The Wallowa Country encompasses over 4,000 square miles of the magnificent northern Blue Mountains, and the valleys and canyons of northeast Oregon, southeast Washington and western Idaho. Within this vast, wild territory, the Wallowa Land Trust manages three programs (Farms & Ranchlands, Indian Sacred Lands and Habitat & Open Ground), and focuses the latter program areas primarily in four Key Landscapes:
a. Wallowa Lake Basinb. Wallowa River Systemc. North End d. Canyonlands
Within these Key Landscapes, the following five major land protection transactions have been selected as priority land projects. The Trust is working with owners of these (and other) privately owned properties, to voluntarily protect the natural values and traditional uses of these cherished lands through acquisition or Conservation Easements – purchased or donated – in cooperation with the families, individuals or businesses which own or control them.
1. Wallowa Lake MorainesThe Moraines of Wallowa Lake are considered one of North America's most perfectly formed and best preserved glacial landscapes. This ancient but fragile landform is visually stunning, physically accessible and scientifically important. The current condition and cultural importance of the Wallowa Lake Moraines is testament to the sense of stewardship and public trust prevalent among the lands' private owners – over a hundred individuals & families. These working lands provide a range of community benefits including scenery, outdoor recreation, scientific study, livestock grazing, modest levels of timber production, community events, and a variety of important ecosystem services.
The Wallowa Lake Basin’s Moraines System is composed of three physiographic units: the East, West & Terminal Moraines. All of today’s moraines are built over earlier, older moraines which resulted from repeated glacial flows of the past.
The East Moraine dominates the eastern skyline from the lake, and is the most impressive and imposing landform in this moraines system. It stands up to 900 feet above the lake and serves as the major spine of this physiographic landscape. The East Moraine contains important winter range habitat for big game, raptors and small mammals. Its healthy native grass community is partly a result of sensitive management by a multitude of landowners, which incorporates modest levels of grazing and aggressive weed control by local volunteers. The East Moraine is technically the oldest of the three moraines units, with large granitic erratics along its top having been in place for about 17,200 years.
The West Moraine lies in the shadow of Chief Joseph Mountain, providing critical biological and hydrological connectivity between the Wallowa Mountains and Lake Wallowa. Generally more heavily forested than its sister lateral moraine east of the lake, the West Moraine’s wildlife corridors serve as key natural linkages between mountain and valley habitat. Much of the water available for wildlife, human consumption, and the lake itself, flows into the Wallowa Lake Basin through the West Moraine, some of which emerges as part of the most productive springs system along the lake, Torrent Springs. Using the same cosmic ray isotropy with undisturbed erratics, the West Moraine is dated a more modest 16,700 years of age.
The Terminal Moraine includes those lands with great amounts of glacial debris deposited at the furthest points of their advances, including several key riverine / wetland properties at the north end of the lake, especially around and on the upper Wallowa River, where it cuts through the Terminal Moraine for about 2.5 miles. These properties connect Wallowa Lake with the upper Wallowa Valley through a heavily forested corridor that buffers the river from agricultural activities to the west and the growing city of Joseph to the east. In conjunction with the newly designated and adjacent Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site (the former Marr Ranch), this near-contiguous series of properties are of immense biological, recreational and economic value to the local community and to people across the State of Oregon.
2. Lostine-Wallowa Rivers Confluence / Wolfe RanchIn February 2011 the Wallowa Land Trust closed on its first purchased agricultural Conservation Easement in the Wallowa Valley – also the first such easement on a working farm or ranch in the county. This 454-acre property encompasses the Confluence of the Lostine and Wallowa Rivers on the Woody Wolfe Ranch, and is receiving easement protection in two steps. The remaining 257 acres are targeted for immediate inclusion in a second identical Conservation Easement later this year.
The property includes the site of a traditional Nez Perce summer camp in the middle valley, called Indian Town by local settlers. Today it’s a private lands unit of the Nez Perce National Historical Park, designated by Congress in 1997. This is where Old Chief Joseph died and was buried in 1871, remaining in this sacred place for over 50 years before being reinterred at the foot of Wallowa Lake in 1926.
Including 3.5 miles of river, this remarkable area contains the confluence proper as well as 146 acres of riparian-associated wetlands and freshwater emergent marsh. In addition, it encompasses 308 acres of prime agricultural ground on the historic Wolfe Century Ranch, between the towns of Wallowa and Lostine. The initial Step One of the easement included 197 acres. The Trust is currently negotiating Step Two to secure an additional 257 acres, for a 454-acre Conservation Easement, which would protect the entire parcel. Read more.
3. Minam Complex, includes Lower Minam River CanyonThe Minam Complex Region is one of Wallowa County’s most storied places. Three separate undeveloped parcels of forestland lie adjacent to or near the venerable Minam State Recreation Area. All three are former Boise-Cascade lands owned by Forest Capital Partners, and are being marketed for real estate development potential by West Slope Properties, Forest Capital’s real estate arm. The Trust has worked closely with the Nez Perce Tribe, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation & Western Rivers Conservancy towards eventual acquisition of these high profile properties:
The Lower Minam is the largest area on the Wallowa Land Trust’s roster of targeted protected properties. A 16,300 acre watershed contiguous with the Eagle Cap Wilderness. WLT, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Western Rivers Conservancy and the Nez Perce Tribe are working together to acquire this premier landscape. Nearby and also adjacent to Minam State Park are to additional 500-acre parcels: Wallowa-Minam Canyon and Smith Mountain, important wildlife areas with significant historic and cultural values. These may eventually be assimilated into a greatly expanded Minam State Park.
The Minam-Wallowa Canyon Face is found on the west side of the Wallowa River across from Minam Sate Park, and includes one of the most remarkable Nez Perce cultural resources – Old Joseph’s Deadline.
Smith Mountain includes an invaluable historic area.
4. Joseph Canyon RimFor over four miles, the Joseph Canyon Rim property follows the North Highway on both sides of the spectacular Joseph Canyon Overlook. Over 1500 acres of breathtaking canyon rim property is on the market for development. This area includes critical habitat for deer, elk, raptors and furbearers, and contains one of the few spring systems along the rim. For this reason, as well as its rich natural resources, the upper canyon includes some of the most significant cultural and archeological sites in the watershed. We’re working hard to raise sufficient funds to purchase this magnificent area, in order to protect critical wildlife habitat and sensitive cultural sites.
5. Lower Grande Ronde RiverDescription forthcoming