Standing on the crest of Wallowa Lake’s East Moraine, it’s remarkable to think that this geologic wonder has endured since the last ice age, some 300,000 years ago. Few places in Oregon provide such an extraordinary vista, where one can look back in time and imagine the past while seeing the present. Now, thanks to Bruce and Mary Lou Ham and their family, 52 acres of this landscape are forever protected so that a future traveler might experience the same awe and wonder.
As a memorial to their mother, three brothers have donated a piece of family history to Wallowa Land Trust. Thanks to the generosity of Fred, Steve and Frank Kimball, a stretch of Wallowa Lake shoreline will remain in its natural state in perpetuity.
Fred Kimball says that in the early 1950s his father received the lakeside property as payment for legal fees. The property reached from the Wallowa Lake Marina at the south end of the lake to Trouthaven, a guesthouse on the lake’s west shore. According to Fred, “He took 15 acres and sold the remaining to Clyde Harris of Harris Pine Mills.”
Here in Wallowa County we know the value of Wallowa Lake. It’s the place we take our visitors even if the weather is abysmal. We boat, swim and picnic on its bank; this magnificent feature in our backyard is a part of our lifestyle, like eating local beef and salad greens.
Anglers are so nutty they will fish the lake in the dead of winter and a few daring souls celebrate the new year with the shortest swim known to man - the Wallowa Lake polar bear plunge.
Named in memory of a well-loved dog (Lola), the Lola-Hasslacher Conservation Easement was protected in February of 2014. Landowners Jacob Hasslacher and Chris Antemann completed a project with Wallowa Land Trust that conserves 40 acres of mature ponderosa pine and mixed conifer woodlands on the back (east) side of the east moraine of Wallowa Lake. This land will now remain forever undeveloped and protected for wildlife habitat and sustainable timber harvesting and grazing.
Working with Woody and Megan Wolfe, Wallowa Land Trust has acquired two adjoining conservation easements that permanently protects 463 acres in Wallowa, Oregon. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and land trust created to protect natural and traditional values of a property in perpetuity. Click here to learn more.
The first conservation easement was completed in February 2011 and includes the confluence of the Lostine and Wallowa Rivers along with the associated riparian areas and wetlands. The second easement was finished in August 2017. All total, 318 acres of prime farmground and 145 acres of wetlands are protected from future development or subdivision. The Wolfes will continue to farm their land. Approximately three and half miles of the Lostine and Wallowa Rivers will remain forever intact. According to Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife staff, the easement encompasses one of the healthiest, most intact stretches of the Lostine River in the Wallowa Valley. The property and surrounding area have been identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy as a Priority Wildlife Focal Area for land acquisition as well as a Conservation Opportunity Area for the Blue Mountains Ecoregion. Freshwater emergent marsh on the property cools and cleans flows into the Wallowa River and supports Columbia spotted frogs. The property also provides habitat for various bird species of concern including bald eagles, osprey and long-billed curlew as well as three federally-listed endangered species of fish – bull trout, steelhead and Chinook salmon.
Aside from their valuable wildlife habitat, these parcels are also historically significant. They lie within the larger Wolfe Century Ranch, originally established in 1897. From time immemorial, this land has served as a traditional Indian summer fishing camp for the Wallowa Band Nez Perce and was designated by Congress as a private-lands unit of the Nez Perce National Historical Park. It is one of only four Park sites in Oregon. Old Chief Joseph died there in 1871 and was originally buried nearby, before being reinterred in 1926 at the foot of Wallowa Lake. Today the property contains a fish weir facility operated by the Nez Perce Tribe to monitor Chinook salmon. Well-traveled state Highway 82 runs along the western boundary of the property, making the project highly visible and creating ongoing opportunities for education.
Our gratitude goes to the Wolfe Family and our partners and funders who made this work possible:
· Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
· The Nature Conservancy
· National Resources Conservation Service
· Hells Canyon and Eagle Cap Land and Restoration Subfund of the Oregon Community Foundation (the Penstemon Fund) via Greater Hells Canyon Council
· Bergstrom Foundation
· Nez Perce Tribe
Photos © Leom Werdin