Crooked River Overview

Apr 03, 2018
The Crooked River is a remarkable place. It drains a diverse landscape ranging from the open stands of old ponderosa pines of the Ochoco and Maury Mountains to the high desert grasslands and the rugged basalt canyon of the lower Crooked River.

by Brad Chalfant

The Crooked River is a remarkable place. It drains a diverse landscape ranging from the open stands of old ponderosa pines of the Ochoco and Maury Mountains to the high desert grasslands and the rugged basalt canyon of the lower Crooked River. Comprising the southeast third of the greater Deschutes River basin, the Crook County had until recently been bypassed by the boom that has transformed Bend and much of Deschutes County. However, today development pressures are quickly building in Crook County, as data centers drive a commercial boom and high home prices in places like Bend drive new residents to the comparatively affordable Prineville real estate market. This in turn, places real pressure on commercial agriculture and the region’s wildlife populations.

Fortunately, ranching and farming are still a strong and important part of Crook County, and the Land Trust intends to do what we can to help support local farmers and ranchers wherever we can. Consequently, most of the Land Trust’s work on the Crooked River and it’s tributaries is likely to focus on voluntary, but permanent conservation agreements. These agreements are meant to help local ranchers and farmers stay on the land by enabling them to monetize development rights they don’t feel they need. It’s an approach that won’t address every economic challenge facing local farmers and ranchers, but we hope it can begin to help an aging generation of ranchers/farmers keep the ranch within the family, reinvest in their operations or simply fund a retirement. In the process, we can work to keep ranches from breaking up and being subdivided, which is a very real threat to wildlife, particularly to the seasonal migration corridors that many species depend upon.

Examples of this sort of project include our existing Coffer Ranch conservation agreement on Mill Creek, as well as our on-going efforts to help conserve the historic Demaris Ranch on McKay Creek and the Aspen Valley Ranch on the upper Crooked River in the Post-Paulina Valley.  These kinds of projects can help keep local ranchers on the land, while permanently protecting and often enhancing wildlife habitat, big game migration corridors, and scenic views. However, the key to this approach is the development of funding sources to allow the Land Trust to purchase unneeded development rights from local farmers and ranchers. The enactment of the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program in the 2017 Legislature was an important first step toward creating such a funding source. We look forward to funding of the program in the next legislative session.


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