Wallowa Lake’s iconic East Moraine is well on its way to being conserved in its entirety. Another 482 acres was recently added to the growing list of properties under permanent protection.
Working with Wallowa Land Trust, landowners Lou and Deyette Perry voluntarily established a conservation easement on their working farm that extinguishes development of one homesite, ensures that the 482 acres will never be subdivided, maintains working grazing and agricultural lands and conserves habitat forever.
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust that protects a property’s agricultural viability, natural habitat, rural heritage and/or scenic open space in perpetuity.
“This easement, which still allows me to manage the property and maintain it as a working landscape, was a perfect opportunity to both protect the moraine and ensure that it didn’t just get locked up as a park or preserve,” Lou Perry said.
The 482-acre Perry property encompasses portions of the eastern lateral moraines over to the top of the East Moraine’s crest. The Perrys also have left open the opportunity to grant a trail easement and public access, where a section of the informal East Moraine trail crosses their farm at the top of the East Moraine. The conserved farm is directly adjacent to the 176-acre Quint and 52-acre Ham conservation easements, which Wallowa Land Trust completed in 2019 and 2017, respectively.
“The Perry farm is a unique and important piece of property, and its long-term conservation is a great achievement,” said Eric Greenwell, Wallowa Land Trust’s conservation program manager. Much of the farmland has been been worked using conservation-savvy no-till methods. Bunchgrass prairie occupies the upper portions of the property. It is, Wallowa Land Trust executive director Kathleen Ackley noted, the southern-most extent of Zumwalt Prairie. The landscape provides habitat for summering grassland birds and wintering mule deer. Along with other conservation properties, including the likely purchase of, and conveyance of the 1,800-acre Yanke property, the Perry easement helps establish a corridor of open space and habitat from the Wallowa Mountains to the valley floor.”
Lou Perry is a fourth-generation Wallowa County resident. “My great-grandfather, George F. Dawson, came by horseback to Wallowa County in 1902,” Perry said. “He and his brother soon established a sawmill and retail lumber store, which continues to this day as 1917 Lumber.”
Lou has a long history on the land of the new easement. He grew up on upper Prairie Creek with the Moraines as his backdrop. Perry said, “When I was still in high school, I leased much of the property now protected for my sheep operation.” At the age of 19, he bought the first parcel and has added to it ever since. He moved to Tennessee for school, where he met his wife Deyette, before moving back to the county. Today, Lou leases out the land to grow crops including wheat and other grains.
Perry has been working with the Land Trust for about 4 years to establish a conservation easement. The NRCS land easement program, Nez Perce Tribe, Bergstrom Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy provided funding for the conservation easement. Perry's present management and land use practices will continue unchanged under the conservation easement's management plan.
“It (the easement) maintains both the scenic values we all cherish, and keeps it in productive use,” Perry explained. ”I am happy to leave this as a legacy to the county and future generations.”