Observer staff

WALLOWA LAKE - Nine acres of wooded property worth more than $1.5 million on the ecologically important west moraine of Wallowa Lake are being preserved through efforts of the Wallowa Land Trust.

Brothers Frank, Steve and Fred Kimball donated the land to the trust to keep it in its natural state permanently, Kathleen Ackley, the trust's executive director, announced Thursday.

"We didn't want to see the property divided up or developed," said co-owner Frank Kimball, a retiredphysician from Walla Walla, Washington. "This property was our parents' dream. They poured their heart and soul into it and we're proud to honor them by making sure it stays the way it is."

Featuring 1,500 feet of shoreline, mature Ponderosa pines and several springs, the acreage is just north of the developed south end of Wallowa Lake, which would have made it desirable for development.

The county assessor has estimated its market value at $1,525,350 and its zoning would permit construction of at least four homes.

Julia Lakes, the trust's conservation director, said the brothers initially

approached the trust.

"They were clear from the beginning that they didn't want to see houses on the shoreline and wanted to keep the forest and springs intact," she said. "I'm so proud we could help them fulfill this dream."

A modest cabin nearby will remain in Kimball family ownership.

The Land Trust, established in 2004 as a response to possible development on the Wallowa Lake moraines, has established the moraines as a priority for conservation in their natural state.

The trust already owns 39 acres on the west moraine and holds a conservation easement on 40 acres on the east moraine.

Ackley said the trust, whose work is voluntary and non-regulatory, is willing to discuss preservation options with landowners on both moraines. Additionally, the trust is one of five members of the Wallowa Lake Moraines Partnership, whose aim is preservation of the east moraine.

"Ultimately, we envision an intact, healthy moraines ecosystem that provides critical habitat while allowing for continued community access and use in a sustainable manner," she said.