January 2018 Conservation Partner Project Beneficiary

WESTERN RIVERS CONSERVANCY: RIO GRANDE HEADWATERS - NATIVE FISH HABITAT CONSERVATION IN COLORADO

Western Rivers Conservancy Rio Grande River
Photo By Russ Schnitzer

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

With Basin + Bend, contributing to conservation is easy! That's because we leverage commerce for conservation. By simply purchasing your favorite hunting and fishing gear from Basin + Bend (at the same price you would at any other retailer) you'll be supporting this partner and provide much needed funds to the project. Instead of donating an unknown "portion of the profits" to a conservation effort, we show you exactly how much is going to be donated to this specific project.

ABOUT THE CONSERVATION PARTNER:

Western Rivers Conservancy is a non-profit organization that protects outstanding river ecosystems in the eleven contiguous western states: Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. WRC acquires lands along rivers to protect critical habitat and to create or improve public access for compatible use and enjoyment. By applying decades of experience in land acquisition, WRC is able to effectively secure the health of whole ecosystems. It has protected hundreds of miles of stream frontage on great rivers like the Yampa, Gunnison, Salmon, Hoh, Snake, Madison, Klamath and John Day. Founded in 1988, WRC is the nation’s only conservation program dedicated solely to the acquisition of riverlands.

Western Rivers Conservancy's Mission:Western Rivers Conservancy protects outstanding river ecosystems in the western United States. They acquire land to conserve critical habitat, provide public access for compatible use and enjoyment, and cooperate with other agencies and organizations to secure the health of whole ecosystems.

How the work of the Western Rivers Conservancy is helping: If you fish, odds are you spend a lot of time on the river, thinking about the river, planning your next trip to the river, dreaming about the river. You know the joy of casting to rising trout at sunset, of experiencing an afternoon hatch and the feeding frenzy that follows, or of hooking a steelhead at dawn while the rest of the world sleeps. You also know the importance of clean, cold water, healthy habitat and public access. These are the values that motivate us at Western Rivers Conservancy as we work each and every day to save our most outstanding streams.

ABOUT THE PROJECT:

Quick Project Facts  

WRC is working to conserve 18,349 acres along the upper Rio Grande in the high San Luis Valley. 

The project will protect four miles of the Rio Grande and a crucial reach of the Conejos River in an area that has lost significant fish and wildlife habitat. 

Their efforts will open river access for San Luis Valley longstanding communities that have almost no access to the Rio Grande. 

Western Rivers Conservancy Rio Grande Project
Project Overview Map

One of the West’s most iconic rivers, the Rio Grande flows nearly 2,000 miles from Colorado’s San Juan Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico. After a swift descent from its headwaters, the river enters the high San Luis Valley, where it forms channel-meanders, lush wetlands and vibrant riparian habitat. Although much of the lower Rio Grande has been diverted or impounded by dams, extensive reaches of the upper river remain critical to imperiled fish and wildlife and offer excellent recreation opportunities. In these upper reaches, Western Rivers Conservancy is working on multiple projects to purchase and protect over seven miles of riverfront and riparian habitat along the Rio Grande.

In 2016, WRC purchased two San Luis Valley properties: the 17,019-acre Brownie Hills property and the 1,167-acre Olguin Ranch. Both lie within the congressionally designated Rio Grande Natural Area, between the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge and New Mexico’s Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River corridor.

Acquiring these properties will allow us to conserve 18,349 acres along four miles of the Rio Grande and a crucial reach of the Conejos River, where it flows into the mainstem Rio Grande. Our efforts will preserve an important stretch of the Rio Grande in an area that has lost significant fish and wildlife habitat, and where precious little riverfront is accessible to the public. We will conserve prime habitat for endangered southwestern willow flycatcher and threatened yellow-billed cuckoo, as well as bald eagle and great numbers of waterfowl, including teal, mallard and Canada goose.

The Brownie Hills Ranch stood out for both its habitat and potential to provide public river access in a county where there’s almost none. Costilla County happens to be 99 percent privately owned and has the lowest fraction of public land in the state. Western Rivers Conservancy is transferring the Brownie Hills to Costilla County ownership, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife will help manage the land as a state wildlife area. The public will forever be able to use these soon-to-be public lands for hiking, riding horses, hunting, fishing, and access to the river. 

Three imperiled fish species are found in the upper Rio Grande. Rio Grande cutthroat trout inhabit the mountainous reaches, while Rio Grande chub and Rio Grande sucker inhabit the warmer, slower reaches within the valley. All three are listed as sensitive species. Acquiring the Brownie Hills property will allow for restoration of fish habitat, including undercut banks, plant debris, pools, runs and riffles.

Upstream, roughly 20 miles from the town of Creede, Colorado, WRC acquired a 91-acre property that will create the only legal resting spot for boaters along an otherwise private, eight-mile stretch of the Rio Grande. The acquisition also creates new walk-in access to an area with excellent trout fishing, just off the Silver Thread Scenic Byway. The property lies between the Weminuche Wilderness and the scenic byway, where Texas Creek and Spring Creek flow into the Rio Grande. By partnering with the Rio Grande National Forest, we will place a key piece of land into public hands and ensure boaters and anglers have a half-mile refuge where they can stop their boats and put their feet on the banks of the Rio Grande without trespassing.

READY TO PUT CONSERVATION FIRST?

Many of your favorite fishing, hunting and outdoor brands have already joined our Conservation First™ program. Take a look at our online store and we are sure you'll find something that you've already been eyeing!