For the past 19,000 years or so, Wallowa Lake’s stately East Moraine has towered above Wallowa Lake, a monumental and unspoiled legacy to the power of glacial ice and the persistence of nature. Revered by local residents and visitors alike, this privately owned landscape has remained miraculously undeveloped.
Now, thanks to a $1 million dollar commitment by Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department (ORPD), the effort to place the 1800-acre Yanke property, largest tract of land on the East Moraine, into ownership of Wallowa County has taken a giant step toward completion.
“The Wallowa Land Trust worked with the other partners to write the grant," said Land Trust Executive Director Kathleen Ackley. "Commissioner John Hillock, the partnership head, and I traveled to Salem to give a presentation to the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department grant committee. Commissioner Susan Roberts has served on the grant committee and had to recuse herself. This is the first time in about a decade that the OPRD grants committee has recommended, and the state park commission has approved, a grant for the maximum you can ask for, which is a million dollars,” Ackley said.
The funds, which come from a local government grant program, will be provided directly to Wallowa County for the purchase of the 1,800-acre Yanke property land. The deadline for purchase is January.
“Oregon Parks really likes to see funds go to actually purchase land that will be open to the public," Hillock said. "Putting in hiking trails is part of the deal. And the public access to the property will also let hunters and horseback riders access the USFS land that the Yanke property borders.”
"The million dollars is just for acquisition and will go straight from the coffers of OPRD to the title company when we close on the property", Ackley noted.
As of Oct. 22, the Wallowa Lake Moraines Partnership has raised about 95% of the funds needed to secure the Yanke property. They have only $435,845 left to go to meet the $6.5 million dollars needed to purchase the property and begin its management. Funds for the purchase have come from the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Legacy Program ($3.6 million), OPRD ($1 million), individuals ($870,000), the Nez Perce Tribe ($300,000), the Collins Foundation ($135,000), the Oregon Community Foundation ($100,0000), the Conservation Alliance ($40,0000), the Land Trust Alliance/Yarg Foundation ($22,000), and the Rose Tucker Charitable Trust ($10,000)
That final $435,845 seems to be well within reach. The Partnership is awaiting word in November on a $400,000 grant request to the Murdock Charitable Trust. They also plan to submit a grant request to Cycle Oregon.
“We’ve had incredible support from local businesses, artists and artisans who have made donations in support of the project,” Ackley said. "We are using their generous donations to encourage people to make contributions of $500 or more. Those who contribute will be entered into a drawing for some amazing Wallowa County items.” The drawings will take place on Monday, Nov. 11.
"If we are lucky enough to actually raise any more money than our target, we can put it toward stewardship," said Wallowa Land Trust conservation Director Eric Greenwell. "That would include management equipment to implement the developing management plan."
The Partnership was formed by Wallowa Land Trust, Wallowa Resources, Wallowa County and OPRD to secure the East Moraine as public land that would remain undeveloped, and become a model for sustainable natural resource management. The goals of the Partnership are to: provide public access respectful of the landscape and its scenic beauty; protect open space for wildlife, recreation, and natural resources; and, maintain sustainable working landscapes of farms, forests and rangeland to contribute to the local economy and rural ways of life.
The Partnership officially launched a capital campaign to acquire this property in early 2019.