William “Bill” Dygert, a longtime land-use consultant active in conservation efforts in Southwest Washington, died Aug. 27 at his home in Astoria, Ore., from a chronic lung disorder. He was 71.
Dygert was a founding member and longtime board member of the Vancouver-based Columbia Land Trust, which has conserved more than 55,000 acres in Oregon and Washington.
“If you live, work or recreate in Southwest Washington, you have surely benefited from the work of Bill Dygert, who was instrumental in saving much of the natural beauty we enjoy today. No one has been more successful in creating parks and trails, conserving rivers and streams, and maintaining farm and forest land,” the Columbia Land Trust said in an emailed statement.
“Bill’s impact comes from his direct work: facilitating the creation of park, trail and open space plans; creating citizen groups to advocate for those plans; and raising tens of millions of dollars to implement them,” the statement reads. “All of us who draw our joy and health from nature will continue to benefit from these efforts, long after his passing.”
Dygert, who was raised in Vancouver, started working for the Clark County Parks Department in 1973 — first as an employee and later as an independent contractor. He negotiated with private landowners and secured funding to allow for the conversion of their private holdings to public uses. Through his grant writing, Dygert secured millions of dollars for municipalities and nonprofits in Southwest Washington, according to an obituary published Sunday in The Columbian.
“If you’ve ever been to Lewisville, Frenchman’s Bar, Salmon Creek, Lacamas, Cottonwood Beach or Whipple Creek parks; walked the Salmon Creek, Lacamas or Burnt Bridge Creek trails; appreciated the glorious nature of the Washougal River, the Vancouver Lake lowlands or the East Fork Lewis River; had a picnic or thrown a frisbee in your neighborhood park; or fished or hunted in Southwest Washington, Bill played a key role in your experience,” Glenn Lamb, Columbia Land Trust executive director, said in an email.
Lamb described Dygert as “one of the most important people in my life and for so many other people, too.”
Dygert and his business partner, George Simpson, were behind the Clark County Legacy Lands (Clark County Conservation Futures) program and acquisition of more than 5,000 acres of protected land in Clark County. Later, he supported the development of the Astoria Riverwalk and was a longtime chair of the Lower Columbia River Fish Recovery Board, according to his obituary.
“An entire generation of conservationists learned their craft from watching Bill, studying his patient persistence and dogged focus. Bill loved nature, and he also loved the colorful people who populate our region,” the Columbia Land Trust said.
“A writer at heart, Bill would walk, take pictures and listen — and turn what he learned into grant proposals and testimonies. He took the stories of generations of people whose relationship with land ran deep and turned them into tangible conservation successes.”
Dygert is the second of three sons of Dr. H. Paul and Helen Dygert. He is survived by his wife, Linda; stepson, Mick; brothers, Peter and Hal Dygert and their families; and his Labrador Prince Harry.
Donations in memory of Dygert can be made to the Columbia Land Trust, 850 Officers Row, Vancouver, WA, 98661, and Clatsop Animal Assistance, P.O. Box 622, Warrenton, OR, 97146.
A date for his celebration of life has not yet been announced.