Rogue River Valley, Oregon – The Rogue River meanders from the Cascade Mountain Range to rocky Pacific Coast, through a beautiful and fertile landscape patchwork made up of farms, vineyards and wilderness.
Steve Wise is the executive director of the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy (SOLC), which is focused on preserving functional landscapes from border to border.
“We cover the southern third of the state, but Jackson and Josephine Counties are the primary focus of our work,” Wise said. “The Rogue River Valley holds tremendous potential for preserving wild salmon, and it has a huge biodiversity and many different kinds of ecology.”
Since its inception in 1978, 70 conservation easements have been made between SOLC and a property owner, with the goal of preserving the land in its current state.
“We work with the owner to keep the land healthy, but the owner is responsible for taking care of the land,” Wise said. “An easement is perpetual and forever. It’s attached to the deed, and it never goes away.”
SOLC also owns lands, like the Rouge River Preserve, which is 350 acres of wild land and two miles of riverbank.
“It’s a remarkable example of native landscape and it’s a living classroom for students and visitors,” Wise said.
A grant from the Avista Foundation will help SOLC continue its hosted field trips, and also help educate a corps of volunteer docents who will offer free guided hikes in the Jacksonville Woodlands.
“The preserves that we own are not open to the public all the time,” Wise said. “Our mission is to preserve the ecology as much as we can, so sometimes we leave it alone to the butterflies and birds and animals that live there.”
Wise said two years of COVID lockdowns and restrictions have reminded people how much they enjoy being outdoors.
“We believe in healthy lands and in preservation of our quality of life,” Wise said. “We do this work for current and future generations. It’s a big job but we try to guarantee the future for our children.”
At Avista, we recognize our unique position gives us the chance to contribute in an impactful way and make a real difference in people's lives. Since 2002, the Avista Foundation has made grants totaling over $12 million to organizations that support vulnerable and limited income populations, education, and economic and cultural vitality. For more information on grant applications and geographical areas covered, please visit avistafoundation.com.