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Land Trust impact on our region is profound

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I can't think of any organization that has had a more profound positive impact on Chelan and Douglas counties than the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust.     

The organization, which started with a small group of people around a kitchen table more than 30 years ago, held its annual recognition dinner Friday night and packed the Leavenworth Fest Hall with more than 300 people.     

Long-time supporters shook their heads in amazement at the transformation of this into a powerful force for constructive engagement.    

In the beginning, promoting conservation was seen by the powers that be in our area as extremist. CDLT was viewed  with great skepticism and more than a little hostility.      

But how things have changed, thanks to the calm, thoughtful, low-key leadership of people such as Dr. Eliot Scull, and executive directors Gordon Congdon Jr. and Bob Bugert combined with a growing phalanx of volunteers and supporters who are committed to leaving a legacy for future generations that includes clean water, clean air, access for citizens to their public lands and protection of critical habitat for wildlife. This mixture of leadership and volunteerism has created a culture of conservation that benefits us all.    

The Land Trust has been at the forefront of collaborative, cooperative efforts to solve important issues. They have shown all of us what it means to find common ground and work honestly and in a non-regulatory role to make this region a better place to live. For example, the organization has led an ongoing dialogue between public agencies to consider what public lands should be protected and those that were less important that could be used for other purposes, such as development.      

Their approach has never wavered. They want the communities to succeed financially and at the same time protect the natural beauty and resources that make this place extraordinary. These are not mutually exclusive goals.    

CDLT along with the Trust for Public Lands is leading an effort to protect the Wenatchee Foothills. Bugert announced that they raised more than $7.4 million of the $8.1 goal. Most of that money has come from our region and the reason for that success is simple. There is great trust and confidence in the Land Trust and TPL and because the community had a significant role in developing the plan for what areas to preserve and what areas to develop in that plan.     At its heart, CDLT is a grass roots, roll-up-the-shirtsleeve group of individuals. Rather than file lawsuits, they work to get agreement and meet the needs of private property owners every step of the way.     

Thanks in large part to that work, people are much more aware today of the need to protect our natural resources and access to our public lands.     

At the celebration, they honored three individuals who epitomize the best of Land Trust members. Jeanie Garrity and Tina Reiman were named volunteers of the year for their tireless efforts on behalf of CDLT. Educator and naturalist Susan Ballinger of Wenatchees, who has been a passionate advocate for teaching kids the wonders of the outdoors, received the coveted Nana Simone Legacy award for extraordinary contributions to the region.    

Ballinger told the crowd she is particularly proud of the work that has been done on the Jacobson Preserve near Saddle Rock and how important it is to everyone who visits that area to have a place to come and restore their spirit and their hearts by connecting with nature. She noted that the Land Trust approach stands in stark contrast to the divisive politics that rule the day in this country.     

Ballinger is right. If we spent more time building on the Land Trust approach, find common ground and look for ways to collaborate and cooperate, think of what we could accomplish both in our communities and in this country.     

I've had the privilege of working closely with these folks and they have created the a powerful force for good in our region.