A message from Kathleen Ackley, Executive Director
In mid-April, Wallowa County farmer Woody Wolfe and I made the trek to Salem together. The trip was part of a larger effort to ensure the voices of farmers and ranchers like Woody, who see the connection between conservation and working lands, is heard at our state capitol.
Woody owns almost 2,000 acres of farmland in Wallowa County and has placed a permanent conservation easement on a portion of his property where the Lostine and Wallowa Rivers come together. Through this conservation easement, Woody and his wife Megan sold the rights to develop and subdivide their farm to Wallowa Land Trust.
Thanks to the Wolfe’s generosity, the Land Trust was able to purchase these rights at a bargain sale. In other words, Megan and Woody donated a portion of the value of their conservation easement to Wallowa Land Trust. Now, Woody will continue to farm the land, but it cannot ever be subdivided or developed and stricter controls are now in place to protect the area adjacent to the rivers. By working with the Land Trust to protect his property, Woody was able to use the proceeds from the sale of the conservation easement to reinvest in his operation, and now one of the most intact stretches of the Lostine River is forever conserved.
This is the story Woody and I took to Salem: that working lands can benefit conservation and help farmers and ranchers meet their bottom line at the same time. Kelley Beamer of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts joined us and the three of us spent the day with elected leaders and policy advisors at Oregon’s state capitol. Woody shared his story and spoke eloquently about his vision for improving soil health on his property and the desire to further protect his farm. We stressed the need for lawmakers to support conservation of working lands across Oregon – lands which also are prime wildlife habitat and provide vital open space and sustain our rural economies. Our heartfelt thanks to Woody for his leadership and willingness to advocate on behalf of rural communities.