Blue Mountain Land Trust awarded grants for Eastern Oregon conservation acquisitions

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) voted on Tuesday, April 24 to grant more than $2.3 million to the Blue Mountain Land Trust to acquire conservation easements on two properties in eastern Oregon. The properties are owned respectively by Mark and Patti Bennett of Unity, Oregon, and Terry and Peggy Long of Mitchell, Oregon. The ranches total nearly 16,000 acres. Easement acquisitions have not been completed and work toward that end will be ongoing into 2019.

The Bennett Ranch conservation easement will protect almost 9,000 acres of sagebrush and riparian habitat in Baker County. The Bennetts’ working cattle ranch is a unique combination of sage grouse habitat, a thriving ranch population of sage grouse, high quality sagebrush shrub- steppe habitats in the uplands, and river corridor supporting redband trout. The Bennetts have carefully stewarded the ranch and their operation to balance agriculture and wildlife for decades, and a conservation easement will protect that work in perpetuity. Blue Mountain Land Trust is partnering with The Trust for Public Land to complete this project and preserve this working ranch.

The Longs’ Canyon Creek Ranch easement will protect almost 7,000 acres of upland and riparian habitat adjacent to the Painted Hills National Monument. Canyon Creek Ranch supports active cattle ranching, as well as important ecological features. The easement will maintain and preserve habitat for fish and wildlife, including three miles of steelhead spawning streams, upland sagebrush and grassland habitat, and it provides landscape connectivity between Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service lands for upland habitat.

Since 2000, the Longs have worked to enhance and restore their ranch, partnering with OWEB, the Wheeler Soil and Water Conservation District, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. The Blue Mountain Land Trust looks forward to working with the Longs and these partners to permanently protect their efforts on this ranch.

“The Bennetts’ and Longs’ ranches are enormously important properties to preserve and protect,” said Amanda Martino, Conservation Manager of the Blue Mountain Land Trust. “Their owners deeply value both the ecological and agricultural assets of their ranches and have entrusted us to conserve them. We look forward to working with these landowners and our partners to protect these extraordinary ranches.”

OWEB is an Oregon state agency that provides grants to help Oregonians protect and restore local streams, rivers, wetlands, and natural areas. Community members and landowners us scientific criteria to decide jointly what needs to be done to conserve and improve rivers and natural habitat in the places where they live. OWEB grants are funded from the Oregon Lottery, federal dollars, and salmon license plate revenue.

The Blue Mountain Land Trust, headquartered in Walla Walla, Washington was established in 1999. The Land Trust has a second office in John Day, Oregon. It serves Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield, and Asotin counties in Washington and Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Gilliam, Grant, and Wheeler counties in Oregon. It is accredited by the Land Trust Alliance Accreditation Commission.