PROTECT: Ensure permanent protection for a diverse and integrated landscape through acquisition of key parcels that are vulnerable to development or harm.
STEWARD: Use best available science, innovative strategies, a holistic approach, and gentle feet on the ground to care for land, plants and animals in a changing world.
2016 Conservation Fund Priorities
1. Acquisition of the Aspen Grove, 20 acres. Visible from the front yard of the Ekone Lodge, directly upstream along the Ekone creek, and surrounded on three sides by Ekone land, this parcel is integral. A spectacular intact aspen grove protects the creek, western gray squirrels nest in huge ponderosas, and lush stands of native grass and sedge provide forage through the dry months. Dollars: $55,000
2. Acquisition of Rainbow Springs, 73 acres. With a year-round spring, an old-growth oak grove, and the most spectacular Rock Creek overlook, this parcel offers nourishment to wildlife and humans alike. This marks the lowest reach of the upper section of Rock Creek, defining the edge of the landscape that SEF is committed to protecting. Dollars: $70,000
3. Stewardship Planning. Employ the best available science, make a thorough inventory of Ekone’s flora and fauna, gain the support of conservation professionals, and draft a comprehensive plan for the stewardship of Sacred Earth Foundation lands that manages invasive species, supports healthy forests and grasslands, encourages native plants and animals, and adapts to a changing world. Dollars: $5,000
To launch this Fund, Sacred Earth Foundation has dedicated $25,000 of its carefully-tended savings as a match for September, 2016 donations.
We must raise a match of $25,000 in individual donations to achieve these goals.
Make this landscape part of your legacy! Gifts of $1000 or more will be recognized on a permanent installation near the White Eagle cemetery entryway.
Contributions can be made ONLINE HERE, by mail to Sacred Earth Foundation, 401 Ekone Rd, Goldendale, WA 98620, or by phone at 509-773-4536, or in person at the Barbed Wire Ball, September 24, 2016! Consider making a monthly pledge to spread your investment out over time!
Q: Did you check your math? Because the price tag for these priorities adds up to quite a bit more than your fundraising goal!
A: Yes! There are two key factors that make the math work. One is that we intend to purchase Rainbow Springs on a 10-year contract, with an annual commitment of just around $7000–a very reasonable annual fundraising goal. The other is that SEF recently received a property donation of a 5-acre parcel near Goldendale. We plan to sell this parcel, with the proceeds benefiting the Conservation Fund–a tremendous boon. But we can’t expect it to sell immediately, thus the urgency to raise sufficient funds to secure these parcels before we miss our chance.
Q: I’ve heard that Ekone is planning on building a new camp kitchen and doing a bunch of expensive facilities upgrades. What is your priority?
A: In classic “doing something on the way to doing something” Ekone style, this land project will help us launch the major capital campaign for facilities improvements that we have been quietly working towards for two years. Land conservation is absolutely central to Sacred Earth Foundation’s Mission, Vision and Values, and these critical and time-sensitive Conservation Fund priorities just can’t wait until after our major facilities work is done. We know that there are many people in our community–especially among the White Eagle cemetery clients and families–who value the land itself above any of the other work that happens at Ekone, regardless of ranch infrastructure. We hope that those people will be mobilized to make stewardship of this watershed a part of their legacy. When the time is right, we will be asking everyone we know to help build Ekone facilities that will serve the next seven generations. We have a bit more homework to do before we’re ready to make that ask. Meanwhile, the land needs us, and it comes first.
Q: Have the sellers of these parcels accepted your offers?
A: We have not yet submitted formal offers on either parcel, but have begun negotiations with both sellers and have every expectation that we’ll be able to make agreements that are acceptable to all parties. Our first offer will be on the Aspen Grove, as the #1 priority. Purchase negotiations, the success of fundraising efforts, and timing of the sale of the donated 5-acre parcel will all affect the budget and timeline of this initiative. We’re engaging in a process, and asking for your support along the path.
Q: What if you can’t reach an agreement?
A: If all else fails, we’ll work on creating First-Right-Of-Refusal agreements to give SEF the option of matching any future offers. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to develop the Conservation Fund, invest in stewardship, and attain the financial capacity to make future acquisition decisions in a streamlined way when the right opportunities arise.
Q: I’m interested in donating, but only if the parcel I love is guaranteed to become part of SEF.
A: We will happily accept pledges that are contingent on the signature of a purchase contract! And, if one parcel or another just speaks to your heart, you may restrict your donation to the acquisition of that piece. We appreciate the flexibility that general Conservation Fund donations give us, but also encourage donors to follow your heart and support exactly what moves you.
Q: Is this a financially-responsible decision? $25,000 from your reserve is a lot of money for a small organization.
A: We considered this decision very carefully, within the context of our financial track record and projections for the future. Before we made this commitment, we adopted a policy of holding a 6-month reserve for baseline ranch operations in the event of an emergency situation. Due to several years of strong support and frugal management, SEF is in a financially-sound position and can afford to make this investment. We feel that dedicating these funds to the land is a statement of organizational strength and commitment to our core values.
Q: When was the last time SEF brought a new parcel into the land trust?
A: The “Brady” parcel was purchased in 2006, through a private loan that was paid off with a selective harvest of Ekone trees–mostly small-dimension poles used to grow hops. Much of the White Eagle Memorial Preserve green cemetery is now on what was the Brady parcel. A decade later, and after so much organizational change, SEF is now ready to engage in land acquisition again.
Q: Could you just do more timber harvest to raise money for these parcels?
A: Even if we wanted to do more sustainable logging, the market for pine is down, and the cost of logging and hauling currently exceeds the value of the harvestable timber on Ekone. And while the 2007 harvest was a benefit to the forest ecosystem, we don’t feel that Ekone forests can bear more harvest at this time, beyond our fuel reduction and firewood salvage work.
Q: What about using conservation easements as a tool for land protection, instead of buying the land?
A: We looked long and hard at conservation easements, and decided that SEF only engages in fee-simple land ownership, for many reasons. In our area, land prices are low enough that it makes more sense to buy the land outright than to deal with complex and legally-challenging conservation easements. Easements are excellent tools for many land trusts, but just not a good fit for this organization.
Q: Aren’t there government programs or grants that can provide funding for this?
A: There are! But from what we’ve seen, such programs and grants require major up-front investment in the application process, have very long application and award timelines, and are highly competitive with no guarantee of funding after all that work and waiting. This project can’t wait–we would lose the opportunity to acquire these parcels. But, with the development of this Conservation Fund, we hope to attain the capacity to plan further into the future and cultivate these and other avenues of funding stewardship work.