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The $14-million coho creek

March 17, 2009 | 12:00 am


The Nature Conservancy has bought 4,136 acres of Northern California ranch land to protect a short creek that could play an important role in reviving coho salmon stocks in the Klamath River Basin.

The private group paid $14.2 million for the grazing land, which lies between Weed and Yreka northwest of Mt. Shasta. The property is crossed by a 2.2-mile long, spring-fed stream that flows into the Shasta River, coho spawning grounds.

The spring water is an ideal temperature for coho, but it warms up in the summer with irrigation runoff. Cattle grazing has also altered the creek channel.

Henry Little, director of the conservancy's Klamath River Project, said the group might not eliminate all grazing on the land, called Shasta Big Springs Ranch, but it will fence off areas and change irrigation practices to restore stream habitat.

The group could later sell the ranch's conservation easement to the state or another nonprofit. But given the state's budget squeeze, that probably won't happen soon.

— Bettina Boxall

Photo: Shasta Big Springs Ranch. Credit: Cindy Diaz