December 28, 2010 - Sisters Nugget - Preserve will help create steelhead stronghold
Jan 12, 2011
Preserve will help create steelhead stronghold12/28/10
Sisters Nugget | Jim Cornelius
Some 450 acres along Whychus Creek northeast of Sisters will be preserved as prime habitat for steelhead reintroduction.
The Deschutes Land Trust (DLT) has completed a complicated transaction with the landowner and numerous other parties to secure the Whychus Canyon Preserve, which lies along the creek between DLT's Camp Polk Meadow Preserve and the Rimrock Ranch Conservation Easement.
DLT raised more than $2.8 million of the $2.9 million purchase price from sources such as the James H. Stanard Foundation, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and individual donors. The trust is still awaiting the final $20,000 or so to complete the transaction.
"We've closed the deal," said DLT Executive Director Brad Chalfant. "We're still waiting for a handful of donations to come in... so I think we're there."
Chalfant described the preserve as a gift to the Sisters community during remarks last November at Sisters' annual tree lighting ceremony. He believes the preserve will have a significant ecological, cultural, and economic impact on Sisters Country.
"It's huge in terms of the historic reintroduction of steelhead," he said. "Whychus is the promised land for steelhead."
In addition to the purely ecological benefits of restoring steelhead runs and preserving critical wildlife corridors, DLT's acquisition creates an opportunity to create new trail networks to serve the Sisters Country.
Hiking and exploration opportunities - along with a steelhead fishery of national significance - are important economic drivers, Chalfant noted. Tourists are drawn to the area by such opportunities, and business owners who value outdoor recreation and conservation are motivated to locate in the region.
"It's clearly an engine for the local economy," he said.
Fundraising will continue after the final $20,000 is secured.
"We need to raise additional funds beyond that in order to do some restoration and to build trails and for staff to work on the next acquisition," Chalfant said. "We want to do a lot on Whychus."
For information on DLT projects, visit http://www.deschuteslandtrust.org.