Max Denning

After eight years of attempts to negotiate a fair price, the Ronald C. Yanke Family Trust has agreed to sell 1,800 acres known as the East Moraine to the Wallowa Lake Moraines Partnership. The acres will become county land in 2020 — as long as the partnership is able to pay the necessary $6.6 million.

The Wallowa Lake Moraines Partnership is composed of the Wallowa Land Trust, Wallowa Resources, Wallowa County and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The partnership was formed in 2011 with the goal of stopping construction on the East Moraine, which the Yanke Family Trust was planning to sell to a developer who wanted to build homes and possibly a conference center. Completing this purchase will bring the number of acres the partnership has secured to 2,200.

The partnership is preparing to launch a capital campaign to raise the remaining amount needed to purchase the land.

“We will be seeking a combination of grant funding and gifts from individuals, families and businesses. We need approximately $6.6 million, and we have already raised 60 percent of that,” said Kathleen Ackley, executive director of Wallowa Land Trust, in a press release. “With the help of foundations and gifts from individuals who care about the fate of the Wallowa Lake Moraines, together we can conserve a true natural wonder.”

Wallowa County Commissioner Susan Roberts said a path utilized by hikers runs through the property, but recently the Yanke family put up a no trespassing sign. Roberts said the sign went up shortly after the family’s longtime local land manager, Bruce Dunn, passed away in August 2018.

“People did pay attention to the (sign) because it was so out of the ordinary,” she said, noting she didn’t blame the Yanke family since “they had no one here to keep an eye on things.”

After the sale is complete in 2020, the land will have a maintained hiking path, and also “every once in a while” there will be permits available for grazing rights on the property, Roberts said. The East Moraine will not become a park, she emphasized.

The partnership has already secured $3.9 million toward purchasing the land, from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which comes from royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf.

In the press release, all of the congressmen representing Wallowa County in the U.S. Congress commented on the moraine’s importance and beauty.

“The East Moraine is iconic to Eastern Oregon’s outdoors. Attracting visitors from across the country to Wallowa County each year, this Oregon treasure is an important component to our economy. Putting the East Moraine into county ownership will help ensure the landscape continues to be managed for multiple uses, supporting jobs and our local economy,” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) said in the release from the partnership.

See complete story in Monday's Observer