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Connecting Land, Connecting Communities

Connecting Land, Connecting Communities
By Dan Bell
Land Trust Director
April 22, 2021

Friends joins "Oregon I Am" campaign to encourage Oregonians to safely connect with each other in a collective celebration of the land and communities across the state.

The Columbia Gorge is a place of wonder. As is the rugged Oregon coastline. Or the vast expanse of Oregon’s shrub steppe. Or the towering forests of southern Oregon. With such an amazing state, there is so much to protect and steward in Oregon. It’s a big place.

Friends has been protecting and stewarding the Columbia Gorge for decades. And when you look at the marvels of a protected place, like the Steigerwald Refuge, it's clear Friends work to safeguard sensitive Gorge lands from development have been more than worth the effort. Fortunately, in every corner of the state there are land trusts- driven by talented staff, dedicated volunteers, and local resources- doing similar work. Every day, Oregon’s land trusts are working with landowners and communities to protect forests, farmland, natural areas, wetlands and rivers.

When appropriate, land trusts also open their lands to everyone to recreate and enjoy. Together, we offer public access to more than 100,000 acres in Oregon. That’s roughly the equivalent of our state parks system. We strive to make these places welcoming and safe for all. We strive to let you know the value we provide to our communities.

But despite hosting thousands of visitors on our lands, public awareness of land trusts is low. Over the past several years, Friends has been part of a collaborative communications effort to increase awareness, engage members of the public and connect them more closely with those special places that we protect. And that's why we are proud to join a new statewide effort to encourage Oregonians this spring to safely connect with each other in a collective celebration of the land and communities we love.

A preview of COLT's new mapThat communications effort is being led by the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts (COLT). COLT’s mission is to serve and strengthen the land trust community in Oregon. It represents and gives a collective voice to more than twenty land trusts in Oregon, and continually highlights the value of land trusts in communities across the state. COLT's "Oregon I Am” campaign is an invitation to step outside and discover ourselves in this incredible land, to safely connect to each other and to our favorite Oregon places—including ones we have yet to discover. And to kick things off, we're launching with the first-ever map, highlighting places—protected by land trusts across Oregon—you can visit.

Over on the Washington side, the Washington Association of Land Trusts (WALT) serves a similar purpose. Both COLT and WALT are invaluable in advancing state level conservation policies, providing forums for learning, and expanding the impact of land trusts.

As land trusts strive to engage people and increase the awareness of land trusts, one of our greatest assets are those publicly accessible preserves. They provide an opportunity to experience our work firsthand. They provide a platform for us to connect that work to bigger issues and concerns. They provide a place to demonstrate that every visitor is welcomed, and that intolerance is not tolerated.

Amazingly enough, these places have never been compiled onto a single map. Nor have they been compiled for our friends and neighbors that speak Spanish—until now.

As part of the “Oregon I Am” campaign, COLT and its partners have created a downloadable map, in both English and Spanish, with enough places to visit to keep you busy for an entire year without ever leaving Oregon.

Please check out the map, and use it to appreciate all of Oregon and experience firsthand the great work of Oregon’s land trusts. And we hope to see you and your family and friends out on the trails, as public lands are a treasure that all Oregonians should be able to enjoy.

Oregon I Am Banner, a hiker sniffs a flower at Mosier Plateu

Dan joined Friends in early 2018 as director of the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust. In this capacity he oversees the acquisition, management and disposition of lands held by the land trust. Dan also serves as vice president for the board of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts and actively works with the Washington Association of Land Trusts.