Changing the Story in the Deschutes River – A Letter From DRC Executive Director, Tod Heisler

A confluence of forces in our basin today is shaping a bright future for our beloved Deschutes River.

To me, the river is not only a fabulous recreational attraction but a spring-fed ecological marvel. Since arriving at the DRC thirteen years ago, I have worked to find a way that we can make a significant difference for one of our national treasures.

But how could we get farmers and fishermen to work together in such an increasingly partisan world? And how to precipitate change big enough to fix the river?
Today, I am very encouraged by the new conversations I hear and actions being taken. When I talk to farmers, I hear something different. They tell me how important the river is to them, that the decline of the river over the years is regrettable, and they are committed to bringing it back.

An irrigation district manager recently told me that managing water in his district is not exclusively about water deliveries to their patrons, but also about serving the whole community — including the river.

Several fishermen I know and others in the environmental community are talking about the importance of district modernization — helping farmers so that they can help the river.

Why is all this happening now? Why am I so hopeful? Because when incentives are properly aligned, great things can happen. Many things have transpired which have our community poised for big positive changes as never before.

The threat of litigation incentivized the completion of a long-term habitat conservation plan. The enormous collaborative problem-solving of the Basin Study Work Group coincides with potential funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to invest in solutions.

So fasten your seat belt, we are about to change the story of the Deschutes Basin. As we continue pressing forward on restoring flows in the Upper Deschutes, protecting Whychus Creek, and as we embark upon a long-awaited project on McKay Creek, you can trust our collaborative board of diverse and committed stakeholders to all be at the table speaking for the river. Join us as we change the story!