In 1995 when the Land Trust was first formed, you could say our community was small. A handful of friends who gathered together to grab a beer and ended up hatching a plan to form a land trust. Today, twenty years later, my how our community has grown!
The core of our Land Trust’s community has—and will always be—our members. Members provide the annual support—financial and moral—we need to protect the most important lands in Central Oregon. In 1995, when the Land Trust was founded, we had seven members (remember those folks who gathered to grab a beer!). Today 1,400 members believe in and support land conservation as a way to chart a more sustainable future. We list their names on the pages of our Annual Report because each and every member is important to the future of the Land Trust. Thank you!
Volunteers are the heart of the Land Trust community. We are eternally grateful to have so many dedicated volunteers who lend a hand to make such a difference. In the early years, those folks did everything from brokering our first project to writing grants to pulling weeds. One early crew of volunteers dubbed themselves the Phalaris Fairies—good fairies fighting the dreaded reed canary grass. They gathered regularly to rid Land Trust Preserves of reed canary grass, but were also donating time as board members and fundraisers.
Today, volunteers continue to play a critical role in restoration and management of our Preserves. Volunteers helped plant thousands of native grasses and sedges at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve during the Whychus Creek restoration and again when Spring Creek was restored. A crew of dedicated Weed Warriors now visits Land Trust Preserves regularly, and trail stewards and caretakers help with Preserve maintenance and general upkeep.
Caring for our protected lands forever also requires community stewardship that teaches people to love these lands. Norma Funai started what would become the Walk + Hike program back in 1999. She, and a handful of other volunteers including Paul Edgerton, led the first bird and plant tours of Indian Ford and Camp Polk Meadows. Today the hike program has nearly 30 outstanding volunteer leaders who take more than 1,000 people on educational tours of our protected lands each year. The end result: a community more connected to place.
Nature Nights has also grown into a community lecture series that connects people to place. These winter talks bring the nature of Central Oregon to the community. For many of us it bridges the winter gap in birding and hiking, for others it offers a front row seat to the wonders of the world that would otherwise never be seen.
Citizen science is another way for the community to connect to our protected lands. Nascent surveys of plants, birds and other life have grown into full fledged programs. Land Trust volunteer bird surveyors have donated thousands of hours over the years to monitoring bird populations at Land Trust Preserves. Their work has helped us understand our bird populations and see how birds respond to restoration projects.
Finally, there are the countless volunteers who help with the less than glamorous projects: can you help clear the tree that fell down on the road to the Metolius Preserve? Data entry from Skyline Forest petitions? Envelope stuffing? You name it and our volunteer needs are met by enthusiastic devotees. In 2015, volunteers donated 6,303 hours!
Wow, we have grown! What a fabulous community we have at the Land Trust! Twenty years from now, I know we will have twice as many members and volunteers, and they will continue to play a key role in conserving the best of Central Oregon and connecting our community to place.