From public trails to endangered turtle habitat to breath-taking viewpoints, Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust owns over 1,000 acres of land, making it one of the largest private landowners in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.
A One-of-a-Kind Land TrustWhile most land trusts steer clear of environmental advocacy and litigation, Friends of the Columbia Gorge is one of the few non-profit organizations in the country to successfully meld advocacy, litigation and land acquisition into a robust conservation organization. It was result of having a visionary founder willing to do anything to protect a world-class landscape. Nancy Russell understood that land acquisition was the most effective conservation tool in the Columbia Gorge. She advocated for federal funds for the Forest Service to purchase land and helped start The Trust for Public Land’s Oregon office to facilitate federal acquisitions. What resulted was one of the most impressive conservation efforts in the United States; over 30,000 acres of land was purchased from willing sellers for the benefit of wildlife and Gorge lovers everywhere. A testament to this benefit can be seen with Friends’ hiking program: of the 100+ annual hikes that Friends leads in the Gorge, over half cross lands that were unavailable to the public prior to the passage of the National Scenic Area Act in 1986.
But more than an acquisition advocate, Nancy was also a conservation buyer who personally purchased over 30 properties to protect them from development.
Hear the story from our Founder Nancy Russell (starting at 7:24 of video) about how the South 40 and Lyle Cherry Orchard properties were conserved.
Nancy sold some of those lands to public agencies, often at a loss, and singlehandedly saved hundreds of acres in the Gorge during her lifetime. Nancy was determined to protect the lands she had acquired and made arrangements to leave her land to Friends of the Columbia Gorge, along with funds to start a land trust within the organization if one did not exist upon her death. It was expected that the creation of a land trust would be years away, but two events shifted that presumption. In 2004, Nancy was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and a long-time member, Norman Yeon, left Friends an unrestricted bequest of $4.5 million. The most transformational gift in the organization’s history led the board into an 18-month planning process and eventually the creation of the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust. The trust was set up as 509(a)(3) support organization of the parent organization, beholden to Friends of the Columbia Gorge but shielded from any litigation that might be leveled against the parent organization. The trustees of the land trust were chosen and Nancy Russell was elected as the first trustee. She served until her death in 2008, upon when, she bequeathed over 600 acres of her land to Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust.
With the backing of Friends of the Columbia Gorge, the land trust has the opportunity to take on ambitious projects like Gorge Towns to Trails. While the land trust engages in acquisitions, trail building and stewardship of lands, Friends of the Columbia Gorge builds community support and works with elected officials to support larger trail visions.
Contact UsLand Trust Manager: Kate McBride
Stewardship Coordinator: Sara Woods
Meet the Board of Trustees
Pledge to Use a Boot Brush!
Give the boot to noxious weeds in the Gorge!Learn More
Hike Lyle Cherry Orchard
Beautiful scenery and south-facing slopes make this a great year-round hike. Prime wildflower viewing in March and April.View Hike
Hike Mosier Plateau
Watch a video highlighting stunning views up and down the Gorge from this property.
Volunteer for a Stewardship Event
Helping maintain a Friends land trust property is a great way to give back to the Gorge.Volunteer