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Credit: @ianshivephoto / @tandemstock

Columbia Gorge Forest Washington Oregon image

Credit: @ianshivephoto / @tandemstock



Our Role

At The Conservation Fund, we recognize financial sophistication and innovative collaborations are required to solve 21st century challenges, especially urgent ones like climate change. When SDS Lumber Company and SDS Co, LLC—a driving force and major employer in the Columbia River Gorge—announced its intent to sell over 96,000 acres of working forestland and its mill and timberland business, we quickly recognized the opportunity and challenges to securing this large landscape.  

These 96,000 acres form a critical natural connection between national forests, wild & scenic rivers, and numerous conserved and public lands. However, the potential for a real estate developer or commercial timber liquidator to threaten these lands with conversion and aggressive harvesting was high. To prevent that outcome, we and a unique consortium of for-profit businesses worked together to design and offer a competitive purchase solution for the land that would balance conservation with economic sustainability. 

Columbia Gorge Forest Washington Oregon map

Click here to view a larger map (in PDF).
Credit: The Conservation Fund


After a year of hard work, in November 2021, as part of a single transaction, Twin Creeks Timber, LLC acquired 61,000 acres of timberland to be managed by Green Diamond Management Company, and the lumber and plywood mills were purchased by Wilkins, Kaiser & Olsen, Inc. (WKO), a local company that operates two sawmills in the region, for continued operation.   


But how did conservation play a role? The Conservation Fund, through its affiliate Lupine Forest LLC, acquired over 35,500 acres of sensitive forestland using funding in part from our Green Bonds. This step provides time for our Working Forest Fund® to fundraise, develop and implement a range of permanent conservation strategies with public agencies and the Columbia Land Trust that will seek to secure public recreational access, preserve the natural, climate and community values, and ensure sustainable forest management.  

In addition, we are committed to working with Green Diamond to place conservation easements that will ensure the lands it manages are protected from development and can continue to provide valuable wood products, jobs and environmental benefits across this important landscape for years to come.   


Why This Project Matters

Columbia Gorge Forest will be one of the largest conservation victories in the Pacific Northwest, and it needed a mission-driven, business-savvy nonprofit like The Conservation Fund, along with willing partners, to become a reality. 

The Douglas-fir and Ponderosa pine forests are at the heart of local timber economies.Continued sustainable management of this landscape supports hundreds of forest-related rural jobs and will ensure the important forests, oak woodlands, and river habitats will be maintained for an array of wildlife, including rare, threatened and endangered species like the northern spotted owl, Oregon spotted frog, western gray squirrel, fisher, salmon, steelhead and golden eagle. In addition, these habitats support the municipal drinking water supplies for the cities of The Dalles, Oregon and White Salmon, Washington. 

The lands also hold cultural importance, providing First Foods and natural resources for Tribes and Indigenous people. The people of the Confederated Tribes & Bands of Yakama Nation and other tribes have lived in this area, from the lowlands around the Columbia River to the snow-peaked Cascade Mountains, since the beginning of time. We recognize them as exceptional stewards of natural resources and leaders in watershed restoration. 

The beloved landscape and its four rivers—the Klickitat, White Salmon, Little White Salmon, and Hood—are a premiere, world-class destination for whitewater kayakers and rafters. The river’s big waterfalls and powerful rapids challenge expert boaters, while other scenic sections are perfect for beginners. Our efforts will help secure over 34 miles of river frontage, including 4.5 miles of frontage along the White Salmon Wild & Scenic River. The region also offers multiple locations for mountain biking, hiking, hunting and fishing. 

Situated in an ecological transition zone between the West and East Cascades, this region has greater ecological diversity than anywhere else along the lower Columbia River. Conservation of these working forestlands will be key to managing the landscape for climate resilience and species migration because they offer connections from the Columbia steppe habitat to high-elevation mixed conifer forests of the nearby national forests. Estimates show over 8.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent are stored in the forests—comparable to the emissions from 1.8 million passenger vehicles over the course of a year. 

“This landscape and its rivers and forests has been a priority for Columbia Land Trust for more than 20 years. The Conservation Fund's purchase enables Columbia Land Trust and our partners to work toward permanently conserving the critical wildlife habitat, public access, and working forests that the community values. We look forward to working together to make this dream a reality.”

— Cherie Kearney, Forest Conservation Director for Columbia Land Trust



Columbia Gorge Forest Washington Oregon 1

Credit: @ianshivephoto / @tandemstock

 


we need your help

The Conservation Fund is actively raising funds to implement permanent conservation solutions for these lands. For more information about how you can support the ongoing efforts to conserve Columbia Gorge Forest, please contact Samaria Jaffe.


learn more

Photo credit: The Conservation Fund

What?

Zion Regional Recreation Management Plan is a process and a product. The process is crossing administrative boundaries and geographic constraints, while the end product will identify regional goals and implementation actions around recreation and the related areas of tourism, resource stewardship, transportation and economic opportunity, establishing a long-term coordinating framework and plan.

Where?

The Plan addresses the four-county region of southwest Utah (Garfield, Iron, Kane and Washington counties).

Why?

Recreation is a critical part of southwest Utah’s identity, culture, and economy. Recreation interacts with the transportation system, public lands, jobs, natural resources, housing, cultural resources, community facilities and more. Protecting the assets in the region, while ensuring a high quality recreation-user experience, is requiring a comprehensive effort across sectors, communities, and levels of government. The places and people are the foundation of the region, and their continued vitality requires a healthy interaction with recreation and its implications.

How?

The Plan will foster coordination and collaboration for recreation-related projects and initiatives advanced by communities, agencies, and organizations. Recognizing that there are multiple planned and ongoing investments, the Plan seeks to add value to these initiatives, develop recommendations to fill in gaps, identify needed resources to advance efforts and enhance opportunities for agreement and partnership.

Who?

Through a Steering Team, five working groups, focus group, and additional outreach methods the process includes representatives from Federal, State, Tribal and local partners, including private businesses, educational institutions, non-profits, resource agencies and local governments. Through a contract with Zion Forever, The Conservation Fund is the convener for this process to solicit community input and establish a long-term plan. The Plan seeks to serve all recreation users in the region, whether a resident or visitor. Residents of the region are involved in the Steering Team, working groups, and focus groups and members of the public are invited to complete the Project Survey to provide input.

When?

Phase 1 is underway and will extend into early 2022, focused on gathering input and filtering recommendations through a Steering Team, five Working Groups, focus groups and additional outreach methods. Phase 2 is to extend across 2022 to advance agreements and further refine implementation products and guidance.

Related Documents:


Press Coverage:


To Learn More:

Please contact Susan Elks, Program Manager, Balancing Nature and Commerce, The Conservation Fund at selks@conservationfund.org

Photo credit: Jay Brittain

Over the past few decades, much of Wisconsin’s industrial forestland has been converted to non-forest uses and subdivided for development, specifically for residential and second homes. This conversion ultimately harms the forest’s ecological integrity.

Fortunately, by utilizing proceeds from The Conservation Fund’s pioneering green bonds and a loan from the Richard King Mellon Foundation we will be able to secure the largest privately-owned, unprotected block of forest remaining in Wisconsin, while supporting the local timber economy, safeguarding wildlife habitat, and providing public recreational access.


Our Role

Since our founding, The Conservation Fund has protected over 113,000 acres in Wisconsin, including thousands of acres of working forests and farmlands. In October 2021, we purchased 70,000 acres from The Forestland Group, a Timberland Investment Management Organization, to safeguard this large, forested landscape.

Our purchase and interim ownership of these lands, now referred to as Pelican River Forest, provides time to develop permanent conservation strategies that will preserve the forest, safeguard jobs, and provide public recreational access like hunting and fishing year-round. As part of our strategy, we ensure the land remains privately owned and on local tax rolls while it is managed to provide timber to local mills, safeguard water quality and protect wildlife habitat.

This project is part of our Working Forest Fund®—an innovative program dedicated to mitigating climate change, strengthening rural economies and protecting natural ecosystems through the permanent conservation of at-risk working forests across America.


Why it matters

Ensuring the permanent conservation and sustainable management of our existing forests is one of the most effective strategies we have right now to combat climate change. Forests not only store carbon, they also absorb more CO2 as the trees grow. Pelican River Forest plays an important role in this fight, storing approximately 19 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, which is comparable to the emissions from 4.1 million passenger vehicles over the course of a year. Over the next 5 years, the forest is estimated to remove an additional 240,000-640,000 MT CO2e from the atmosphere.

Well-managed forests, particularly in upper watersheds, are critical sources of clean water. The 68 miles of streams, 27,000 acres of forested wetlands and dozens of ponds within Pelican River Forest support good water quality in both the upper Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds, so important to the health of the communities nearby. Water-based recreation, like boating and angling contributes a significant amount of the nearly $8 billion annually economic impact of outdoor recreation throughout Wisconsin.

In addition, our efforts to ensure this large landscape remains forested and continues to be sustainably managed as working timberland will support Wisconsin’s forest products industry, which provides more than 63,500 full and part-time jobs and generates nearly $25 billion annually in economic output.

WE NEED YOUR HELP

The Conservation Fund and its partners are actively raising funds for permanent conservation solutions for this land. For more information about how you can support the conservation of Pelican River Forest please contact Wendy Taylor.

Photo by Rosa Dailey

project summary

The town of Oro Valley, Arizona is nestled between mountain ranges within the Sonoran Desert, just a few miles north of Tucson. The Vistoso Golf Course in Oro Valley ceased operations in 2018, leaving area residents to wonder what would become of the 208-acre property that weaves it way through a residential area called Rancho Vistoso. One potential fate for the property would have been further development into more homes and buildings. However, many Oro Valley residents envisioned preserving this open space and turning it into a nature preserve with trails open to the community. These residents soon organized and rallied around the town’s motto, “It’s in our nature,” to bring their vision to reality, contacting The Conservation Fund for assistance along the way.

Vistoso mtn view Credit Bill Murray and Preserve Vistoso

Photo by Bill Murray and Preserve Vistoso


our role

After a successful second round of negotiations with the seller, we have reached an agreement for The Conservation Fund to purchase 202 acres of recreational open space that was once the fairways of the former Vistoso Golf Course (outlined in green on the map). A 6-acre parcel, a parking lot zoned for high -density residential use (outlined in brown on the map), will be sold separately to an outside developer.

Vestoso map

Credit: The Conservation Fund


Once the 202 acres of the former Vistoso Golf Course is purchased, The Conservation Fund will protect the land with a conservation easement. While the Town of Oro Valley will become the eventual owner of the property, a qualified land trust will be named as the long-term property steward who will ensure it maintains adherence to the terms of the conservation easement.

Why It Matters

Preserving the Vistoso property provides an opportunity to save open space woven throughout several neighborhoods in Oro Valley. It boasts spectacular mountain scenery, Sonoran Desert vegetation, Native American petroglyphs, and habitat for local wildlife. It already contains more than six miles of paved trails, three restrooms and trail underpasses for major roads, which will all be immediately useful as it transitions from golf course to public park. 

Vistoso path Credit Bill Murray and Preserve Vistoso 2

Photo by Bill Murray and Preserve Vistoso

we need your support

We have launched a $1.8 million fundraising effort to make this critical conservation effort a reality by the end of December 2021. Your donation today will directly support the Vistoso preservation project in Oro Valley, Arizona. 

Tax-deductible charitable contributions may be made online, by check, wire transfer, securities transfer, and qualified charitable distribution.

Online - To donate online to the Vistoso project, please click here.

Check - Checks should be made payable to The Conservation Fund. Please designate your gift by including “Vistoso” on the reference line and mail to The Conservation Fund’s headquarters: 1655 N. Fort Myer Drive, Suite 1300, Arlington, VA 22209.

Wire - Please contact Scott Tison at stison@conservationfund.org to make a donation via wire.

Pledge Form - Download the Pledge Form here.

In the unlikely event that the Vistoso project does not come to fruition, you can redirect your gift to one of The Conservation Fund’s other conservation initiatives or your gift can be refunded. We will contact you directly should this unlikely event occur.

 

LEARN MORE



Photo credit: Freshwater Institute

Most seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, with only 2% of Atlantic salmon consumed in the U.S. coming from domestic sources. The result is an enormous seafood trade deficit that represents, among other things, a potential strategic risk for the U.S. food supply. American consumers want high quality seafood caught or produced in a manner that does not negatively impact the environment. Land-based recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) production of Atlantic salmon can provide this option. While RAS is a sustainable method for expanding domestic seafood production, innovations are still needed to improve its economics and overall efficiency.

Our recently completed Wisconsin Sea Grant-funded research project pursued solutions and innovations to improve the economic viability and expansion of land-based RAS salmon production in the U.S.


Our Role

The Freshwater Institute has long been the premier source for development and growth of sustainable fish farming in the North America, leading the way in state-of-the-art RAS technologies research. For several decades, the Freshwater Institute has used its expertise in aquaculture engineering, aquatic veterinary medicine, aquaculture husbandry and production, industry outreach and water chemistry to address critical issues in the domestic seafood supply.

Over the previous three years, the Freshwater Institute carried out research focusing on two important aspects of land-based RAS Atlantic salmon production: early life mortality associated with ubiquitous aquatic organisms of the genus Saprolegnia (i.e., ‘fungus’), and off-flavor in RAS-raised Atlantic salmon fillets originating from beneficial bacteria in tanks and filters.

Research included:

  • Examining low-dose applications of environmentally friendly hydrogen peroxide and peracetic acid to reduce fungus-associated mortality during the vulnerable salmon ‘fry’ life-stage
  • Assessing the impact of water exchange rates, dissolved oxygen, and swimming speed on the efficiency of removing off-flavors prior to harvest

WHY THIS PROJECT MATTERS

Outcomes of the Freshwater Institute’s research continue to help inform the growing domestic land-based Atlantic salmon RAS industry, assist with sustainable expansion of the industry, and increase consumer confidence in seafood produced in land-based RAS. Techniques developed to improve production learned in this project are now publicly available online at https://www.conservationfund.org/our-work/freshwater-institute/publications/research-publications.

James River in Richmond, VA. Photo: Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program
Downtown Richmond was the site of America’s first industrial boom in the 1800s. New mills and ironworks lined the adjacent James River for nearly a century.

Today, most of the waterfront has become a popular location for outdoor recreation, restaurants, art displays and more. However, one riverfront green space has remained privately-owned where it’s faced immense pressure from potential residential and commercial development for decades. The Conservation Fund recently purchased that 5.2-acre property on Dock Street to secure it from future threats while we work with local partners to raise the necessary funds to permanently protect it. 

Why It Matters 

Protecting the Dock Street property will have various benefits to the Richmond community including new public access to the riverfront, enhancing the Virginia Capital Trail, maintaining water quality, and safeguarding the historic view for which Richmond was named.

Virginia Capital Trail 

The James River is a central feature of Richmond, and the James River Park System is one of the most renowned urban park systems in the nation. The park offers river access and hiking trails and provides the starting point for the Virginia Capital Trail—a 51.2-mile trail that connects Richmond to Williamsburg. Dock Street will secure the last link for the Virginia Capital Trail and will allow the last piece of the trail to be moved off the busy city street and onto the waterfront.

Water Quality

More than 2.6 million people live in the 10,000-square-mile James River watershed. While pollution discharged from large industrial plants has largely been regulated and reduced over the last fifty years, the human impact of development still greatly affects the river’s health. By keeping the Dock Street property free from commercial development, it’ll maintain the land’s ability to naturally filter runoff and prevent additional sediment from reaching the river.

Beyond clean drinking water, the quality of the James River also impacts various species including Atlantic sturgeon—which has existed for 120 million years—as well as American shad, smallmouth bass, and bald eagles that roost around the river. 

Richmond 800 x 600
View of James River and Richmond's downtown area. Photo: Geoff Livingston


“The View that Named Richmond” 

In 1737, William Byrd II looked out over the James River from Libby Hill and noticed the view was strikingly similar to that along the Thames in Richmond, England. This led the founders of Virginia’s city to copy the name in homage to their homeland, leading to “The View that Named Richmond.” In 2012, the American Society of Landscape Architects named the Libby Hill overlook one of America’s most iconic landscapes. Protecting the Dock Street property will ensure this historic viewshed remains unobstructed for future generations.  

Our Role 

Current zoning would have allowed industrial buildings of up to 45 feet in height to be built on Dock Street, effectively cutting off the view of the river from Libby Hill and eliminating any hope of public access to the waterfront. Instead of sitting idle, The Conservation Fund, the Capital Region Land Conservancy, the James River Association, and the City of Richmond came together to create a plan that would effectively protect the property in perpetuity.

A critical step in that plan was The Conservation Fund’s temporary ownership of the property to ease any immediate threats. Our ability to step in and quickly purchase properties like this one is what The Conservation Fund was built for. We will hold the land until our partners can secure the necessary funding for their ultimate purchase and protection. The James River Association will acquire just under one acre of this land for an education center. The rest will be acquired by the City of Richmond with help from Capital Region Land Conservancy. 

We Need Your Help to Permanently Protect this Place 

We and our partners are actively raising funds to permanently protect this site. For more information about how you can support the conservation of the Dock Street property, please contact Rachael Joiner

Long’s Gardens is home to the Long family’s iris rhizome and flower business. Photo credit: Whitney Flanagan

Operated by the Long family for over 100 years, this 25-acre oasis is the last and largest agriculturally zoned property within downtown Boulder, containing the City’s oldest community gardens and a critical link in a highly trafficked trail network. After over a decade of work with The Conservation Fund and the City of Boulder, the Long family, steadfast in their commitment, reached the goal to see their urban farm conserved instead of developed.

why it matters

Long’s Gardens is a unique and historic place in Boulder—it’s the last significant working farmland in the city that’s been in continuous production for a century and was designated a Centennial Farm by History Colorado. Today, it’s home to the Long family’s iris rhizome and flower business and is the headquarters for Growing Gardens, a nonprofit organization that provides food donations and educational opportunities to over 39,000 community members annually.

It has also been a key part of Boulder’s trail system. For decades, the public has made use of the property’s paths with permission of the Long family. But today, a conservation easement agreement protects this land and ensures permanent access to the trails.



Long’s Gardens also provides a haven for wildlife amidst the densely urbanized city. The Farmers Ditch trail, which bisects the property, acts as a wildlife movement corridor for black bear, mountain lion, coyote, fox, mule deer, white-tailed deer, raccoon, tree squirrels, and cottontail rabbits. Local enthusiasts have recorded over 100 species of birds on the property. The land also supports an abundance of bees, dragonflies, butterflies, and other pollinators.

our role

Surrounded by a busy and booming Boulder, Long’s Gardens faced immense pressure for development. Luckily, the Long family, the City of Boulder and passionate community members were determined to find a way to preserve this unique urban farmland. For over a decade, we worked with the City and the family to find the best possible conservation solution for this land. In 2021, by facilitating a conservation easement held by the City, we were able to ensure that Long’s Gardens will remain permanently protected while remaining in private ownership.

With this win-win solution, the conservation easement will sustain gardening and local food production on the property, secure the popular trail corridor, and enable educational programming on farming, regenerative agriculture and nutrition to continue serving diverse members of the community.

An aerial view of the Tensaw River and Fort Blakeley Historic Park near Mobile, Alabama. Courtesy of Keith West, University of South Alabama.
Expected to contain valuable archaeological data, the 60-acre battle site property known as Blakeley Bluff was a high priority for conservation. Our protection of this land will allow greater opportunities for archaeological excavation, historical research and preservation of the battle site’s rich history.

Preserving African American History at Fort Blakeley Alabama 1
An aerial view of the Tensaw River and Fort Blakeley Historic Park near Mobile, Alabama. Courtesy of Keith West, University of South Alabama.

Why It Matters: The History

On April 9, 1865—which is considered the last day of the Civil War—in less than half an hour, the Confederate Fort Blakeley was overrun by United States Colored Troops, including 5,000 African American soldiers, leading to an overwhelming victory that many have called the “last stand of the Confederate States of America.”

Major General Frederick Steele led the march west from Pensacola, Florida to attack Fort Blakely. Steele’s 1st Division was commanded by Brigadier General John P. Hawkins and included three brigades of African American troops. The 1st Brigade, commanded by Brigadier General William Pile, consisted of the 73rd, 82nd, and 86th regiments of United States Colored Troops. The 2nd Brigade, under Colonel Hiram Scofield, included the 47th, 50th, and 51st U.S. Colored Troops. The 3rd Brigade, consisting of the 48th, 68th, and 76th U.S. Colored Troops, was commanded by Major William E. Nye. (Source: Iron Brigader)

Steel’s force reached Fort Blakely on April 1st after a difficult march across ground turned into mud due to heavy spring rains. The week-long siege on the pine-covered bluffs overlooking the Mobile-Tensaw Delta began as Robert E. Lee assembled the remnants of his troops near Appomattox. The Battle of Fort Blakely concluded a few hours after Lee signed over the Army of Northern Virginia to U.S. General Ulysses S. Grant.

Some estimate that U.S. Colored Troops represented nearly half the Union force at Blakeley. The involvement of these troops in critical battles like Fort Blakeley has gone largely untold. According to History.com, by the time the war ended in 1865, about 180,000 African American soldiers had served in the U.S. Army. This was about 10 percent of the total Union fighting force.

Research on the Blakeley Bluff property is believed to expose valuable archaeological data related to this African American experience that will help us tell a more accurate story of Civil War history and the imperative involvement of U.S. Colored Troops.

“Preserving Blakeley Bluff protects one of the last critical pieces of the war’s most poignant battles, prefiguring the nation’s long battle for civil rights that followed. The result is one of the region’s largest, best-preserved and most significant Civil War parks.”

– Bill Finch, writer and naturalist


Because of the landscape’s history, farming on the old battlefields was limited and the distinctive soils held impressions for centuries. Trenches, gun emplacements, batteries and other marks of battle are still prominent and intact, providing opportunities for archaeological digging, data collecting and vivid interpretation of the often-untold history of these troops. You can learn more about the critical involvement of African Americans in the Civil War at the African American Civil War Memorial & Museum.
Preserving African American History at Fort Blakeley Alabama 2The Blakeley Bluff property sits along the Tensaw River. Courtesy of Keith West, University of South Alabama.


Why It Matters: The Ecosystem

Beyond historical importance, the Blakeley Bluff property has significant conservation value, unique ecology and diversity of interesting plant species. The property got its namesake from its important role in the Battle of Fort Blakeley, but also from its bluffs—broad, rounded cliffs—that overlook the Tensaw River. In fact, it contains some of the highest bluffs in Alabama.  

Prior to the property’s protection, renowned biologist and author E.O. Wilson wrote a letter to The Conservation Fund concerning the importance of this land. In his letter, not only did Wilson site the personal value that the bluffs had on his childhood, but he referenced the ecological and historical significance of the property that could not risk being threatened by development.  

“It is, in short, one of the most significant properties within the entire Mobile-Tensaw Delta system. It demonstrates how closely linked human history is to natural history. It is also one of the most endangered properties of the region.”

– E.O. Wilson, biologist and author


The property consists of hardwood cove ravines, blackwater swamps and pine uplands. The hardwood ravines shelter some of the most pristine forests in the area and support rich plant diversity for species such as lilies, hibiscus, orchids and the rare Alabama dahoon holly. 

Preserving African American History at Fort Blakeley Alabama 3The Blakeley Bluff property sits along the Tensaw River. Courtesy of Keith West, University of South Alabama.


Our Role 

Protecting this land for its historical and environmental values was a unique challenge, involving many partners and a creative conservation solution. In 2019, we purchased the property, protected it with a conservation easement, then transferred the easement to the University of South Alabama in 2020 to restrict any future development, support the University’s ongoing research on the land and preserve a unique and at-risk ecosystem. We will continue to own the land in partnership with the University. 

This effort was made possible with funding from the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program, which is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Thanks to facilitating efforts from the American Battlefield Trust, the grant was awarded for our purchase of the land. 

With the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020, LWCF was granted full and permanent funding, essentially doubling the amount of money our federal partners can use on conservation projects like this each year. Learn more about how we’re scaling up our funding capabilities to take full advantage of LWCF for America’s land, water and communities.

Photo credit: Freshwater Institute

The world population is increasing quickly, and contemporary food supplies are struggling to keep up with the need. U.S. consumers continue to demand an inexpensive, healthy protein source with minimal environmental impacts, and wild catch fisheries can no longer keep up with the demand or ecological concerns. Currently, the U.S. imports more than 90% of its edible seafood each year, including 98% of its Atlantic Salmon consumption.

The Freshwater Institute has long been the premier source for development and growth of sustainable fish farming in the North America, leading the way in state-of-the-art water recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) technologies research. For several decades, the Freshwater Institute has used its expertise in aquaculture engineering, aquatic veterinary medicine, aquaculture husbandry and production, industry outreach and water chemistry to address critical issues in the domestic seafood supply.

A recent cooperative agreement with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service will continue that legacy of work.

Our Role

Over the next five years, the Freshwater Institute will conduct research activities to improve the health and welfare of fish raised in RAS and to advance the technical and economic efficiencies of land-based closed-containment operations.

Research activities will include:

  • Identifying genetic strains of Atlantic salmon and steelhead for optimal performance in RAS
  • Assessing methods to reduce early sexual maturation in salmon
  • Assessing methods to improve water quality for fish rearing environment optimization
  • Developing next-generation biomonitors and computing technologies to improve fish health management and RAS environmental control
  • Developing means for RAS producers to monetize waste streams for enhanced economic viability
  • Developing precision aquaculture technologies for RAS by applying artificial intelligence and machine learning for real-time biomass estimation, feed monitoring, and health assessments
USFWS Hatchery Modernization map 08 copyClick here to view the full graph



Why this project matters

The Freshwater Institute’s research is helping to address critical gaps in current RAS performance, production, costs, and efficiency. Research results from these areas increase the feasibility and success of RAS facilities that seek to provide a sustainable domestic seafood supply using environmentally-responsible aquaculture.

Read more about our scientific publications from this (and previous) projects for free: https://www.conservationfund.org/our-work/freshwater-institute/publications.

Photo credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie

Our Role

The Freshwater Institute partnered with Four Peaks Environmental Science & Data Solutions to complete the facility assessments and provide modernization recommendations for each hatchery. At each facility, the water sources, piping distributions systems, fish rearing equipment and buildings, influent water treatment and effluent treatment infrastructure were evaluated. Our experts worked closely with the hatchery staff to determine the facility-specific program needs and potential areas for improvements. The goal was to maximize the current facility infrastructure and footprint and provide solutions to challenges the hatchery was currently facing.

The hatcheries evaluated were Lahontan National Fish Hatchery, San Marcos Aquatic Research Center, Neosho National Fish Hatchery, Saratoga National Fish Hatchery, and Dwight D. Eisenhower National Fish Hatchery. Each facility was rearing different species with different conservation and mitigation goals, but all had similar concerns for water resiliency, flexible rearing space, biosecurity, and data management. Once all five site assessments were completed, a final modernization plan was developed to summarize overarching themes, challenges, and recommendations. The Freshwater Institute provided expertise through technical and biological review, program planning, and concept-level design to address specific issues for improvement.

USFWS Hatchery Modernization map 08 copy


Why this project matters

The goals of USFWS are to recover federally designated threatened or endangered species, restore imperiled species, improve recreational fishing and public use of aquatic resources, and fulfill tribal partnerships and trust responsibilities. Increasing demands on limited water resources, changing environmental conditions, and aging infrastructure jeopardize many hatcheries ability to meet those goals. This project created a framework for USFWS and all hatcheries to overcome their unique conservation and recreation challenges. The Freshwater Institute makes it a priority to share our knowledge and technical expertise and support the recovery and conservation of species across the U.S.