by Eric Greenwell, Conservation Program Manager, Wallowa Land Trust
As autumn clears the way for snow, leaf by fallen leaf, I recall how places change gradually and all at once—how we can never step in the same river twice, as Heraclitus said, and how the places we love have several shades and qualities.
This year, Wallowa Land Trust has closed on over 650 acres of conservation easements on Wallowa Lake’s iconic East Moraine, and we are working with our partners to purchase and conserve another 1,800 acres of the East Moraine by January 2020.
Due to all this momentum, we thought, what better way to honor the conservation of the East Moraine than to call attention to the facets that make it so central to us and our community? And our answer was our Into The Wallowa outings series, now in its 10th year. From May to September, Wallowa Land Trust hosted 5 outings specifically designed to call to mind what Wallowa Lake’s East Moraine has meant to people for thousands of years.
Our guides for these outings—Larry Nall, Kelly Birkmaier, Jacob Hasslacher, Chris Antemann, Rob Taylor, Andie Lueders, Amelia Marchand, Albert Andrews, and Veronica Redstar—included artists, rangeland managers, Nez Perce elders, foresters, ecologist, and geologists who led us up the East and West Moraine. We took in sweeping views of Wallowa Lake, the moraines basin, and Wallowa Mountains. On clear days, we looked out over Zumwalt Prairie, Hells Canyon, the Sawtooths to the east and the Wenahas to the northwest. We moved through lower elevations, talking about forests, grasslands, and even touring a fine art studio which hosts and inspires artists from around the world at the foot of the East Moraine.
As one could imagine, we learned so much. We saw first-hand how glaciers carved out Wallowa Lake. We learned how this process began 300,000 years ago and how geologists deduced that number by taking samples from boulders those glaciers dropped on the moraine (called eratics). From these samples, they calculated how much time has passed by how much direct sunlight and gamma radiation altered the composition of the granite. We learned what an “ecotone” is, where mixed conifer forests give way to ponderosa pine woodlands, or ponderosa pine woodlands give way to bunchgrasses, and we learned how fauna depend on such diversities of flora, all found on the East Moraine. We learned how tribes are talking about lands like the East Moraine, where the emphasis on natural resources shifts to natural relationships and interconnected systems of life.
We hosted some truly enlightening outings, and they reminded me how important the East Moraine is to many people for many reasons.
When I started working for Wallowa Land Trust in 2017, I attended an Into The Wallowa outing led by a local steward, Doug McDaniel. Doug pioneered a restoration project on the Wallowa River on his property. He told me then we have to live on a piece of land for 30 years or more to begin to understand it. Unfortunately, we lost Doug this year, but I haven’t forgotten his words.
Thanks to the efforts of so many, we are on track to preserve 2,500 acres of Wallowa Lake’s East Moraine forever. This year’s Into The Wallowa series reminded me what that really means. When we are successful, the East Moraine will be here to learn from, to inspire, and to know—30 years from now, 30 years from then, and so on.
Find this story and more in our Fall 2019 newsletter.