The Deschutes Land Trust, based in Bend, has purchased for protection the 450 acre Whychus Canyon Preserve northeast of Sisters.
The preserve includes a rugged rimrock canyon, native grasslands, and two miles of salmon and steelhead habitat on Whychus Creek.
“It’s a spectacular wildlife property and offers great opportunities for hiking, fishing, birding, and education,” said Win Francis, co-chair of the Land Trust’s Whychus Canyon Preserve Committee. “More importantly, this project links prior conservation projects along the creek and sets the stage for the additional land protection work that will establish the Whychus Creek steelhead stronghold.”
The Land Trust’s goal was to raise $2.9 million before they exercised their option to purchase the property, which was set to expire on December 31. As of last week, they felt they were close enough to the fundraising target that moving forward with the purchase made sense.
“We’re grateful to all the people that have stepped up to contribute to the Whychus Canyon Preserve in such a short period of time,” said Francis. “This property and this section of creek are dazzling natural areas that deserve permanent protection. The first step of buying the land is complete and now the fun work of restoration and enhancement can begin.”
The largest contribution to the project came from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, which distributes a portion of Oregon Lottery proceeds to projects that protect and restore important wildlife habitat. Contributions from the Pelton-Round Butte Mitigation Fund, Portland General Electric, The Nature Conservancy, and a host of individuals and charitable foundations demonstrate broad support for the Land Trust’s Whychus Creek program throughout Oregon and beyond.
Francis noted that “Oregon’s fishing community in particular really stepped up and that support will be critical going forward. The Land Trust is continuing its land protection work in key locations on Whychus Creek and in the Metolius and Crooked rivers – the areas that will provide the foundation for rebuilding wild runs of salmon and steelhead in the upper Deschutes. These efforts will ultimately mean a healthier, more natural, and more complete river system and more wild fish in the Deschutes, which is important to those of us who enjoy steelhead fishing and spending time on Central Oregon’s favorite river.”
The Land Trust is developing plans for enhancement of the property’s fish and wildlife habitat, and will open the preserve to the public once they’ve completed a plan for public use. Francis noted that “while we did identify a portion of the $2.9 million goal for the most immediate and basic restoration and public use requirements, additional habitat enhancement work, trail construction, and other efforts will require additional funding, which is why we’re continuing our effort to raise money for the project. The sooner additional funds are available, the faster the enhancement process.”
The Deschutes Land Trust conserves land for wildlife, scenic views, and local communities. For more information go to www.deschuteslandtrust.org