Every once in a while, it all comes together. That happened to us in April. Within 15 days, Blue Mountain Land Trust received grant awards of $316,000 for conservation capacity growth, $15,000 for education programs, and $2,300,000 for conservation easement acquisitions. That totals $2,631,000.
Conservation Capacity Building
The Healthy Watersheds Consortium (HWC), a partnership between the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service awarded the Land Trust $250,000 for continuation of and expansion of our work in the John Day Basin. The HWC program seeks to expand watershed protection in the U.S. through conservation and improved stewardship of thousands of acres of lands that provide drinking water, flood risk reduction, and an array of economic and environmental benefits. This funding will enable us to increase our conservation work and capacity in the John Day Basin.
The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), an Oregon state conservation agency, provides grants to protect and restore local streams, rivers, wetlands, and natural areas. OWEB awarded the Land Trust $66,458 to continue its outreach to private landowners in the John Day Basin about the benefits and possibilities of working lands conservation easements.
Natural resource Education
Nature Kids, our newest conservation education program, is a series dedicated to encouraging children to explore, play, learn about and take action for nature. This program provides free activities for the public that include hands-on exploration of natural resources, conservation-related activities, presentations by science educators, and fun crafts. The U.S. Forest Service awarded a $15,000 grant to the Land Trust to launch this exciting new program.
Conservation Easement Acquisition
The Oregonian Watershed Enhancement Board awarded the Land Trust $2,300,000 to acquire conservation easements on two working ranches in eastern Oregon. Together, the Bennett and Canyon Creek properties total more than 16,000 acres that will be permanently protected. Easement acquisition work will be ongoing into 2019.
The Bennett Ranch conservation easement will protect almost 9,000 acres of sagebrush and riparian habitat in Baker County, Oregon. The Bennetts’ cattle ranch is a unique combination of sage grouse habitat, high quality sagebrush steppe habitat in the uplands, and a river corridor supporting redband trout. The Bennetts have carefully stewarded this ranch to balance agriculture and wildlife for decades. BMLT is partnering with The Trust for Public Land to complete this project and preserve this working ranch.
The Canyon Creek Ranch easement will protect almost 7,000 acres of upland and riparian habitat adjacent to the Painted Hills National Monument in Wheeler County, Oregon. 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 will provide important landscape connectivity.
We are enormously grateful to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the Healthy Watersheds Consortium, and the US Forest Service for their help and support. We recognize that we could not fulfill the Land Trust’s mission without collaboration with many others. Sincere thanks to these very important partners and friends.