Protection made possible by collaboration between The Bridges Foundation, Craft3, Meyer Memorial Trust and Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts
Today, The Bridges Foundation announced the protection of 80 acres in Turner, Oregon. The property contains Oregon white oak savanna – a regionally rare habitat type in the Willamette Valley. The project was financed by Craft3 with bridge capital from Portland-based Meyer Memorial Trust.
Established in 1987 by Jack and Nancy Bridges, The Bridges Foundation is dedicated to improving the quality of life for many, including young adults and those challenged with disabilities. The Foundation also engages in a wide range of activities centered on ecosystem protection and habitat restoration. Jack’s daughter, Kathy Bridges, is now executive director and trustee of The Bridges Foundation and oversees the work of the foundation with her three sons as trustees.
Based at Santiam Valley Ranch in Turner, Oregon, the family now owns 320 acres of current and former farmlands. Kathy's son Luke Fitzpatrick is the general manager of a thriving aquaculture business on the main property and manages an adjoining 440 acres of restored wetlands. In total, six adjacent properties owned by the family and neighbors are being revitalized through wetlands restoration projects. A visit in late March revealed thriving habitats, with large vernal pools – seasonal ponds that provide critical habitat support during spring to migrating bird populations and other species – covered with ducks and geese.
Reflecting on the winding path the work at the ranch has taken, Kathy says, "Our work on the property has changed through the years as we've learned more about the land, diversifying when possible and prioritizing what the land conveys to us. Not all land was meant to be agricultural. The soils and water-holding capacity told us that the land wanted to remain wetland, so we shifted our goals in some areas from cropland to agritourism. We have prioritized our best land for farming which now includes aquaculture, wild rice and lamb production, and organically certified crops. We are encouraged by people reaching out to us to learn how we got started with wetlands restoration and what we will learn as we transition 18 acres of organically certified sweet corn and beans into organic industrial hemp production."
Near the end of 2016, Luke learned of a unique 80-acre piece of property east of Santiam Valley Ranch. The owner was getting ready to retire and thought he had found a buyer, but the deal fell apart when the buyer couldn’t secure funding. Happy to have a second chance at purchasing the property, Kathy and Luke set out to secure financing from a traditional lender, but at the last minute the bank turned down their loan request.
Kathy then called Kelley Beamer, executive director of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts (COLT), hoping that Kelley could suggest a program or lender that they hadn’t already tried.
“When I got Kathy’s call, I knew how frustrated she was. It can be very difficult for small trusts and foundations to get funding quickly for time-sensitive projects. I knew from her description of the property that it was a special place that needed protection,” Kelley said. “Craft3 has been a strong partner to COLT on conservation lending in the past and I was sure they could help The Bridges Foundation.”
After visiting the property, Craft3 Senior Lender Brad Hunter recognized the opportunity to help the Foundation expand their conservation work.
“We were gratified that Brad immediately saw the importance of protecting this piece of land,” Kathy said. “Finding a lender that really understands conservation issues is difficult. We’re so happy that Kelley referred us to Craft3.”
“Helping The Bridges Foundation secure their vision for local, grass roots conservation, is a type of investment that few traditional lenders would ever risk,” said Brad. “But it’s exactly the kind of project that Craft3 looks for and is proud to support.”
In partnership with the conservation community and Meyer Memorial Trust, Craft3 has provided more than $7.3 million to conserve 1,822 acres in Oregon. The Craft3 Conservation Bridge Fund is a regional source of capital for qualified organizations to acquire land, water rights or conservation easements, and finance restoration work ahead of permanent funding.
About The Bridges Foundation
The Bridges Foundation, located in Oregon, seeks donations to encourage scientific, technological and educational opportunities for youth; to improve the quality of life for those challenged with a disability; to protect unaltered ecosystems and mitigate environmental degradation when possible; and to value historical landmarks, cultural uniqueness, social interaction and economic opportunities. To learn more, visit www.thebridgesfoundation.info.
About the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts (COLT)
The Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts is the only association of land trusts in Oregon, where it serves as a statewide service center and the central voice of the land trust community. COLT focuses on improving and advancing land conservation in the state through increased land trust capacity and coverage, engagement of stakeholders, defending and developing new and larger sources of funding, and supportive policies. It represents the land trust community and provides leadership on important initiatives in public policy advocacy, policy implementation decisions, and outreach to public and private stakeholders. For more information, visit www.oregonlandtrusts.org.