Max Denning

Less than a month after securing a purchase agreement with East Moraine landowners, the Wallowa Lake Moraines Partnership has launched its campaign to raise the remaining funds needed to make the land public.

The Ronald C. Yanke Family Trust has agreed to sell 1,800 acres known as the East Moraine to the partnership, a public-private coalition made up of the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners, Wallowa Resources, Wallowa Land Trust and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The acres will become county land in 2020, as long as the partnership can raise the approximately $2.9 million left to purchase the land by Jan. 29, 2020. It has already raised $3.7 million, largely from a grant provided by the Land and Water Conservation Fund run by the federal government.

Kathleen Ackley, executive director of Wallowa Land Trust, said she might be worried about raising such a high dollar amount if it was any for other piece of land.

“We’ve been working on this project for almost a decade and the community has been so supportive,” Ackley said. “It’s been bipartisan support all the way up and down the line.”

The East Moraine is located outside the town of Joseph at the base of the Wallowa Mountains on the eastern side of Wallowa Lake. In 2011, the moraines partnership was formed with the goal of stopping development on the East Moraine. The Yanke Family Trust had been considering selling the land to a developer who wanted to build homes and possibly a conference center.

“People really love this landscape (and were opposed to) the idea of it being potentially becoming a housing development or a conference facility,” Ackley said. “The loss of it as a working landscape, the loss of the ability to access it, and the impact of that development would change the culture of what it feels like to be at Wallowa Lake.”

In a rendering of the development potential, the moraines partnership mocked up the location of 15 homes, a conference center and a private boat dock to demonstrate the impact development could have on the moraine.

The partnership’s plan is to create the East Moraine Community Forest, which currently includes 7 miles of dirt logging roads that would be open to non-motorized recreational use. Until recently, the East Moraine’s trail had long been utilized by local hikers.

With just less than a year to raise the remaining funds, the partnership is hard at work making its case to donors in Wallowa County and across the region. On Thursday, it launched its online campaign — found at morainecampaign.org — which includes photos aplenty, information on the campaign, the use of the money and the plans.

See complete story in Monday's Observer

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