On Thursday, October 16th, 2014, 23 people from Oregon’s land trust community representing 12 different organizations, along with key business leaders in Oregon, met with our state’s senior Senator, Ron Wyden. The Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts had requested the meeting with the Senator to thank him for all his efforts to support conservation in Oregon, in particular his leadership on the national Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF, which has provided over $300 million for Oregon, is set to expire in 2015. Senator Wyden is committed to its reauthorization, and, as the current chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is our LWCF champion in the Senate.
The round-table discussion saw a good combination of questions and opportunities for the Senator to talk about his commitment to LWCF. He began by stating how important the program is for Oregon and that he is committed to getting it fully funded. He then asked for us to share stories about how land trusts use the program. This was the highlight of the meeting because our members told very compelling stories from around the state, including:
COLT members thanked the Senator for his leadership in supporting our individual land trust projects but also supporting LWCF. We told him we are here to support his efforts moving legislation to make the fund permanent. COLT’s Executive Director, Kelley Beamer, spoke about the quality projects that were left unfunded due to the larger fund being funded at half its intended amount. Wyden said his new bill would avoid the appropriations process and that LWCF would get its full appropriated amount. Wyden ended the meeting with a strong, assertive proclamation that “We are going to get an LWCF bill passed” to ensure this program continues – he pledged his dedication to making sure this happens.
Kelley presented a framed photo, provided by the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust, of the Columbia Gorge and thanked the senator for his outstanding leadership on LWCF and restated COLT’s interest in doing whatever we can to help. Kelley also wrote a personal thank you note on the back of the photo. Sue Doroff of the Western Rivers Conservancy gave the Senator a framed poster of the Sandy River area, to remind him of an LWCF success story.
We are grateful for the time with our senior Senator, and look forward to supporting his leadership on this and many other issues so important to our members.