Writing home from Land Camp
By Eric Steen
It’s difficult to believe that Land Camp is already over. “Today feels like the day after Christmas,” said Tim Copeland, our wonderful Walla Walla ambassador and Executive Director of the Blue Mountain Land Trust. I agree!
We had over 300 folks attend our three-day 2019 Northwest Land Camp conference—where we offered more than 50 sessions of panel talks, lectures and interactive workshops. We host this conference every other year, so look for the next one in 2021. Land Camp took more than a year for us to plan with the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts and the Washington Association of Land Trusts, but I took the lead as the official Land Camp Coordinator. As someone who had never attended, I could tell right away that this was no ordinary conference—that “Camp” was an important part of the concept. As an avid outdoors person—who has built businesses around walking and beer—this was right up my alley.
For the first time, we held the event at Whitman College in Washington, which allowed us to increase the scale of our event. Attendees traveled far and wide, spending half a week in close quarters, sharing dorm rooms, dining together, attending cohort networking sessions and even playing volleyball—Oregon vs. Washington. We’re calling that one a tie. There was also a Film Fest and morning yoga.
It’s interesting, reflecting on this. So many conferences are professional. Thoughtful. Valuable. Land Camp was all of those things, but also really FUN. People genuinely valued spending time together and being in community, which I find inspiring.
Our overall theme “Deep Roots, Bright Futures: Building diverse and sustainable conservation” was present throughout our program. Michelle DePass, the President and CEO of Meyer Memorial Trust, kicked off the event. We were inspired by Michelle’s keynote, and invitation for us all to—as she said—”continue to expand the campfire circle” and connect more people to our work, building bridges and finding common ground. Our event closed with a keynote speech by Chuck Sams, the Communications Director for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and a video letter he wrote to his son—with the passionate charge to continue caring for our land for generations to come.
What remarkable bookends to an extraordinary gathering. Thank you so much for being a part of it.
“Land camp was a highlight of my year. I left feeling inspired and motivated, brimming with new ideas to implement in my organization. I wish our whole team could have gone!” – NW Land Camp 2019 attendee