North Fork John Day River, Oregon

As the second longest undammed river in the continental United States, the John Day River in northeastern Oregon provides some of the best remaining habitat for salmon and steelhead in the country. The North Fork John Day Sub-basin and its cold-water tributaries alone support the largest runs of steelhead in the entire Columbia River system. Outdoor enthusiasts from Oregon and beyond also visit the John Day River Basin to fish, raft, hike, hunt, and take in the breathtaking scenic vistas of high-desert sagebrush steppes and ponderosa woodlands.

However, the effects of regional climate change, water extraction and irrigation, and damaging land management practices (such as grazing and off-highway vehicle use) threaten basin streamflows, native fish, and riparian systems. This already-dry river basin is seriously water-limited, especially during summer months. Increasing summertime temperatures and decreasing snowpacks are expected to influence the amount and timing of water in rivers and streams in the next several decades. The John Day Basin is consequently one of the most ‘at risk’ river basins in the Pacific Northwest.    

While the lower John Day River and segments of the upper North Fork John Day are currently protected through Wild and Scenic designation, parts of the North Fork still remain unprotected despite the critical spawning and rearing habitat this river provides to Middle Columbia River steelhead, a species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Consequently, American Rivers is working to secure long-term protection for the unprotected North Fork and its tributaries under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
Management of Riparian Areas
Over the past year, American Rivers has worked closely with local partners to protect this river basin from immediate and imminent threats to its rivers and riparian lands. We have been involved in the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) planning process for the basin by providing recommendations and informing the BLM of the ‘best available science’ to ensure the agency’s management plan recommends the most sustainable management practices for riparian areas, native fish and the surrounding public lands.

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