If you want to hike the East Moraine, and you start at the “green gate” –a double set of metal stock gates about 2/3 of the way from the County Park to Wallowa Lake Lodge, you’ll find a polite, laminated, chartreuse-green sign posted there that says “Would you like to continue to have access to this beautiful landscape and prevent it from becoming a housing development? Learn more, get involved, and donate: www.morainecampaign.org or call 541-426-2042.”
That phone number belongs to the Wallowa Land Trust. They and their partners want to invite you to contribute any amount, large or small, to help the Wallowa Lake Moraines Partnership complete the purchase of the Yanke Property—1800 acres on the southern portion of the East Moraine and Mount Howard. The partnership is a public/private non-profit collaboration that includes the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners, Wallowa Resources, the Wallowa Land Trust, along with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
“The Land Trust and our partners have been focused on large contributions and grants to get the project started in the right direction with the right momentum,” said Wallowa Land Trust Conservation Program Manager Eric Greenwell. “But we invite everyone who loves the moraines and Wallowa County to support this project at a level they can afford. This is a community effort. The property will belong to us all—to Wallowa County — and be managed both as a working landscape and for recreation. And we encourage everyone to be part of its purchase.”
In addition to contributing through the moraincampaign.org site, donors can also provide funds through the Ben Boswell Memorial Fund. “Ben’s family wanted to set up a fund that would support a worthy cause,” said Wallowa Resources Executive Director Nils Christoffersen. “They asked us to determine what that might be and we all decided that saving the moraines would have been one of Ben’s highest priorities.” Boswell, a teacher at Joseph middle school, believed in optimizing use of local resources for the benefit of the local economy, and mixed uses of landscapes, including harvest, grazing, recreation and education. Donations of any amount can be made to the Ben Boswell fund through Wallowa Resources Boswell Memorial Fund website: https://www.wallowaresources.org/index.php/support-us/boswell
The Yanke Property, which sprawls across the top of the moraine and laps up onto the densely forested north slope of Mount Howard, is a critical component of protecting the East Moraine from development, and providing public access to the spectacular East Moraine landscape. But the Wallowa Lake Moraines Partnership has only until January 3, 2020 to raise the 6.5 million dollars to cover the purchase price as well as establishing a fund for planning and perpetual management. If they cannot pay off the purchase price by that date, this prime part of the scenic and geologically important east moraine risks development: up to 15 homes, a conference center and associated facilities, and a private dock. Public entry would likely be barred. And the moraines landscape as we know it would be lost.
When the Partnership succeeds in purchasing the land, ownership will transfer to Wallowa County. The partnership is working together to establish a comprehensive management plan, with each member contributing time and expertise. Included in the 6.5 million dollar price tag are funds so that Wallowa County can hire a manger for the property in perpetuity who will ensure that the final management plan is carried out.
To date, Greenwell said, the partnership has raised almost $3.9 million, including a $3.6 million dollar grant from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program. But that is only about 60% of the amount needed, and time is short. The partnership continues to seek grants. And they are planning additional fundraising events, including a possible presentation in Portland later in the summer, said Wallowa County Commissioner John Hillock.
“What’s important to the county is that the moraines remain a working landscape,” he said. “It’s a place we can demonstrate how a working landscape can support a community as well as wildlife and habitat and recreation.” And once the Yanke property purchase is complete, the county will establish several committees that provide oversight management of forestry, grazing, and recreation. “If people want to get involved in one of those committees once we acquire the land,” Hillock said, “that would be one great way to help.”
“Every contribution, no matter what the size, is important”, said Christoffersen. “To help ensure success, it’s important to capture large grants and funders. But it’s the smaller donations that foster community engagement and ownership. That’s where the heart of the project lies.”