Land Trust expands Whychus Canyon Preserve

The Bend Bulletin reports on the addition of 480 acres to Whychus Canyon Preserve, and the launch of the Campaign for Whychus Creek.
By Dylan Darling
The Bend Bulletin

The Deschutes Land Trust has more than doubled the size of Whychus Canyon Preserve near Sisters and is now looking for financial help to further expand its holdings along Whychus Creek.

Over the next three years, the Bend-based nonprofit conservation group aims to raise $11 million, with $3.5 million coming from private donors and $7.5 million coming from state and federal agencies, Brad Chalfant, executive director of the land trust, said Tuesday. The land trust would use much of the money to buy more land around the creek, primarily undeveloped meadows.

“We are in discussions with land owners right now,” he said.

In early September, the Deschutes Land Trust bought 480 acres of land along Whychus Creek for about $4 million, Chalfant said. The land had been owned by Ron Remund of Sisters.

The land trust already owned 450 acres upstream, which it purchased at the end of 2010, so now the Whychus Canyon Preserve has 930 acres in all. And the trust has a conservation easement for the 1,100-acre Rimrock Ranch, the property downstream from the new addition. A conservation easement prevents development on a property.

Securing the string of properties means the land trust has now protected a 6-mile stretch of Whychus Creek and has plans to restore it, Chalfant said. The recent purchase covers 2 miles of the creek.

It won’t be the land trust’s first restoration project on Whychus Creek. In 2012, it teamed up with the Deschutes National Forest, the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, the Deschutes River Conservancy and other groups to reroute a 1¼-mile section of the creek in Camp Polk Meadow. The Deschutes Land Trust owns the 145-acre meadow. Rerouting the creek added a half-mile to the main channel and opened up three miles of side channels.

The 6-mile stretch of Whychus Creek now protected by the trust in and next to Whychus Canyon Preserve features meadows ripe for restoration. Ryan Houston, executive director for the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, said restoring the meadows would provide rearing habitat for redband trout and steelhead.

After flooding in 1964, federal engineers straightened parts of Whychus Creek to decrease the likelihood of flooding and make way for farming and ranching along the creek. In restoring the creek at Camp Polk, the trust and its partners put curves back in the creek and reopened floodplains.

The next round of restoration probably won’t start until 2016, Houston said. Restoration along the latest addition probably would cost around $2 million. Then restoration will later expand to the other nearby 4 miles of Whychus Creek.

“It is going to take a long time,” Houston said. “It is going to take a lot of money.”

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