John Gray Family Legacy for Conservation in Oregon

John Gray 1919-2012

John Gray 1919-2012

“I want Oregonians to take an active role in being stewards of this land, and to join my family in committing to funding conservation and restoration. Our gift is only a slice of the pie – we need more people take a stand for Oregon.”  — John Gray

The land around Monroe, Oregon is defined by Coastal foothills overlooking the Valley and the Willamette River with its myriad side-channels threading across the basin floor. This is land that brings life to the words of Oregon Trail settlers who described the Valley as an ‘Eden at the end of the Trail’.

It was among these hillsides and creeks that John Gray was raised alongside his mother and two brothers. By the time John left this small community upon graduation from nearby Oregon State University, he had developed connections to the land and people of Oregon that run deeper than the Willamette’s waters.

“From an early age, I knew that there was something very special about Oregon and felt a strong loyalty to my homeland. Later in life I recognized that, if I wanted my great grandchildren to have this same connection to the land, I needed to be active in protecting this incredible place before it is too late,” recalled Gray.

In 2009 John and his extended family began to talk with local land trusts about ways that they were involved in safeguarding Oregon’s natural heritage. This discussion blossomed into a larger conversation about the unique role that land trusts serve by permanently preserving critical landscapes across the state. The Gray family was committed to finding ways to leave a legacy of land for the benefit of everyone, and they quickly realized that Oregon land trusts were a vehicle that could make this legacy possible.

John Gray in the landscape he loved

John Gray in the landscape he loved

To that end, in 2011, the Gray family made a 10 year, $10M commitment to support the Oregon land trust community. The gift is meant to support the many layers that go into a vibrant land trust community. The center piece of the program is a competitive grants program administered by the Land Trust Alliance. Additionally, the Gray family has made a strong pledge to support COLT as a source of leadership and messaging about the value of conservation and land trusts for our communities. From the Willamette flowing past Gray’s childhood home in Monroe, to a working farm in Klamath County, land trusts across the state are bolstered by this unprecedented contribution.

While the investment from the Gray family is truly remarkable in its breadth, in reality the funds are a portion of the true costs of conservation in Oregon. “This gift is meant to be a catalyst,” said Gray, “I want Oregonians to take an active role in being stewards of this land, and to join my family in committing to funding conservation and restoration. Our gift is only a slice of the pie – we need more people take a stand for Oregon.”

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