One year ago, no one would have predicted the world we live in now. However, in last year’s annual report, we correctly predicted two of our three emergent themes: a house removed from our land trust property and credible progress on strengthening climate policies in the Gorge, which is occurring through the Gorge Commission’s plan review process. One thing we got wrong was our 40th anniversary celebrations, which have been moved to 2021.
With an unpredictable future, here are a couple of priorities we see on the horizon in the coming year:
More conservation to come
In a major legislative surprise of 2020, Congress passed and the president signed the Great American Outdoors Act. In addition to providing needed maintenance funding for our federal lands and related buildings, the act also permanently funded the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the major source of acquisition for federal, state, and local lands for the past half century. More than 50 percent of the trails in the Gorge today owe their existence to the Land and Water Conservation Funds. In 2021 and beyond, we expect more opportunities for public land acquisition to preserve scenic views, mitigate climate impacts, protect habitat, and support more trails and parks.
In the weeds with climate
In late 2020, the Columbia River Gorge Commission drew a line in the sand with its decision to create a climate plan to mitigate climate impacts in the Gorge. In the coming year, the details will get filled in. The decisions made and policies created now could limit climate impacts for decades ahead. Will the commission go bold or allow the status quo to keep marching along? That depends on all of us, but the window of opportunity is open.
Expanding access and equity
While Friends has been undergoing introspection around diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, expect some of that introspection to roll into actions in the coming year. We’ve posted bi-lingual signage on land trust preserves and will be reimagining our outdoor programs to better support under-represented communities. We also expect to announce plans to create new levels of accessibility for one of the Gorge’s most iconic sites.
Our fifth decade got off to a rocky start in 2020, but resiliency is a hallmark of this organization, and we’re setting the stage for Friends to be even better and stronger in the years to come.