By Outdoors NW
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The Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust was awarded its inaugural accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance.
Friends joins more than 435 other accredited land trusts operating around the United States (including 18 in Washington and 10 in Oregon). Friends has conserved 26 sites in the Gorge totaling more than 1,500 acres.
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,” Friends Land Trust Director Dan Bell said.
“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 more than 1,360 land trusts currently working across the nation.