The McKenzie River Trust Protects 217 Acres of Freshwater Wetland in the Heart of the Siuslaw River

Siuslaw Estuary

The McKenzie River Trust (MRT) has just purchased and protected a 217 acre property on the Siuslaw River for fish and wildlife habitat conservation. The Waite Ranch estuary acquisition builds on other land protection efforts over the last 20 years, adding to a network that includes The Nature Conservancy’s Cox Island property, ODFW’s Bull Island, private properties enrolled in the federal Wetland Reserve Program and other conservation easements, and the Wilbur Island Wetland Mitigation Bank.

Ryan Ruggiero, the MRT Land Protection Manager who negotiated the acquisition, noted the many values of the project. “It’s pretty satisfying to see a property like this one, identified as a highest priority for conservation and restoration nearly thirty years ago, wrapped in to the complex of protected lands in the lower Siuslaw. It gives us an incredible opportunity to stitch together estuary lands in a way that supports fish and wildlife populations, recreational opportunities, and clean water.”

The Siuslaw Basin Partnership, which includes the McKenzie River Trust, the Siuslaw Watershed Council, and numerous other local, state, tribal and federal partners, will develop a management plan and embark on an ambitious estuary restoration project to re-establish tidal exchange between the river and the interior of the property. A project advisory team comprised of technical experts and stakeholders will examine a range of restoration approaches to ensure long term success and ensure against impacts to Highway 126, a vital commercial link between the southern Willamette Valley and the central Oregon coast.

Waite_Wilbur_Isl_labeled

Liz Vollmer-Buhl, Executive Director of the Siuslaw Watershed Council, highlighted the project’s habitat features and collaborative approach. “Waite Ranch in particular is significant both for its size and location, which will provide habitat connectivity for species moving up and down the estuary. The Waite Ranch Project also demonstrates what can be accomplished with well-rounded partnerships—the landowner, local and regional organizations, state and federal agencies, the tribes, and more were all involved and will continue to be as we head into the restoration phase.  It is an exciting project and process.”
Approximately 211 acres of tidal estuary habitat are expected to result from restoration, in addition to approximately 10 miles of tidal channel.
The restored tidal estuary is expected to provide vital rearing habitat for several regionally important fish species including Coastal coho salmon, steelhead, Chinook salmon, sea-run cutthroat trout and Pacific lamprey. It is anticipated that following restoration the site will support numerous sensitive bird species such as marbled murrelet, dunlin, band-tailed pigeon, willow flycatcher, Pacific slope flycatcher, rufous hummingbird, peregrine falcon, and American bald eagle.

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, through The Nature Conservancy’s Northwest Wildlife Conservation Initiative, is contributing $175,000 to the acquisition to support implementation of the Oregon Conservation Strategy. MRT is seeking additional funding from public agencies and private donations. In addition to acquisition funding secured to date, project partners have attracted approximately $123,000 in restoration funding in support of baseline data collection, engineering analysis, and feasibility studies.

Waite Ranch is the McKenzie River Trust’s largest acquisition to date in the Siuslaw watershed.

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5 Responses to The McKenzie River Trust Protects 217 Acres of Freshwater Wetland in the Heart of the Siuslaw River

  1. Snoopy Rodder says:

    Bravo! Take every opportunity to improve habitat for wildlife. Would of been nice to see something closer to the McKenzie, but passing up a location/chance like this is not good either.

    Snoopy Rodder,

  2. Rob R says:

    BRAVO!!!! If the world goes to hell, at least we’ll have the Siuslaw. Big love to McKenzie Trust and the rest of our progressive community!!

  3. Nick says:

    Your photos bring back huge memories of my father taking me and my mom on a guided sturgeon fishing trip. Mom caught a keepable 5-footer. I hooked into a fish that drug us all the way past Glenada to (what I now know as) Cox island. The fish seemed larger than our boat, he/she came up once and shook his head and “POP” out came the hook. A great time for a 12 year old going on 16.

    Well, anyway, great news for a wonderful basin that needs some TLC.

    ~n

  4. MIKE says:

    I am very familiar with this property and i have some views on this acquisition that may not be too popular here.First as a hunter and a fisherman these types of acquisitions concern me as they tie up these lands with usually no access for the public and very limited opportunity for much use at all.The main concern i have is what if the conservancy or similar groups were able to purchase all lands such as this one,would that be good for all users?I researched enough to find that the Doris Duke foundation has been a major contributor to the PETA group in the past and that raises a red flag for me. I agree with and understand the concept here i am just not sure i want to see the very wealthy as the ones who decide what is to be done with this type of property.

  5. Nancy says:

    To Mike: There never was public access to this land when it was in private hands so it can’t get any worse. I believe it will be better. I know a number of people who have visited the property now that MRT owns it. MRT hasn’t thrown it open for any squatter who wants to set up a camp but it is possible now to arrange to visit now.

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