How do you give a Valentine to an old growth ponderosa pine with its orange-yellow bark, to a riffle of water from a spring, to a silent and watchful owl, or to a cougar whose track you see in the snow? How can we give a valentine to the Metolius?
To assure that the Deschutes River is well-represented in future policy deliberations and decision-making, we are proud to announce that the former Executive Director of the Deschutes River Conservancy, Tod Heisler, will join our staff to run our Rivers Conservation Program .
Central Oregon LandWatch is the only group on the front lines in defense of Deschutes County’s wildlife habitat code protections. Last week, we filed an appeal of an alarming change to the county’s Flood Plain Zone to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.
Have you heard about our incredible board president, Amy Stuart? She's been featured in a recent edition of the Source Weekly as a pioneer of conservation in Central Oregon!
Amy was the first woman hired as a district-wide fish biologist by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and spent more than 30 years trailblazing within the department. She is an avid hunter, angler and advocate for wild places, including the Ochoco National Forest.
As LandWatch's board president, she plays an important role in our case to protect the Ochoco Mountains from being carved up by off-road vehicle trails.
A Fisheries Pioneer
Amy Stewart was ODFW's first district-wide female fish biologist
By Brian Jennings, published in The Source on August 22, 2018
"I was told women belong in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant," recalls former state Fish Biologist Amy Stuart of Prineville. In 1983, she was hired by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as its first district-wide female fish biologist, based in Prineville. With natural resources degrees from Cornell and Colorado State University, she interviewed for the position and was selected based on her knowledge, leadership skills and passion for conservation. One problem: her boss was the lone negative vote, cast among a board of seven people.
Her first days on the job were spent with that new boss showing her around the district and introducing her to colleagues and community leaders. "He was really upset and resented that they hired a female—and two days after they hired me, he left and moved to Madras," she says with a laugh. That was the beginning of a 31-year career at ODFW. She retired in late 2014 and now volunteers as a board member of Central Oregon LandWatch, fishes and hunts with her husband, friends and two dogs. She's still a biologist at heart and shows up for the annual Crooked River fish survey of native redband trout.
Growing up, she describes herself as a tomboy. Along with her twin sister she was constantly in the outdoors, sailing, kayaking and fishing. Her sister eventually chose a forestry career, while Stewart became interested in fish and wildlife. "I knew I wanted to work with the critters in the outdoors," she says.
When it comes to bodies of water, the Crooked River in ODFW's Prineville District was a big focus for Stewart. Famous for native redband trout, Stewart's work has made a major impact on that fishery. As the lead author on the Crooked River Basin Study of the trout, she began tracking the redband population and health throughout the basin. Up to that point, no baseline information was available. Knowing the region was historically a major producer of spring chinook salmon and summer steelhead, she began sampling the redband habitat and populations throughout the basin. The plan she helped write set the guidelines for managing fish into the future throughout the basin.
Noting the constant push and pull between having enough water for agriculture and the fishery, Stuart's biggest concern is a common one: having enough water to sustain healthy fish. "That's a conundrum in Central Oregon because there's a certain segment of us that wants healthy rivers able to provide important stream habitat for fish and wildlife species, but we also have irrigated agriculture which is an important part of Oregon's economy."
Like many who fish, she wants more in-stream flow during the fall and winter months to sustain healthier fish populations. Low stream flows during winter months, when water is being stored in the Prineville Reservoir for irrigation, can lead to higher temperatures and mortality rates for fish downstream.
When the Crooked River legislation was passed in 2014, she says, it was meant to provide "surety" for irrigators in the Crooked River Basin. At the same time, she says, "It's probably increased the harm and risk for not only native redband, but the production of steelhead." She cites ODFW studies that say when water is released at 30 cubic feet per second or lower in the winter, it has resulted in a "significant drop in fish populations."
Stuart, like many others, is also critical of a proposed 137-mile off-highway vehicle trail in the Ochoco National Forest. Organizations and agencies such as the Oregon Hunters Association and ODFW have registered strong objections to the planned trail.
"Deep Creek in the Ochocos is probably one of my all-time favorite streams. I love wet-wading on hot summer days, fishing for little redband trout in that stream, and those are the places that should be protected from certain uses." A portion of the Summit OHV trail would run through the Deep Creek watershed and she worries about mudding and sentiment caused by motorized vehicles. "It's some of the premier fishing left in the whole forest and I'm very concerned about it."
Representatives from ODFW, her former employer, have been loud critics of the OHV plan, maintaining that motorized disturbance would also have a negative impact on some of the region's most important elk habitat. A decade-long battle over the trail proposed by the Ochoco National Forest may be coming to a head with a judge's decision expected soon, according to Oregon Wild, which is also in strong opposition.
You can also see Central Oregon Daily's video interview with Amy to learn more about this fantastic outdoors-woman and fisheries pioneer. We could not be more grateful to have her on our team.
The Deschutes River and the fish and wildlife who depend on it are suffering, but there is enough water for farms and fish.
The current system of delivering water for irrigation encourages inefficient use of water by senior water rights holders and very efficient use of water by junior water rights holders. This results in higher crop yields and economic value on farms that have implemented practices to improve water use efficiency. How can we encourage all irrigators to implement efficient practices?
The Deschutes Basin's Last Great Problem, written by Dave Seminara and published in Bend Magazine, explores the problem and perspectives from different groups, including our Executive Director Paul Dewey.
"The competing visions for the management of the upper Deschutes River, which has drawn people and sustained life for millennia, are as old as the West itself.
On the last Saturday in January, a bright, sunny affair when the promise of spring felt near, the Fly Fisher’s Place in Sisters was full of impatient anglers debating the merits of some of the shop’s 1,400 flies. But the light vibe turned serious when I asked Jeff Perin, the shop’s owner, about his connection to the Upper Deschutes River. Seated at a table in the back room of his meandering store, Perin spoke about the river wistfully, as though retelling the story of a once great athlete who had fallen upon hard times.
“I got hooked on the river the very first day we moved here, back in June 1980,” he said, his alert blue eyes shadowed by a stiff-billed fishing cap.
Perin, then in sixth grade, didn’t catch a single fish that day. In fact, he fell into the river. But his older cousin caught a slew of rainbow trout, enough to make a big impression and cement what would become a lifelong passion for the river. Perin can recall days of remarkably good fly-fishing on the Upper Deschutes as recently as three years ago, just before a devastating fish kill in October 2013 that galvanized attention to a problematic twenty-five-mile stretch of the river between the Wickiup Reservoir and Sunriver, where low streamflows have had a harmful impact on fish and wildlife." Read the full article here.