Whychus Creek campaign gets gift from unlikely source

Feb 24, 2017

Bend Bulletin

Whychus Creek campaign gets gift from unlikely source

Native Oregonian turned bank executive makes donation

The campaign to restore Whychus Creek got a boost from an unlikely source: the current chief operating officer of Bank of America.

Tom Montag, a native Oregonian currently working for the global bank in New York, donated $530,000 to the Deschutes Land Trust earlier this year along with his wife Janet, the Bend-based nonprofit announced Thursday.

The donation is the largest so far during the 3-year-old campaign to restore habitat across a 12-mile stretch of Whychus Creek, according to Brad Chalfant, executive director of the Deschutes Land Trust.

Chalfant said Montag, who was born in Beaverton, first became familiar with the Deschutes Land Trust around 2003, when the group was attempting to secure the 1,240-acre Metolius Preserve on Lake Creek. Since then, Chalfant said Montag has been active on a variety of conservation projects in his home state. Montag could not be reached for comment.

“Someone like Tom Montag … is a reminder that our community can do some pretty amazing things,” Chalfant said Thursday.

The Deschutes Land Trust has made the restoration of Whychus Creek, a tributary of the Deschutes River that runs through approximately 41 miles of Deschutes and Jefferson Counties, one of its main priorities. The nonprofit works with public and private landowners to protect land across Central Oregon. Chalfant said the donation pushes the organization within $400,000 of its goal of $2 million in private funding, aimed at securing around 12 miles of land along the tributary and restoring the area to support salmon and steelhead populations.

Chalfant said much of Central Oregon was once home to migrating salmon and steelhead. However, man-made berms and other impediments along Whychus Creek restricted it to a single straight channel, which was often dry during the summer, according to Chalfant. As a result, salmon and other fish populations disappeared in the area.

“It was a dry, dusty place,” Chalfant said.

To that end, Deschutes Land Trust works with various stakeholders groups in the region, including the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and the Deschutes River Conservancy, to restore habitat and waterflow for the creek.

Mathias Perle, project manager for the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, said fish populations have been limited by the lack of available habitat along Whychus Creek. Once Deschutes Land Trust acquires a parcel of land, the watershed council can work with them to restore the habitat by removing levies and berms from the area.

“Their successes are our successes, in many ways,” Perle said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com

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