Burt Edwards, communications director, Friends of the Columbia Gorge | 971.634.0595 (Office) | 703.861.8237 (Cell) | firstname.lastname@example.org (email)
Dan Bell, land trust director, Friends of the Columbia Gorge | 971.634.2037 (Office)| email@example.com (email)
HOOD RIVER, OR – Since its creation in 2005, the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust has conserved 26 sites in the Gorge totaling more than 1,500 acres. In late August, Friends' land trust was awarded its inaugural accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance. Friends joins over 435 other accredited land trusts operating around the United States (including 18 in Washington and 10 in Oregon).
Purchases by Friends' land trust can be traced to the 1980s as part of Friends' founder Nancy Russell's efforts to gain federal protections for the lands of the Columbia Gorge. Several preserves owned by Friends are open to the public. Over the years, preserves such as Mosier Plateau and Lyle Cherry Orchard have become popular recreation spots for Gorge community members and visiting hikers alike. Other Friends' closed preserves in the Gorge provide valuable habitat for endangered western pond turtles and serve as a location for special outdoor educational programs to expose youth to the wonders and fragility of the Columbia Gorge.
Most preserves are held in Friends ownership for decades. For these, Friends pays annual property taxes to Gorge communities. In FY2018-19, it paid about $57,590 in property taxes. Other properties—such as parcels of land now managed by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the Cape Horn trail and the Nancy Russell overlook—are acquired and then conveyed to state or federal agencies as elements of larger conservation or recreation projects. In the past year, Friends has transferred two parcels totaling more than 20 acres to the U.S. Forest Service for permanent ownership and management.
"From the acquisition of our Mosier Plateau preserve to our work with partners to help restore resting habitat for salmon near Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust has played a key role in protecting some of the most beautiful and ecologically important spots in the Gorge," said Friends Land Trust Director Dan Bell. "Accreditation by the Land Trust Alliance is not only a tribute to Friends' efforts over the past 14 years, but an important next step in our ongoing work to ensure the wonders of the Gorge are protected and preserved for generations to come."
Launched in 2006 by the Land Trust Alliance, the accreditation process evaluates a land trust’s commitment to sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship. Achieving accreditation not only helps build partner and donor confidence, but accredited land trusts have found to protect five times as more land and attract three times more volunteers than non-accredited land trusts. According to the Land Trust Alliance’s most recent census, there are over 1,360 land trusts currently working across the nation.
"Land trust accreditation is a huge accomplishment for any organization. Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust earned this seal of excellence through its years of thoughtful conservation and strategic growth," said Kelley Beamer, executive director for the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts. "They are protecting critical land in the Gorge for forever. With this achievement, Friends joins a growing network of organizations across Oregon and the nation that have earned recognition for delivering responsible, long-term land protection."
"It is exciting to recognize Friends of the Columbia Gorge with this national mark of distinction," added Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. "Donors and partners can trust that the more than 400 accredited land trusts across the country are united behind strong standards and have demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship."
The first-time application for accreditation under the Land Trust Accreditation Commission is a rigorous, years-long process. For Friends, it began in 2015 under the leadership of Bell’s predecessor Kate McBride, former land trust manager.
Friends Land Trust's inaugural accreditation will be officially recognized as a part of a special ceremony for newly accredited land trusts hosted by the Land Trust Alliance in Raleigh, North Carolina this October. The initial Land Trust Alliance accreditation seal is awarded for a five-year term, followed by a renewal process. The accreditation applies to both Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust (founded in 2005 as a 509c3 support organization of Friends).
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About Friends of the Columbia Gorge
Friends of the Columbia Gorge is a nonprofit organization with over 6,500 members dedicated to protecting and enhancing the scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Friends maintains offices in Portland, OR as well as in two locations based in the Gorge—Hood River, OR and Washougal, WA.
About the Land Trust Accreditation Commission
The Land Trust Accreditation Commission inspires excellence, promotes public trust and ensures permanence in the conservation of open lands by recognizing organizations that meet rigorous quality standards and strive for continuous improvement. The Commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts. For more, visit landtrustaccreditation.org.
About the Land Trust Alliance
Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance represents 1,000 member land trusts supported by more than 200,000 volunteers and 4.6 million members nationwide. The Alliance is based in Washington, D.C., and operates several regional offices.
Connect with us online at landtrustalliance.org.