By Steve Tool – Wallowa County Chieftain
Wallowa Land Trust Executive Director Kathleen Ackley and Conservation Director Julia Lakes attended U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s March 13 La Grande town hall meeting to gift Wyden a David Jensen photograph of Wallowa Lake. Ackley said Wyden is a strong supporter of preserving rural lands, including Wallowa Lake and its moraines.
“We brought the picture because we wanted to give the senator a very visual reminder of Northeast Oregon. We’re kind of remote out here and part of the issue we face is isolation, particularly from decision-makers who spend the vast majority of their time on the other side of the state or even on the other side of the country. We don’t always have the population to make our voices heard,” Ackley said.
Wallowa Lake and the moraines make up a large part of tourism incentives for the county. Ackley said the county, which has a population of approximately 7,000, hosts at least 700,000 tourists per year. “We wanted the senator to have a visual that represents what we’re doing in trying to protect this incredible landscape. He has been a very strong supporter of protection for the moraines,” Ackley said.
Wyden supported the $3 million Forest Legacy Grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, currently up for reauthorization by Congress. The grant can help the WLT purchase a large part of the lake’s moraine property, currently privately owned, to preserve it for future generations. “Sen. Wyden has publicly stated he wants to see the program reauthorized and said he will do everything in his power to see it does. This is an incredible opportunity for us and we wanted to publicly thank him for helping in preserving the moraine and other rural lands,” Ackley said.
According to Ackley, Wyden delighted in the gift and again expressed his strong support for reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund. He also pledged to devote time and energy to make sure it happened. “Thankfully, we also know that Sen. Merkley is a supporter,” Ackley said.
Ackley emphasized that Wallowa Land Trust also partners with other entities under the title Wallowa Lake Moraines Partnership to secure the moraine. WLMP also includes Wallowa Resources, Wallowa County, The Trust for Public Land, and Oregon Parks & Recreation Department. “This gives us credibility and broad bi-partisan support for the project, and we’re well positioned to be successful,” Ackley said.