Deschutes Land Trust to acquire ranch near Sisters

The Bend Bulletin reports on the Land Trust's efforts to conserve Rimrock Ranch.
By Scott Hammers
The Bend Bulletin

The Deschutes Land Trust has reached an agreement to purchase a 1,120-acre property along Whychus Creek northeast of Sisters.

The property, known as Rimrock Ranch, sits on the border of Deschutes and Jefferson counties, and has been part of the land trust’s efforts to restore Whychus Creek for years.

Executive Director Brad Chalfant said Friday the land trust has been working with the owners of Rimrock Ranch since 2000 and has had a conservation easement barring further development on the site since 2006. He said the eventual purchase of the property will give the land trust the certainty it needs to raise funds and plan for a restoration effort that will span several years.

The land trust has not finalized the purchase of the property, and is not currently disclosing details of its arrangement with the current owners.

Chalfant said like many other waterways around the state, Whychus Creek was radically altered by restoration efforts sparked by extensive flooding in late 1964. Boulders and logs were removed from the channel and the creek’s bends were straightened, he said, in an attempt to minimize future flooding.

While the efforts made it possible for Whychus Creek to efficiently flush floodwaters
downstream, the faster-running creek cut a deeper channel, isolating the floodplains along its banks. The water table dropped, Chalfant said, and plant and animal habitat dried up.

Chalfant said although it’s early in the process, the land trust is likely to follow a similar
approach in restoring the 2 miles of creek running past Rimrock Ranch as it has elsewhere along Whychus Creek, creating new bends and floodplains and planting hundreds of thousands of native plants. Between restoration efforts and the purchase of water rights to keep more water in the creek, Whychus Creek is a different place than it was before, Chalfant said.

“The rebirth of Whychus Creek is nothing short of miraculous,” he said. “Fifteen years ago, the creek used to go dry every summer — it doesn’t do that now.”

The land trust has been offering guided tours of Rimrock Ranch in recent years, and is likely to open portions of the property to limited public access once restoration is underway, Chalfant said.

“It’s in our interest, whenever we can, wherever it’s appropriate for the wildlife, to allow the greatest access possible,” Chalfant said. “Because if people never get out and see these places, they’re never going to appreciate them and help protect them in the future.”

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