A hiker enjoys an autumn trek at the Lyle Cherry Orchard, a publicly accessible trail owned and maintained by the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust. (photographer: Debbie Asakawa)In 1980, recognizing the ever-increasing threat of urban development encroaching into the Columbia Gorge, a threat symbolized with the construction of the suburban I-205 freeway and bridge over the Columbia River, a group of concerned citizens led by Nancy Russell formed Friends of the Columbia Gorge, an organization that would lead the effort to secure passage of federal legislation to protect the beautiful, wild Columbia River Gorge.
On November 18, 1986, we secured that protection. Congress passed, and President Ronald Reagan signed into law, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act, creating comprehensive Gorge protection across six counties and two states. Since that momentous day, Friends has continued its member-driven Gorge conservation work.
Here are the things we do to keep the Gorge wild and beautiful:
- We help conserve land. Friends works with government agencies and other groups to ensure private land is brought into public ownership (over 41,000 acres since our founding).
- We are landowners and stewards. In 2005 we formed the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust, a 509(a)(3) support organization, to acquire critical lands in the Columbia Gorge. To date, the land trust has acquired through purchase and donation over 1,000 acres of land. We work to remove non-native species, replant native vegetation, and protect fragile resources on land trust-owned properties.
- We keep watch on Gorge development. Each year, we review and comment on approximately 250 development applications submitted to county planning offices in every Gorge county. Our comments have helped ensure development occurs in a sensitive, ecological manner. Over the years, Friends has legally appealed less than two percent of the counties' decisions.
- We take on development proposals that threaten Gorge resources. Over the decades, we have successfully defeated numerous attempts at large-scale developments incompatible with the protection mandates of the Scenic Area Act, including a massive Gorge casino.
- We educate the public about the Gorge. We lead more than 100 guided Columbia Gorge hikes and outings annually, host special events, and nurture the next generation of Gorge protectors through outdoor youth education programs.
- We work to connect Gorge communities to Gorge lands. In 2011, Friends launched Gorge Towns to Trails, a long-term vision for a comprehensive Gorge trail network, connecting Gorge communities and strengthening local economies.
Our MissionFriends of the Columbia Gorge shall vigorously protect the scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources of the Columbia River Gorge. We fulfill this mission by ensuring strict implementation of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act and other laws protecting the region of the Columbia River Gorge; promoting responsible stewardship of Gorge land, air, and waters; encouraging public ownership of sensitive areas; educating the public about the unique natural values of the Columbia River Gorge and the importance of preserving those values; and working with groups and individuals to accomplish mutual preservation goals.
View Our 2015-18 Strategic Plan