Editorial: Unite to preserve watershed

July 12, 2012
Editorial: Unite to preserve watershed

By Cynthia Murray

When I read the recent news that adult salmon are returning to the Upper Deschutes Watershed for the first time in over 40 years, I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of those amazing fish coming home from their long journey to the ocean.

My husband and I live near the banks of the Middle Deschutes and have often yearned for the day when we could see steelhead once again leaping into the air at Steelhead Falls.

While the return of salmon and steelhead is a joyous occasion for our community, it is also important that these native fish have a healthy and vibrant home to return to.

I applaud the many groups — including the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Deschutes River Conservancy, Portland General Electric and the Deschutes Land Trust — who have already made great strides in restoring key spawning habitat.

I am the president of a new group, the Friends and Neighbors of the Deschutes Canyon Area, which consists of local residents who also hope to contribute to the preservation and restoration of the Lower Whychus Creek, the Middle Deschutes and the Lower Crooked River.

The FANs of the Deschutes Canyon Area were brought together by our shared love of the wild landscape in our backyards — a place of rugged canyons, cool oases of freshwater springs and vast plains of sagebrush with panoramic Cascade views. This landscape also happens to be the childhood home and future spawning grounds of the native steelhead and salmon now making their way through the Pelton-Round Butte Dam complex.

Many of us live right next door to the public land through which the Deschutes and Crooked rivers flow; we have seen firsthand both the value these landscapes provide to our community and the abuse and neglect some areas have suffered. In cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management and Crooked River National Grassland, we will work to preserve and restore our public lands through stewardship, education and outreach.

As an all-volunteer organization, the FANs of the Deschutes Canyon Area will depend on others who love Whychus Creek and the Crooked and Deschutes Rivers to get involved with our efforts.

There is plenty of work for FANs of all ages and abilities to help out with — we’ll be tackling everything from trail maintenance and weed pulling to educational hikes and presentations. Many Central Oregonians enjoy visiting places like Alder Springs, Steelhead Falls and the Peninsula; it is our collective responsibility to help take care of the landscape.

I encourage readers to find out more about the FANs by visiting our website: www.fansofdeschutes.org. Our monthly hikes are also a great time to come meet some of the FANs and get involved with our activities. Call 541-771-FANS or email fansofdeschutes@gmail.com to sign up.

As Janet Stevens pointed out in her column “Fish, hydro power, giving are all part of community,” we have made a huge investment in bringing fish back to their historical home in our watershed. What many do not realize is that the public section of Lower Whychus Creek, historically our region’s most productive steelhead stream, lacks permanent protection from development and other changes that could dramatically alter the character of the landscape. This is one of many issues that the FANs hope to work with the community to address in the coming years.

The celebrated return of salmon and steelhead to the Upper Deschutes Watershed required no small amount of problem-solving and creative collaboration. Seeing the success of this effort gives me hope that we can work together to permanently preserve this landscape, not just for future generations of salmon and steelhead, but for our grandchildren as well.

— Cynthia Murray lives in Terrebonne.

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An aerial view of a body of water.