In Our View: Nature Meets Recreation

Shared use of Hood River is preserved by Columbia Land Trust acquisition

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The Hood River in Oregon — about an hour's drive from Vancouver and across the Columbia River — for many years has proved that humans and wildlife can share one of nature's most beautiful settings. The north-flowing waterway at various times during the year is used by hikers, fishing enthusiasts, kayakers and swimmers — simultaneously with three threatened species of fish (Chinook and coho salmon, and bull trout), plus eagles, ospreys, ducks and many other birds. Bears, cougars and elk occasionally wander into the river system.

Fortunately, the future of this rare and relatively successful concurrence of people and wild animals was permanently secured recently when the Columbia River Land Trust accepted 299 acres along the river just upstream from the city of Hood River. The land was made available as part of a decommissioning settlement between PacifiCorp and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission after the power company removed the Powerdale Dam in 2010. Columbia River Land Trust last week accepted the donated land along the riverbanks, and Hood River County accepted smaller portions at each end of the larger parcel.

This land transfer ranks as one of the greatest triumphs for the Vancouver-based Columbia Land Trust, which for two-plus decades has conserved more than 21,000 acres of scenic forests, serene meadows and wild waterways in Washington and Oregon.

And what makes the acquisition of this riparian corridor special is the fact it was received as a donation; no money had to be raised to buy the land. Without having to pursue grants or other funding, the land trust put its reputation and record on the line, and guided a long process that began seven years ago.

After extensive preparations over several years, the transfer was finalized on Thursday, prompting land trust Executive Director Glenn Lamb to correctly proclaim: "It's so rare to have one landowner with three miles on both sides of the same river that's willing to make a donation."

Another distinctive feature in this win-win transaction is that it effectively blends both conservation and recreation purposes. The land trust specializes in the former (protecting and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat), and Hood River County is best suited to preside over the latter, in the more urban areas. As Lamb also noted, "Columbia Land Trust is more of a conservation group than a parks department."

Coincidentally, the mouth of the Hood River is almost directly across the Columbia from the mouth of the White Salmon River in Washington. And, whereas the Hood River's Powerdale Dam was removed in 2010, the White Salmon's Condit Dam was demolished last year. Powerdale Dam was removed after flood damage; Condit Dam was destroyed because required upgrades would've been more expensive.

Regardless of the motivation, it's good to see the dual treasures (natural and recreational) of two glorious rivers protected. We salute the Columbia Land Trust for one of its greatest accomplishments.