« Return to this article

Know the West

Fish benefit from trade

  An eastern Oregon rancher recently swapped his water rights in a local stream for a year's worth of hay. Rancher Rocky Webb will receive $6,600 worth of hay from the Oregon Water Trust in exchange for not irrigating 50 acres of pasture. The result: Steelhead trout will swim in more water, reports The Oregonian, and a rancher will be compensated for helping wildlife. "I want to see the steelhead thrive again in Buck Hollow Creek," Webb says, "but I also have a bottom line to worry about." Thirty pairs of wild steelhead are now found in the creek, a tributary of north-central Oregon's Deschutes River. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife hopes the transfer of the leased water, along with some streamside restoration, will increase the population to 500 pairs. The historic deal was made possible by a 1987 law that allows the purchase, lease or gift of an existing water right for conversion to an instream water right. Janet Neuman, president of the newly formed, non-profit Oregon Water Trust, says the lease proves that the marketplace can help address Oregon's environmental problems. For more information, contact the Oregon Water Trust, 503/226-9055.