The State Land Board today presented two 2016 Stream Project Awards for exemplary projects: the Catherine Creek Fish Habitat Restoration Project (Union County) and Wallowa River/6 Ranch Habitat Restoration II (Wallowa County).

Governor Kate Brown, chair of the Land Board, thanked the many project partners for “promoting responsible, sustainable stewardship of Oregon’s natural resources” and their “extra effort, vision and dedication to Oregon.”

This is the 13th year of presenting Land Board Awards.

Catherine Creek Fish Habitat Restoration Project
The project, co-sponsored by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) and the Union Soil and Water Conservation District, was developed to restore floodplain processes and functions along a one-mile stretch of Catherine Creek in Union, near La Grande.

In presenting the award, State Treasurer and Land Board member Tobias Read commended the project proponents for their “vision and collaboration in enhancing spawning and rearing habitat for Chinook salmon, steelhead, bull trout, and resident fish and wildlife in Catherine Creek.”

Specifically, the project provided:

  • Protection of 545 acres through land acquisition and establishing a permanent conservation easement.
  • Improved summer stream-flow conditions through a senior water right.
  • Development of a funding agreement to provide long-term management, and a plan for permanent natural resource protections.
  • Establishment of monitoring protocols that include habitat surveys and photo points.
  • Restoration of “first foods” for tribal members through improved natural habitat.

“The Catherine Creek ‘Saasaxinma’ (Kingfisher) Project is a unique project that addresses habitat-limiting factors using the CTUIR’s River Vision as our guide to restoring watershed processes and functions,” said Jake Kimbro, wildlife biologist with the CTUIR. “This vision embraces physical and hydrologic relationships, and provides a framework to restore diverse, complex and productive habitat for fish and natural resources.”

The project area is located in a property acquired through the CTUIR and Bonneville Power Administration’s Accord for Fish Conservation. The CTUIR owns the property.

Additional project partners include biologists from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; and funding from the Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of Reclamation, Natural Resources Conservation Services, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and Western Rivers Conservancy.

The Grande Ronde Model Watershed, based in La Grande, nominated the project for a Land Board Award.

Wallowa River/6 Ranch habitat Restoration Project II

This project restored 1800 lineal feet of the Wallowa River on the 6 Ranch to a more historic and natural condition. Functioning wetlands, an activated floodplain, and a stable stream channel all resulted from the voluntary restoration work.

Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, a member of the Land Board who presented the award, praised the public-private partnership that was established to implement the project. He commended 6 Ranch owner Liza Jane McAlister for her vision for “responsible stewardship, preservation of western ranching traditions, and production of healthy food.”

The design of the project uses an unconventional grazing management plan that will use high-intensity, short-duration grazing to control invasive Reed Canary Grass and promote desirable grasses and shrub species on the property.

“6 Ranch has often been described as an unconventional ranching operation, though we see our goals as very similar to most ranching operations,” said Liza Jane McAlister, 6 Ranch owner. “Our belief is that restoration and ranching must work side by side for long-term success. We hope to set an example of proactive, mutually beneficial relationships that result in improved landscapes in our beautiful region.”

Project partners include the Grande Ronde Model Watershed, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Nez Perce Tribe, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Funding was provided by the Bonneville Power Administration, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Grande Ronde Model Watershed, based in La Grande, nominated the project for a Land Board Award.

The Bonneville Power Administration was a key funding partner for both projects. “On behalf of BPA, our utility ratepayers and the region, we are proud of the strong partnerships that lead to successful projects such as Catherine Creek and 6 Ranch,” said Lorri Bodi, VP of Environment, Fish and Wildlife at the BPA. “Both project sites are now on their way to supporting healthy salmon and steelhead populations for the future.”

The State Land Board consists of Governor Kate Brown, Secretary of State Dennis Richardson and State Treasurer Tobias Read. The Department of State Lands administers diverse natural and fiscal resources. Many of the resources generate revenue for the Common School Fund, such as state-owned rangelands and timberlands, waterway leases, estates for which no will or heirs exist, and unclaimed property. Twice a year, the agency distributes fund investment earnings to support K-12 public schools. The agency also administers Oregon’s Removal-Fill Law, which requires people removing or filling certain amounts of material in waters of the state to obtain a permit.