The 501c3 Files from The Ashland Sneak Preview
by Sophia and Adam Bogle
So what the heck is a conservation easement and why should we care? I met with Cathy Dombi, the Executive Director of Southern Oregon Land Conservancy (SOLC) at Noble Coffee to get the 411. I had met Cathy previously when she was the Executive Director of the Ashland Independent Film Festival (AIFF) so first I had to ask about the transition from film to easements.
Cathy: “I spent summers working in Jackson Hole Wyoming and lived on a property that actually had a conservation easement on it so I was familiar with how they worked. I also have a strong background in outdoor education and youth work. After I left the AIFF, I spent some time thinking about what to do next and when this position came up it just seemed a perfect fit.”
The E.D. before me, Diane Garcia, was with SOLC for 14 years and retired at the end of June. When she started she was the only employee and now SOLC supports eight employees who do everything from working with landowners to pulling invasive weeds. The capstone to her career happened recently in June when Diane and the SOLC team secured the Rogue River Preserve. These are big shoes to fill.”
Now back to the definition of conservation easement. The more boring definition, according to the Land Trust Alliance is: “a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits the uses of that land in order to protect its conservation values.” After my conversation with Cathy, I would define it as: “Land that is ecologically special that the owner makes a commitment to conserving it forever by connecting legally with a land trust such as the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy.”
The “specialness” of the land could be as simple as providing a great view (called a viewshed) for the public along a road or it may support lots of wildlife or be great agricultural land. Creating a conservation easement does not mean you have to quit farming that land or even stop cutting timber. There would just be limitations based on best conservation practices. For instance, some of the land that SOLC helps protect keeps the Pacific Crest Trail wild by providing a natural buffer zone for the animals and plants.
While there are some costs associated with conserving land, SOLC works closely with each property-owner to create a plan that meets the conservation goals and unique situation of each owner.What a great legacy to leave for future generations!
The Rogue River Preserve that I mentioned earlier is 352 acres along the Rogue River about 15 miles north of Medford. It is special because it has been mostly undeveloped for thousands of years. The land contains several rare or at-risk ecological systems and native species and it just happens to be amazingly beautiful to boot. This is the first property that the SOLC worked to buy outright with the help of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB). Now it is the responsibility of the SOLC to create and fulfill a management plan for this preserve.
The plan will include educational outreach to the public that focuses on lightly using the land in order to preserve the habitat. If you are curious now about what these conservation easements look like, SOLC offers a Free Fall Hike Series: To find out more go to www.landconserve.org, click on the “hamburger” icon, click on +ENGAGE, then Hikes and Tours or Calendar.
Their next big fundraiser is coming up November 10th. They are celebrating their 39th year! The event takes place at the Ashland Hills Hotel with a silent auction and a live auction where people bid to “Save an Acre”. Tickets are $75.
SOLC would love to have you join them and become a member. There is no minimum membership fee so even $20 will work fine. There is an annual member picnic and a new member picnic. What a great way to meet others who appreciate the natural world of our beautiful Rogue Valley.