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Conservation Group Sees Grand Vistas For Southern Oregon

March 20, 2012 | Medford Mail Tribune
CONTRIBUTED BY:
Paul Fattig


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Within eight years, the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy plans to have 20,000 acres of private land in Jackson and Josephine counties under permanent conservation protection.

Dubbed the Vision 20/20 Campaign, the program’s goal calls for more than doubling the 8,500 acres it has already protected since the SOLC was established 34 years ago.

The nonprofit conservancy, which focuses on protecting local farms, forests and wildlife habitat by working cooperatively with local landowners, recently received $120,000 in matching funds to launch the effort.

It also has its first-ever conservation plan, thanks to the efforts of conservation Director Su Rolle.

By the end of April, the conservancy, which has already raised $76,000, intends to have raised $300,000 as part of the campaign. “This is an amazing opportunity for us to make a large, long-term impact on the landscape of Southern Oregon,” said Nancy Tait, a conservancy trustee and one of three campaign co-chairwomen, along with Karen DeBoer and Jeannie Taylor.

“Working with landowners to safeguard land is important to so many of us, and the success of this effort ensures that what we love most about the landscape will be protected forever,” Tait added.

The program marks a shift in the group’s strategy, said Diane Garcia, SOLC’s executive director.

“Up until this point in our history, we’ve been more of a responsive organization, responding to people’s requests of us,” she said. “We were successful in that but we want to be more proactive. This is a huge change in direction for us, but it’s a natural progression.”

Using focus groups, the conservancy has identified the kinds of land local residents want to see protected, she said. Farmland and ranches ranked highest, followed by land along rivers and fish-bearing streams, views, parks and special habitats and corridors for wildlife, she said.

“We have a blueprint of where we want to go,” she said. “It defines the highest-priority lands in the two counties.”

The plan includes maps to identify the most important land in both counties and outlines ways to work with landowners interested in long-term protection of their properties. Willing landowners can permanently restrict use of their property to protect conservation values important to the entire community through a conservation easement or by selling the land to the conservancy.

However, most protected land remains in private ownership, while the land is managed in ways that permanently protect the conservation values, Garcia said.

In general, the focus is on 300-acre and larger parcels. Agricultural and park land are exceptions, however, with 20 acres or more being significant enough to protect, she said.

In addition to private landowners, the SOLC will be working with local watershed councils, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other agencies, along with private foundations.

The Meyer Memorial Trust, a private foundation in Portland (not affiliated with Fred Meyer stores), has awarded the SOLC a $100,000 grant for Vision 20/20. The Collins Foundation has awarded the conservancy $20,000. Both grants are contingent on matching funds being raised.

A presentation on SOLC’s new program will be given from 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, in the Gresham Room of the Ashland library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland. Another presentation will be held from 5 to 6 p.m. Monday, March 26, in the Evergreen Room of the Taprock Northwest Grill, 940 S.E. Seventh St., Grants Pass

For information, see landconserve.org or call 541-482-3069.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.

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© 2012 Medford Mail Tribune
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