Acquisition of 160-acre “Purple Mountain” tract made possible with capital from Meyer Memorial Trust
PORT ORFORD – Today, community-based Wild Rivers Land Trust and nonprofit lender Craft3 closed on a deal to protect 160 timberland acres in the Elk River watershed in Curry County. In 2015, Wild Rivers secured an option on the tract from a private landowner – but the option was set to expire. Today’s deal allows Wild Rivers to exercise that option which will secure the property ahead of grant financing protect the property from development, and open the property to public access. The deal was financed by Craft3 with bridge capital from Portland-based Meyer Memorial Trust.
“The Purple Mountain tract is a key conservation acquisition because it will reduce fragmentation of a significant old growth reserve and reduce erosion from degrading Bald Mountain Creek, an important Klamath Province steelhead tributary to Elk River,” said Jerry Becker, Conservation Director of Wild Rivers Land Trust. “It gives public access to a new area for hiking, photography and gathering mushrooms.”
The Purple Mountain tract is one of six at-risk properties that Wild Rivers has identified for protection in the Elk River watershed. Bald Mountain Creek, which passes through the parcel, is the most productive steelhead tributary in the Elk River watershed and the properties protection and restoration will contribute to improving both steelhead and coho salmon populations. The public land surrounding the tract contains old growth forest that is used by the Endangered Species Act-listed marbled murrelet.
“In 2012, Craft3 and Meyer Memorial Trust partnered in a groundbreaking way to not only provide capital for conservation in Oregon, but build capacity at land trusts,” said Brad Hunter, Craft3 Business Lender. “Craft3 has been proud to use Meyer capital to invest in the growth of Wild Rivers. The Purple Mountain tract is our third loan to Wild Rivers and shows the power of capital to build capacity, address community needs, and preserve our natural resources.”
Over the last few years, Wild Rivers has significantly expanded gross revenue, recruited several new board members and worked to develop sustainable funding sources that can support capacity to make a significant impact on conservation in Curry and Coos Counties. Earlier this month, Wild Rivers announced that Ann Schmierer had been hired as its new Executive Director. Schmierer is currently the Director of Industry Partnering in Oregon State University’s Research Office and Co-Director of Advantage Partnerships, a joint program of the Research Office and the OSU Foundation.
Moving forward, Wild Rivers intends to work with the Forest Service to transfer ownership of the tract using funds from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. The property was called out as a priority for conservation in President Obama’s proposed budget to Congress for fiscal year 2017.
“Wild Rivers Land Trust continues to bring great benefit to communities along the South Coast,” said Kelley Beamer, executive director of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts (COLT). “In particular, they have shown time and again how important the Land and Water Conservation Fund is for Oregon and why we need to ensure it is made permanent.”
Land trusts like Wild Rivers often rely upon the 50-year old federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to place land into long-term trust. The program is funded through royalties from oil and gas development on public lands. LWCF is currently authorized through 2018, and there is a concerted effort to make the fund a permanent part of the country’s conservation efforts. Earlier this year, such a proposal to permanently reauthorize it passed the U.S. Senate by a wide bipartisan margin as part of comprehensive energy and natural resource legislation. A similar reauthorization has not yet passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Both of Oregon’s Senators and the majority of the representatives are strong supporters of permanent reauthorization.
Today’s announcement is the third time Wild Rivers and Craft3 have collaborated to conserve at-risk property:
- In 2013, Craft3 provided a loan for $264,000 to fund the acquisition of a 217-acre parcel in the Elk River Watershed known as the “McGribble Tract,” home to 1.5 miles of anadromous fish habitat along one of the most important steelhead rearing tributaries to the Elk River. The area is also used for nesting by marbled murrelets.
- In 2004, Craft3 provided a loan to Wild Rivers for $274,550 to fund the acquisition of an at-risk 163-acre parcel in the Elk River Watershed known as the “Kahn Tract.”
About Wild Rivers Land Trust
Wild Rivers Land Trust, formerly Elk River Land Trust, was established in 2000 to promote the principle of land stewardship and foster the voluntary protection of open space, scenic beauty and natural resources of the Elk River and adjacent watersheds in northern Curry County, Oregon. Partnering with landowners, Wild Rivers Land Trust explores non-regulatory methods to safeguard the rural way-of-life Americans cherish. The Trust’s projects integrate improvements to the lives of local people while protecting areas of ecological concern. Wild Rivers Land Trust is based in Port Orford, Oregon. To learn more, visit www.wildriverslandtrust.org.