Katy Nesbitt
The La Grande Observer

ENTERPRISE — The Wallowa Lake Moraines and the Wallowa River corridor are the highlighted priority conservation areas in a new publication of the Wallowa Land Trust.

The conservation plan was developed over the last three years with input from the general public, landowners, community leaders, natural resource agency and tribal members.

“We created the plan because we wanted to find out how we can be more effective in conservation planning,” said Kathleen Ackley, Wallowa Land Trust executive director.

With input from meetings and an online survey, the Trust’s staff and board of directors crafted both a technical guide and an easy-to-read booklet that outline the community’s areas of conservation interest.

“The board considered the feedback in light of our mission and made key decisions based on the community’s values,” Ackley said.

The plan was sent out in December to supporters of the Wallowa Land Trust, and Ackley said it will be used for fundraising to spell out how donated money is spent.

“The plan holds us accountable to our donors and supporters,” she said.

Once the data was gathered, Ackley said, the information was synthesized and priority areas identified on maps. The technical document was quickly put to work by the Trust as it determines where best to spend its time and money in Wallowa County.

Eric Greenwell, the Trust’s conservation director, said when the input was tallied, the Wallowa Lake Moraines and Wallowa Valley corridor rose to the top of the list. Despite the obvious scenic values, he said the plan provides the science and data behind the decisions the Trust makes when determining what lands to conserve.

“A lot of what we are looking at are map overlays where working lands have prime soils and provide wildlife habitat,” Greenwell said.

Benjamin Curry, Wallowa Trust board member, helped craft the conservation plan.

“The community gave us the values and we built a scoring system out of them,” he said. “Seeing what is important and what isn’t helped construct that framework.”

Julia Lakes, the Trust’s former conservation director, led the effort to publish the conservation plan. Curry said besides compiling public input, Lakes worked closely with scientists from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wallowa Resources and the U.S. Forest Service to identify ecologically important areas.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer