prized public access to the Mazatzal Wilderness when we conveyed the 149acre Doll Baby Ranch to the Tonto National Forest, protecting a mile of the East Verde River in the process. Above, day hikers walk up to a viewpoint in the Mazatzal Wilderness in an area where WRC protected public access near the East Verde River.

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Report from the Field

Freemon’s, Upper Rio Grande, CO

Prime stretch of the upper Rio Grande now protected and open to all WRC transferred 89 acres to the Rio Grande National Forest to protect a half-mile of the Rio Grande while opening public access to boaters and anglers along a prime stretch of trout water. WRC conserved this property near the old Freemon General Store and created new access to the upper Rio Grande.

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Some outstanding stretches of the upper Rio Grande are short on public access. Such was the case along a scenic reach of the river known as “the oxbows,” near Creede, Colorado. In 2018, Western Rivers Conservancy notched a small but important success when we bought an 89-acre property near the old Freemon General Store (a local landmark) and transferred it to the Rio Grande National Forest. In doing so, we created the only public access to a scenic eight-mile stretch of the river with great trout fishing. Now, boaters have a place they can pull ashore to rest without trespassing, and anglers can stop along the road, walk down to the river and fish. WRC purchased the property in 2016 and conveyed it to the Forest Service in 2018. The Forest Service will manage the property for day-use river access and to conserve the wet-meadows, montane grassland and mixed conifer forests on the parcel—key habitats that connect to the adjacent Weminuche Wilderness Area.

Our efforts on this stretch of the Rio Grande were funded in part by the San Luis Valley Conservation Fund, which was created in 2015 by WRC, the LOR Foundation, Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust and Colorado Open Lands. The fund is a collaborative effort to bolster local conservation efforts in the San Luis Valley and to preserve the region’s rich cultural heritage, all while enhancing livability for valley communities. By placing the land in public hands, we are forwarding this greater vision to reconnect people to the Rio Grande, while supporting the fish and wildlife of the San Luis Valley.


Chehalis River, WA

Tidal Preserve Three Decades in the Making As the Chehalis River meanders toward Grays Harbor, the river encounters a surge of salty ocean water pushing inland in with the tides. The mingling of flows—fresh and salt, river and tidal—creates a lush, species-rich wetland known as the Chehalis River Surge Plain. The largest and healthiest such ecosystem in Washington, the surge plain was protected in part in 1989 when the state established a preserve over much of the area. Since then, the state has longed to protect the rest. After nearly three decades, that vision was finally realized when Western Rivers Conservancy joined Weyerhaeuser to conserve 1,469 acres in the heart of the surge plain by transferring the land to the Washington Department of Natural Resources. The project completed the original masterplan that was envisioned for the Chehalis River Surge Plain Natural Area Preserve. The Chehalis River drains a vast area of western Washington, including the

Olympic Mountains, Coast Range and Cascade foothills, forming the largest river basin in the state after the Columbia. These abundant water sources all converge in the surge plain, where tidal sloughs branch into a myriad of secluded, winding channels, ideal for fish and wildlife and perfect for exploring with a kayak or canoe. Water-loving plants blanket the spongy earth in every shade of green. Overhead, tall Sitka spruce and western red cedar shelter the quiet waters, creating an ideal haven for young salmon, including spring and fall Chinook, coho and chum, as well as steelhead, Olympic mud minnow, otter and beaver. The preserve provides a series of water trails and hiking trails, where visitors can encounter bald eagle, osprey and many other birds and wildlife. Now that the preserve is complete, the state will ensure that this rare ecosystem remains a refuge for fish and wildlife and a peaceful retreat for nature-lovers from near and far.

In 2018, WRC successfully completed a preserve at the mouth of the Chehalis River, ensuring the largest and highest quality tidal surgeplain wetland in Washington is protected in its entirety. On the Chehalis River, children play on a giant Sitka spruce protected within the reserve that WRC helped complete.

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People depend on healthy streams as much as fish and wildlife do. WRC’s efforts to conserve the great rivers of the West help guarantee functioning rivers for all, whether as sources of clean water for communities, healthy habitat wherever we live, or as places to connect with the great outdoors.

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Report from the Field

South Fork Salmon River, ID

Securing Rare River Access at the Edge of a Great Wilderness On Idaho’s South Fork Salmon River, WRC has committed to buying a 234-acre ranch to improve public access to a vast wilderness area and one of the West’s great backcountry rivers. Above, a rafter navigates the South Fork Salmon River’s technical white water, upstream of the property WRC is working to conserve.

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Western Rivers Conservancy launched an effort to permanently conserve the 234-acre South Fork Wilderness Ranch, a rare parcel of private land along Idaho’s spectacular South Fork Salmon River. In doing so, we will create unprecedented new access to more than 10,000 acres of remote public lands that surround the ranch. The South Fork Salmon is an 86-mile tributary to the Salmon River and is every bit as beautiful as the better-known Main and Middle Fork Salmon rivers. Yet it is exceedingly more remote, accessible by only a handful of steep, rugged dirt roads into the river canyon. One of these roads accesses the South Fork Wilderness Ranch. Our goal is to partner with the Payette National Forest and Idaho Fish and Game to establish public access at the ranch and maximize protection of the area’s extraordinary fish and wildlife habitat. The South Fork Salmon River is surrounded on all sides by the Payette National Forest

and Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness. This is one of the most remote backcountry areas in the Lower 48, home to elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, mountain lion, black bear, gray wolf and more than 200 species of birds. It is one of the few rivers left in the Columbia Basin with reasonably intact populations of native fish, including bull trout, spring Chinook, summer steelhead and westslope cutthroat trout. The South Fork Salmon is also one of the country’s premier white water wilderness rivers, though access is extremely limited. WRC’s efforts will create new access that will be especially prized by boaters and hunters and will improve management access for the forest service. Once we successfully conserve the ranch, Idaho will be that much richer in outdoor opportunities, and one of the West’s last truly wild rivers will be one step closer to being protected in its entirety.


Rio de Los Pinos, CO

Stretch of a Rocky Mountain Trout Stream Protected and Open One of the unsung trout streams in Colorado, the Rio de Los Pinos tumbles from alpine lakes high in the San Juan Mountains and descends for 40 miles, eventually feeding tributaries to the Rio Grande in the San Luis Valley. Near Cumbres Pass, the Los Pinos enters a small, perched valley, where it slows to a broad meander, lined by verdant meadows and forests of spruce and fir. An 1880s-era narrow-gauge train—the historic Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad— carries sight-seers along the river against a backdrop of green mountaintops and rolling meadowlands. Beneath this alpine scenery, the valley draws dedicated anglers to some excellent wild trout fishing. Until recently, however, public access on the Los Pinos was limited. That changed between 2017 and 2018, when Western Rivers Conservancy acquired two adjacent properties totaling 628 acres along some of the most accessible, easily fished reaches of the Los Pinos. We transferred both

parcels to the Rio Grande National Forest, creating outstanding new fishing access and protecting a mile of the Los Pinos in the process. The Rio de Los Pinos has healthy populations of rainbow and brown trout, and its excellent cold-water habitat offers hope that imperiled Rio Grande cutthroat trout may one day be reintroduced to the stream. The project conserves high-quality habitat for Rocky Mountain elk, black bear, mule deer, mountain lion and migratory waterfowl, which all rely on the property’s wetlands and other natural features. The families who owned the properties have deep ties to the San Luis Valley and wished to see their land permanently conserved as open space for future generations. Their partnership with Western Rivers Conservancy brought that vision to life, ensuring this special spot is forever protected and open to all.

Western Rivers Conservancy secured public access to a trout-fishing gem when we conveyed 260 acres along the Rio Grande to the U.S. Forest Service, completing a 628acre project we began several years ago. Above, Indian paintbrush blooms along Colorado’s Rio de Los Pinos, where Western Rivers Conservancy preserved two properties.

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Report from the Field

Cottonwood Canyon, John Day River, OR

Crucial Parcel Added to Cottonwood Canyon State Park In 2019, WRC added a key property to Oregon’s Cottonwood Canyon State Park (which we created in 2013), setting the stage for improved boater access and protecting another stretch of the John Day River. A runner finds winter solitude in Cottonwood Canyon State Park, which WRC created in 2013 in partnership with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

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In 2019, Western Rivers Conservancy made a small but critically important addition to Cottonwood Canyon State Park, on Oregon’s Wild and Scenic John Day River. We purchased a 117-acre property and transferred it to Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, significantly improving the agency’s ability to manage a remote boating access site roughly 10 miles downstream of the park’s main entrance. Cottonwood Canyon is Oregon’s second largest state park, a former ranch that WRC bought and conveyed to the state to establish the park, protect 16 miles of the John Day, and create some of the only public access along the lower river. The park is set at the northern end of the John Day Wild and Scenic River corridor and is a direct continuation of four BLM-managed Wilderness Study Areas that extend nearly unbroken for over 60 miles up the river canyon. It is one of Oregon’s wildest state parks, set in the heart

of sagebrush country with dramatic basalt canyon walls and impressively diverse wildlife. Hikers, anglers, hunters, boaters, mountain bikers, backpackers, biologists, birders, campers, students and educators from near and far use the park year-round. WRC created Cottonwood Canyon State Park in partnership with OPRD in 2013, and has long sought to add this second property to improve management at the downstream end. Now that the property is in state hands, the stage is set for OPRD to enhance a crucial boating access site that anglers, hunters and paddlers rely on for trips down the John Day. Our efforts will also provide park managers an important presence in this remote area of the state park.


Mojave River, CA

Jewel of the Mojave Desert Now Forever Conserved You might not call it a river, that ribbon of dry sand that winds from Southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains to the interior of the Mojave Desert, 100 miles east. Yet a river it is. Below the surface, the Mojave River is alive and flowing, the only source of water for the western Mojave Desert and the many plants and creatures that live there. Unwilling to remain underground for its entire course, the Mojave River rises from the sand just south of Helendale, pushed to the surface by the sloping bedrock below. Then, for 15 life-giving miles, the river flows on the surface, nourishing some of the best stands of riparian forest in the Mojave Desert. The reliable water and shade attract a crowd of creatures—songbirds and tortoises, butterflies and voles—to a true oasis. At the heart of this stretch, known as the Transition Zone, Western Rivers Conservancy protected 3.5 miles of the Mojave River and more than 800 acres of cottonwood and black willow trees—true rarities in a setting like the Mojave. The property we conserved

was the 1,647-acre Palisades Ranch, which was once slated for a golf course and up to 1,300 homes. Brimming with life, Palisades Ranch supports 39 federally and state-listed wildlife species, including songbirds like least Bell’s vireo and southwestern willow flycatcher, both endangered, as well as threatened yellow-billed cuckoo. Protection of the ranch may also prove critical to the survival of endangered Mojave tui chub, an endemic fish that once thrived in the river, as well as threatened desert tortoise and endangered arroyo toad. In fall 2018, WRC conveyed the Palisades Ranch to the Mojave Desert Land Trust with funding from the California Wildlife Conservation Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The land trust will now manage the property to permanently protect its diverse plants and wildlife, safeguarding some of the richest habitat in the entire Mojave Desert.

WRC successfully protected the 1,647acre Palisades Ranch by transferring it to Mojave Desert Land Trust, permanently safeguarding 3.5 miles of a rare, perennial stretch of the Mojave River. The desert tortoise is one of numerous imperiled species that will benefit from WRC’s conservation of the Palisades Ranch.

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Report from the Field

Conejos River & the Rio Grande, CO

Preserving a Haven for Birds on the Conejos and Rio Grande At the confluence of the Conejos River and the Rio Grande, WRC forever conserved a haven for San Luis Valley birds and other wildlife, and created new public access to the Rio Grande. The Olguin Ranch in Colorado provides outstanding habitat for birds at the confluence of the Rio Grande and Conejos River.

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Along with superb natural habitat and diverse birdlife, the San Luis Valley sustains a proud heritage of small family farms and working ranches. Few spots in the valley illustrate this blend better than the pocket of land at the confluence of the valley’s two largest rivers, the Rio Grande and Conejos. Here, WRC has successfully protected a large block of prime fish and wildlife habitat on a long-time family ranch, ensuring the future of both. In 2016, we acquired the 1,168-acre Olguin Ranch, located directly across the Rio Grande from the new San Luis Hills State Wildlife Area that WRC was then working to create (see p6). The Olguin Ranch provided the opportunity to expand this vast new block of open space while creating much-needed public access to the western bank of the Rio Grande. In summer 2018, we successfully placed a conservation easement on the ranch in partnership with the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust, ensuring permanent river access and protection of the parcel’s superb bird habitat. The easement also keeps the Olguin Ranch in

production, maintaining its link to this unique Colorado landscape of open country and small-scale community agriculture. Vital ground for numerous bird species, the ranch is a refuge for endangered southwestern willow flycatcher and threatened yellow-billed cuckoo, as well as bald eagle, ferruginous hawk and sandhill crane. It is also home to northern leopard frog and river otter, and provides important range for Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer and pronghorn. Thanks to funding from Great Outdoors Colorado and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the conservation easement protects a haven for songbirds, waterfowl and other wildlife. Our efforts also allowed the USFWS to establish the San Luis Valley Conservation Area, the 567th unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System. We are proud to have worked beside our partners and the community to protect a working ranch, its habitat and a great stretch of river—the very combination that makes the San Luis Valley so extraordinary.


Gunnison River, CO

Expanding a National Conservation Area in Colorado The Gunnison River is one of the great geologic sculptors of the Colorado Plateau, carving the vast depths of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and, along the river’s lower reaches, exposing the ancient sandstone layers of the Uncompahgre Plateau. Before meeting the Colorado River, the Lower Gunnison flows for 30 miles through the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, which is home to desert bighorn sheep and diverse wildlife, as well as ancient rock art, prehistoric trails and fabulous boating. This is also one of the few places where all four species of Colorado basin native warm-water fish still survive. Despite the existence of the national conservation area, 16 miles of the lower Gunnison River remained unprotected

WRC is conserving unprotected stretches of the Gunnison River within the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area.

inside the area’s boundaries. Since 2008, WRC has been working to fill this gap, and we have since acquired and permanently preserved nearly 800 acres within the conservation area. We continue our efforts to convey an additional 180 acres of river frontage to the BLM for inclusion in the conservation area. All told, our efforts will preserve nine miles of the lower Gunnison with all of its tremendous biological, historical and recreational values.

Little Cimarron, CO

Restoring Flows to a Top-Notch Colorado Trout Stream

WRC is working to return seasonally needed flows to a reach of the Little Cimarron River that typically runs dry in summer due to water withdraws.

Western Rivers Conservancy continues its effort to re-water Colorado’s Little Cimarron River, a gem of a trout stream that eventually feeds into the Gunnison River. Below its headwaters in the Uncompahgre Wilderness, the upper reaches of the Little Cimarron have all the traits of a first-rate wild trout stream. Yet downstream, irrigation ditches regularly draw water for crops, and parts of the stream run only intermittently. In 2012, WRC bought a farm with senior water rights in just the right spot, allowing us to ensure the stream flows uninterrupted all year long. We transferred the water rights to the Colorado Water Trust in 2014 and are working to establish the state’s first water-sharing agreement between farmers and conservationists. The groundbreaking agreement seeks to implement a shared season that keeps water on the farm while prioritizing flows in the Little Cimarron when it runs low. If successful, the stream will flow uninterrupted all year, water temperatures will drop, and trout will move freely between the upper and lower river year-round. What’s more, the project has the potential to serve as a model for addressing similar water challenges across the West. westernrivers.org

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Looking Ahead Panther Creek, ID

New Effort on a Crucial Tributary to the Main Salmon River In central Idaho, at the heart of the Salmon-Challis National Forest, Western Rivers Conservancy is working to protect a mile of Panther Creek to lay the groundwork for restoring a stretch of high-priority salmon habitat on a stream that is recovering from decades of mining.

Panther Creek is part of the Idaho Birding Trail, which traces the best birding area’s in the state— a testament to the outstanding habitat that WRC is working to protect.

Hood River, OR

Game-Changing Effort to Protect the Hood for Fish and Wildlife WRC’s work on Oregon’s West Fork Hood River is part of our larger effort to protect habitat for fish and wildlife on one of the Columbia Gorge’s most important river systems.

Building on our successful conservation of Punchbowl Falls, WRC is working to save a vital salmon stream by protecting 19,000 acres along the West Fork and Middle Fork Hood rivers, at the edge of the rapidly developing community of Hood River.

Nisqually River, WA

Saving Salmon and Wildlife Habitat Along a Beloved Northwest River In early 2020, WRC began an effort to protect an outstanding property along a mile of the lower Nisqually River, one of the Puget Sound’s healthiest, most intact rivers and a high priority for salmon and steelhead recovery.

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The Nisqually River system is home to 10 native salmon and trout species: fall Chinook, coho, sockeye, chum and pink salmon, winter and summer steelhead, and coastal cut throat, resident rainbow and bull trout.


San Luis Valley Conservation Initiative Completed! In 2019, Western Rivers Conservancy wrapped up a four-year conservation initiative in Colorado’s San Luis Valley in partnership with the LOR Foundation, Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust and Colorado Open Lands. Our goal was to preserve outstanding habitat and create public access along the Rio Grande and its tributaries. With the support of numerous other local, state and national partners, we conserved nearly 20,000 acres along the Rio Grande, Conejos River and the Rio de Los Pinos. We created the 17,000-acre San Luis Hills State Wildlife Area, opened multiple new river access sites, created the Alamosa Riparian Park and helped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established the 2.5 million-acre San Luis Valley Conservation Area. With funding from LOR, we also awarded grants to 31 local organizations that are working to enhance conservation, recreation and livability in the San Luis Valley. westernrivers.org

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Report from the Field Board of Directors Robert Anderson,

FY18 CHAIR

Liam Thornton

CORRALES, NM

HERMOSA BEACH, CA

Tim Wood,

Bruce Williams

FY19 CHAIR LAKE OSWEGO, OR

Bill Brown,

PHOENIX, AZ

VICE CHAIR

SEATTLE, WA

Henry Little,

DIRECTOR EMERITUS

SAN FRANCISCO, CA

Eric Adema

Cleve Pinnix,

SAN FRANCISCO, CA

DIRECTOR EMERITUS

OLYMPIA, WA

Ken Grossman

Phillip Wallin,

CHICO, CA

DIRECTOR EMERITUS

PORTLAND, OR

Betsy Jewett

Jack Williams,

SPOKANE, WA

DIRECTOR EMERITUS

MEDFORD, OR

Lynn Loacker PORTLAND, OR

Carter MacNichol

Bay Area Advisory Committee

PORTLAND, OR

Nan McKay

Eric Adema Tom Counts Allen Damon Kyle Dowman Rich Hasslacher Henry Little Steve O’Brien Zach Patton George Revel

SEATTLE, WA

Peter Moyle DAVIS, CA

Jon Roush PORTLAND, OR

Darcy Saiget CORDOVA, AK

Jim Smith DENVER, CO

Sue Doroff,

Mik McKee,

PRESIDENT

Nelson Mathews,

VICE PRESIDENT

Alexander Barton,

STAFF

Ellen Bernstein, Peter Colby, Jim Cox,

INDIVIDUAL GIVING & OPERATIONS MANAGER

CALIFORNIA PROGRAM DIRECTOR

DIRECTOR OF DONOR RELATIONS

Danny Palmerlee,

COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST

Sara Sandford,

CORPORATE COUNSEL

Zach Spector,

PROJECT OPERATIONS DIRECTOR

Anne Tattam,

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF FOUNDATION RELATIONS

INTERIOR WEST PROGRAM DIRECTOR

Everett White,

Shaun Hamilton,

PROJECT MANAGER

Heidi Wilcox,

Josh Kling,

DIRECTOR OF FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION

CONSERVATION DIRECTOR

Report from the Field

COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR

Rachel Roscoe,

Dieter Erdmann,

Juliette Harding,

46

FIELD REPRESENTATIVE

STEWARDSHIP DIRECTOR

PROJECT MANAGER

DIRECTOR OF FOUNDATION & CORPORATE RELATIONS

Willis Yarberry, D IRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS & SPECIAL PROJECTS


Program Partners Alamosa County, Colorado American Whitewater Arizona Game and Fish Department Big Sur Land Trust Bonneville Power Administration Bureau of Land Management CAL FIRE California Coastal Conservancy California Council of Land Trusts California Department of Fish and Wildlife California Natural Resources Agency California Rangeland Trust California Trout California State Water Resource Control Board California Wildlife Conservation Board Chelan County, Washington Chelan-Douglas Land Trust Chico State University City of Alamosa Clackamas County, Oregon Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts Columbia Basin Water Transactions Program Columbia Land Trust Colorado Parks and Wildlife Colorado Open Lands Colorado Water Trust The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Costilla County, Colorado Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians Douglas County, Oregon ecoPartners Esselen Tribe of Monterey County Fall River Resource Conservation District Foster Garvey Gilliam County, Oregon Gilliam County Soil and Water Conservation District Gilliam County Weedmaster Green Diamond Resource Company Great Outdoors Colorado Gualala River Watershed Council Hancock Timber Resource Group Heart of the Rockies Initiative Hoh River Trust Hood River County, Oregon Hood River Valley Residents Committee Hood River Watershed Group Humboldt County Resource Conservation District Idaho Coalition of Land Trusts Idaho Department of Fish and Game Idaho Department of Water Resources Idaho Rivers United Idaho Water Resources Board The Klamath Tribes Land Trust Alliance Law of the Rockies LOR Foundation Lost Coast Outfitters Mesa Land Trust

Mojave Desert Land Trust Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks National Fish and Wildlife Foundation National Park Service National Wildlife Refuge Association Natural Resource Conservation Service Nevada Department of Wildlife The Nez Perce Tribe Nisqually Land Trust NOAA Fisheries North Central Washington Audubon Society North Santiam Watershed Council Northern California Regional Land Trust Opportunity Fund Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Oregon Department of Forestry Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Oregon State Weed Board Oregon Water Resources Board Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board Oregon Youth Conservation Corps PacifiCorp The David and Lucile Packard Foundation Pacific Northwest Trail Association Payette Land Trust Portland General Electric Resources Law Group Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust Rio Grande Natural Area Commission Rio Grande Water Conservation District Sandy River Basin Partners Sandy River Basin Watershed Council The Sawtooth Society Scott River Watershed Council Scott River Water Trust Sherman County Soil and Water Conservation District Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Sierra Pacific Industries Siskiyou Field Institute [NEW FROM JOSH] Siskiyou Land Trust Siskiyou Resource Conservation District Smith River Alliance Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District South Coast Watersheds Council Stoel Rives Steamboaters Trout Unlimited U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service U.S. Forest Service U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service Umpqua Watersheds Washington Association of Land Trusts Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Washington Department of Natural Resources Washington Recreation and Conservation Office Weyerhaeuser Wild Salmon Center Wild Sheep Foundation Yakama Nation Yampa River System Legacy Partnership Yurok Tribe

For Western Rivers Conservancy’s updated financial statements, please visit westernrivers.org/financials westernrivers.org

47


PHOTOS: p4 Tom and Pat Leeson; p5 Ellen Bishop; p6/7 Doug Steakley; p8 Russ Schnitzer; p9 Rozanne Hakala; p10 Native Trout Addicts; p11 Zach Spector; p12/13 Pat Clayton/Engbretson Underwater Photography; p14 Doug Hutchinson; p15 Kirk Anderson; p16/17 Tom and Pat Leeson; p18/19 Kirk Anderson; p20 Gerald and Buff Corsi, California Academy of Sciences; p21 Jason Hartwick; p22/23 Val Atkinson; p24 Handsel Reid; p25, 26/27 Tom and Pat Leeson; p28 Andy Best; p29 ODFW (top), Design Pics Inc/Alamy Stock Photo (bottom); p30 Christi Bode; p31 John Marshall; p32 Tyler Roemer; p33 Danny Palmerlee; p34 Russ Schnitzer; p35 Nick Hall; p 36/37 Tyler Roemer; p38 Pete Wallstrom; p39 Russ Schnitzer; p40 Sage Brown; p41 Krista Schlyer; p42 Russ Schnitzer; p43 Richard Durnan (top), Russ Schnitzer (bottom); p44 Rick and Nora Bowers/ Alamy Stock Photo (top), Tyler Roemer (middle), Design Pics Inc/Alamy Stock Photo (bottom); p45 Christi Bode; p46/47 Val Atkinson; Back Cover: Ellen Bishop.

MAIN OFFICE

CALIFORNIA OFFICE

COLORADO OFFICE

WASHINGTON OFFICE

71 SW Oak Street, Suite 100 Portland, OR 97204 (503) 241-0151

575 Market Street, 4th Floor San Francisco, CA 94105 (415) 767-2001

1228 15th Street Suite 409 Denver, CO 80202 (303) 645-4953

606 Columbia Street NW, Suite 104 Olympia, WA 98501 (360) 528-2012

westernrivers.org Report from the Field

Profile for Western Rivers Conservancy

Report from the Field - Updated  

Report from the Field - Updated  

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