Who We Are

Learn About Our Mission to Preserve Deschutes Rivers

A bunch of rocks that are in the water.
Mission & Vision

Restoring Water, Preserving Life

Acknowledging Native Lands
We honor the native people who have called this region home for thousands of years.

We join them in stewardship of our rivers for the next seven generations.

Our Mission
The Deschutes River Conservancy is dedicated to restoring streamflow and improving water quality in the Deschutes River Basin.

How We Work
Founded in 1996 as a collaborative, multi-stakeholder organization, the DRC's Board of Directors makes decisions by consensus and comprises key public and private interests including farming, ranching, timber, development, hydro-power, recreation, tribes, and environment.

Our Commitment
The staff and board of the Deschutes River Conservancy embrace the values of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. A healthy environment and healthy inclusive communities are deeply interconnected — we cannot have one without the other.​​


Local governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have executed and are implementing a regional water management agreement that balances water for irrigators, municipalities and rivers

Stream flows are well on their way to meeting targets

Instream, riparian, and floodplain habitat enhancements are in full scale implementation, enabled by and complementing flow restoration

Trust among basin stakeholders is high. The DRC Board is respected and highly functional

Citizens are knowledgeable of and are champions of the DRC’s flow restoration strategies.


Open. Value and seek out diverse perspectives.

Consensus-based. Work to overcome differences and make consensus decisions.

Collaborative. Deploy cooperative, non-regulatory approaches. Committed to helping all parties achieve their respective goals.

Innovative. Proactively seek new approaches for solving old problems.

Non-litigious. Do not engage in litigation.

Adaptive. Adapts and refines goals and strategies based on evolving information and opportunities.

Partnership-based. Leverage partners’ strengths to complement flow restoration with the physical habitat restoration and land conservation necessary to achieve watershed-scale outcomes.

Equitable. We live the values of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Learn about the past, present, and future of our local rivers and streams

The Deschutes Basin Prior to the Treaty Between the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the US Government

​The Upper Deschutes River Basin has been home to Indigenous people for thousands of years. Original inhabitants including the Wasco, Warm Springs, and Paiute Tribes, all relied on the waters of the Deschutes and its tributaries for food, water and travel. Today these tribes are represented by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs of Oregon. The map on the right shows the location of the reservation as well as the Tribes’ ceded lands where Tribal members retained the right to hunt and fish for traditional foods, according to the Treaty of 1855. In addition, the treaty also ensures tribal members’ rights to gather traditional foods in usual and accustomed locations on 10 million acres throughout the greater Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California regions.

For the region’s indigenous communities who have lived on these lands since time immemorial, the relationship to water goes far deeper than the idea of using it as a resource. Water is an integral part of Tribal traditions, culture, spirituality and identity. Rivers are part of inter-dependent natural systems for which the Tribes act as stewards reaching forward in time for seven generations.

A map of the united states showing the location of Ceded lands and water.
Westward Expansion and the Homestead Act

In a speech in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln told the nation that it was the purpose of the government to "elevate the condition of men, to lift artificial burdens from all shoulders, and to give everyone an unfettered chance in the race of life." The Homestead Act passed in 1862 was aimed at making good on this promise. Considered by historians as one of the country's most important pieces of legislation, the Homestead Act led to Western resettlement and gave opportunities for land ownership to ​immigrants willing to homestead - including formerly enslaved people, women, and immigrants. What the US Government considered "empty land" was the ancestral land of vast populations of Indigenous peoples, who were forcibly -- often violently -- removed from their homes and sent to designated reservations. As a result of the Homestead Act, 270 million acres in the West were "claimed" and newly resettled. Along with this resettlement, almost all the surface waters of the state were distributed to homesteaders to use on those resettled lands for irrigation purposes, leaving little-to-no water instream to support healthy rivers or the species and communities that depended on them.

A couple of men that are standing on a log.
Flow Restoration and Leadership in the Basin

In 1987, Oregon's legislature passed the Instream Water Rights Act, officially recognizing water left in-stream to be a "beneficial use" of water. This legislative change meant that the water needs of the river and fish could be considered alongside those of farmers, cities, and industry. Leaders came forth in the Deschutes Basin to spearhead a vision of a consensus-based, collaborative model with water equity in mind. Bob Main, previous Oregon Water Resources Department Water-master for the Deschutes Basin, came together with Warm Springs Tribal members Bobby Brunoe, Jim Manion and Jody Calica (represented by Jim Noteboom ​of Karnopp Petersen LLP) to create a cooperative organization that would focus on the aforementioned goals as well as undertake long-term water management planning for the basin. In 1992, Bob Main initiated the group's first project: leaving 2.5 cubic feet per second (CFS) of water in Tumalo Creek, which was previously diverted for irrigation. This was accomplished through negotiations between the fledgling organization's founding members and senior water right's holders, in order to preserve instream water quality and river function. This was the first success of many for what later became known as the Deschutes River Conservancy.

A group of men standing next to each other.

Founding members of the Deschutes River Conservancy. From left to right: Ron Nelson (Central Oregon Irrigation District), Zach Willey (Environmental Defense Fund), Jim Noteboom (Karnopp Petersen LLP), and Jim Manion (Confederated Tribes of the Warms Springs Reservation).

​The Formation of the Deschutes River Conservancy

The Deschutes River Conservancy was formed in 1992 as the Deschutes Basin Working Group by the collaborative efforts of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Environmental Defense Fund and local irrigation districts. The organization was initiated by Deschutes Basin leaders who sought to protect the river with a wholistic, systems-based approach, and long-term goals. They sought support from local irrigators who agreed to restoring stream flows and improving water quality in the entire Deschutes Basin. In March 1996, then Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield introduced a bill authorizing federal agencies to work with the Deschutes Basin Working Group, recognized as the Deschutes River Conservancy as of 2005. The same bill that changed DRC's name also established the consensus-based approach for the DRC's board of directors and the ability for the organization to use a market-based and voluntary approaches to river restoration. Today, the Deschutes River Conservancy has restored significant flows to the Deschutes River Basin with the combined support of local irrigation districts, as well as local, state, and federal agencies.

Meet the Team

Meet our staff and learn about who they are and what they do.

Board of Directors

15 diverse stakeholders, all with a vested interest in Central Oregon rivers.