Wallowa Lake Project in Line for Federal Funds

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Wallowa Lake
The East Moraine of Wallowa Lake ranked in the top 10 to receive federal funding from the national Forest Legacy grant program.
PHOTO BY LEON WERDINGER

Tucked in the far corner of Northeast Oregon, a project to protect a chunk of one of the most iconic landscapes in the West – the East Moraine of Wallowa Lake – recently won national recognition.

The East Moraine project ranked in the top 10 to receive federal funding from the national Forest Legacy grant program. Administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Forest Legacy program is designed to protect working forestlands by preventing privately owned forests from being converted to non-forest uses.

Forest Legacy is funded through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, a 50-year-old program that reinvests a small portion of offshore oil and gas revenues into onshore conservation work across the nation. The fund expires in September. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and others are leading an effort to reauthorize the Fund.

As a working landscape at risk of conversion to development, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is the best tool available for protecting the East Moraine of Wallowa Lake. Conserving the East Moraine will allow for continued forestry, grazing and public access, while protecting a world-famous scenic vista. The project is one of three on the West Coast proposed for Forest Legacy funding, and the only one in Oregon.

“Keeping this landscape undeveloped and working is a priority for Wallowa County,” said Wallowa County Commissioner Mike Hayward. “We have an incredible opportunity through the Forest Legacy grant program to secure this iconic landscape for future generations while continuing to benefit our rural economy.”

Located in Wallowa County near the town of Joseph, the Wallowa Lake moraines are considered one of North America’s most perfectly formed and best-preserved glacial landscapes. The multi-million dollar Forest Legacy project will protect 1,533 acres of the East Moraine of Wallowa Lake. The project is adjacent to Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, which includes Oregon’s largest protected area, the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

Support for conserving the East Moraine runs far and wide – from Wallowa County Commissioners to the governor’s office to state and federal elected officials, there is broad consensus that this unique and spectacular landscape deserves protection. “I am delighted this Oregon treasure is receiving well-deserved recognition that can preserve the East Moraine for the benefit of everybody who lives in Wallowa County and who visits Oregon’s beautiful northeastern corner,” said U.S. Sen, Ron Wyden, D-Ore. “The protection of this geological icon is just the latest great example of the value provided by the Forest Legacy grant program, and one more reason why I’m pulling out all the stops with colleagues from both parties to re-authorize the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.”

Recently, the U.S. Senate held a vote to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was just one vote short of the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.