Whychus Creek land earmarked for preservation

The Bend Bulletin reports on the Land Trust's newest acquisition: Willow Springs Preserve.
By Stephen Hamway
The Bend Bulletin

The Deschutes Land Trust purchased 130 acres along Whychus Creek for conservation and future habitat restoration, thanks in part to a short-term loan from an Astoria-based lender.

The land, which includes nearly a mile of Whychus Creek to the north of Sisters, will be known as Willow Springs Preserve. Brad Chalfant, executive director of Deschutes Land Trust, said the parcel — purchased from the Cyrus family that also owns Aspen Lakes Golf Course — plays an integral part in the Bend-based nonprofit’s larger effort to restore Whychus Creek, due to its potential impact on local salmon and steelhead populations.

“It makes all of our work downstream that much more effective,” Chalfant said.

He said the nonprofit, which works with public and private landowners to secure land along the Deschutes River and its tributaries, has had the Willow Springs Preserve parcel on its radar since the Whychus Creek campaign began. The trust currently owns around 2,300 acres along a 12-mile stretch of the creek.

Chalfant added that the Des­chutes Land Trust relies on donations from community members and large donors, but has to be ready when a relevant property comes onto the market. As a result, the nonprofit reached out to Craft3, a community development financial institution that provides loans and investments across the Pacific Northwest.

“It just allows us to be nimble and move quickly,” Chalfant said of the loan.
Brad Hunter, business lender for Craft3, said the group provided a $400,000 short-term loan, which needs to be paid off within the next three years.

Hunter added that Craft3 worked with the Deschutes Land Trust once in the past, on a similar project to secure a smaller piece of property about four years ago. Both projects were funded by the organization’s Conservation Bridge Fund, which Hunter said is designed to provide short-term loans that allow conservation organizations in Oregon and Southwest Washington to secure sensitive lands. He added that the fund has provided $7.4 million to 15 conservation projects in Oregon since being founded in 2012.

“The main thing we’re looking for is that the property is moving into some sort of permanent conservation,” Hunter said.

Long term, the Deschutes Land Trust has plans to add vegetation in Willow Springs Preserve, and to allow the creek to access its historic floodplain in that area. Before that takes place, however, Chalfant said the nonprofit will focus on developing a management plan that helps local plant and animal populations.

“It’s a slow and not-inexpensive process,” Chalfant said.

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