Wallowa Land Trust is a step closer to achieving its goal of East Moraine of Wallowa Lake preservation with the possibility of a $900,000 Forest Legacy Grant through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The WLT application ranked third nationwide on the U.S. Forest Service list of 34 priority LWCF projects submitted in the president’s 2017 budget released to Congress on Feb. 9. It is the only Oregon project that received funding.
The grant funding comes from royalties from federal oil and gas leases.
Should the funding pass through Congress unscathed, it will be added to a $3 million grant the land trust received for the same purpose in the 2016 budget. The funds potentially could be used to acquire 1,533 of the East Moraine’s 3,000 acres from a private landowner. Wallowa Land Trust Executive Director Kathleen Ackley said her organization, as well as the Wallowa Lake Moraines Partnership, wants to see the East Moraine remain a sustainable, undeveloped working landscape that offers cultural significance, public access, livestock grazing and wildlife habitat as well as timber related resources.
Ackley said she had heard in early February that the grant application had made the list, but refused to believe it until she saw it in writing with her own eyes with help from The Trust for Public Land.
“Of course, Congress still has to pass the budget — this is just the president’s recommendations. But being as we’re number three, chances are pretty good we’ll get the money.”
Ackley said she was impressed by the high ranking, as the $3 million grant from the previous year ranked 10th nationally.
“Obviously our project competed well this year, since it got an even higher ranking than previously,” she said.
According to Ackley, The East Moraine is one of the world’s most perfectly formed, well-preserved glacial landscapes and one of the most iconic unprotected areas in Eastern Oregon. Estimations indicate that Wallowa Lake and its moraines yearly draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area and offer a significant contribution to the Wallowa County’s tourist as well as agricultural economy.
Ackley said that the next step in the process will be doing more joint appraisal work on the property with the landowner, an independent appraiser, the Oregon Department of Forestry and the USFS.
“In order to get federal government dollars ... we have to go through a very specific appraisal process, and you have to do it with the funding agency. The idea is that this process is safeguarding the public trust — that we’re not spending an exorbitant amount of money to the benefit of one single private individual.”