Our mission is to serve and strengthen the land trust community in Oregon.
We do that by building connections and advancing policies that help protect our natural world—our water, wildlife and open space—for all people, forever.
What’s a land trust?
What’s a land trust? It’s a nonprofit that works with individuals and communities to conserve land.
We started as a need on a list crafted by the land trust community and came to life as a nonprofit in 2012. We don’t own or steward land. But we advocate for those who do, and for the millions of Oregonians who benefit from conservation work around the state. At COLT, we represent more than 25 organizations and serve as the central voice of the land trust community, working to protect the natural world—through unity and advocacy—
Our vision for Oregon is one of:
In May 1997, a small group of Oregon land trust staff members started a list for ways they might work together and help each other. It was there—at Black Butte Ranch—where we found the first documented musings for forming a coalition of land trusts in Oregon.
After that meeting, the land trust community met about every other year in different parts of the state under the name “Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts.” Before becoming a nonprofit, COLT was an experience. It was casual get-togethers with hikes and speakers and a way to foster community and connections. And, apparently, was “always fun.”
In 2012, the Oregon land trust community formally launched COLT and registered it as a nonprofit, believing that their own individual messages would be stronger by joining forces with partners statewide—and impelled by a generous gift by the John Gray family to support the land trust community. Founding conservation organizations launched into business planning and hired Kelley Beamer as the Executive Director.
Today, our staff numbers and ambitions have continued to grow. But we remain rooted in our land trust community and the people and landscapes they serve (and hope our board meetings are still just as fun).
John Gray’s legacy
The land around Monroe, Oregon is defined by coastal foothills and the Willamette River, with its myriad side-channels threading across the basin floor. It was among these hillsides and creeks that John Gray was raised. He was born in 1919.
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 to making this possible. In 2011, the Gray family made a 10-year, $10 million commitment to support the Oregon land trust community and the many layers that go into a vibrant land trust community. The centerpiece of the program is a competitive grants program administered by the Land Trust Alliance. Additionally, the Gray family made a pledge to support COLT as a source of leadership.
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.”
What’s a land trust?
A land trust is a nonprofit that works with individuals and partners to conserve land. These organizations are deeply rooted in local communities and work to protect places like parks, waterways, wildlife habitat, community gardens, working farms and more.
There are over 25 land trusts in Oregon and 1,700 land trusts across the country. These organizations are stewards of the land and work with people who want to conserve land in their backyard and local community. How do they do this? Land trusts often work through the sale and donation of land (fee title acquisition) or help legally limit development/use on property (conservation easement) to protect important places for generations to come. Land trusts restore properties and manage and monitor lands statewide—all in support of healthy habitats, clean water, working lands, community culture and opportunities to explore Oregon’s great places.