Take it outside: Land trusts help legislators connect with the land

- Blog
Senator Hawkins and Curt Soper summiting Saddle Rock
Senator Hawkins and Curt Soper summitting Saddle Rock. Photo courtesy of Cheland Douglas Land Trust.

Across the state, communities are rolling up their sleeves to protect the places they hold dear. Our state elected officials are key partners in accomplishing this critical conservation work. There is no better way to advocate for continued funding and conservation policies than by getting legislators out on the land.

Meet three land trusts are working to build relationships with their elected officials by getting boots on the ground.


Chelan-Douglas Land Trust and Sen. Hawkins talk community conservation in the Wenatchee foothills
Senator Brad Hawkins atop Saddle Rock.
Senator Brad Hawkins atop Saddle Rock. Photo Credit Chelan Douglas Land Trust

When Curt Soper first met Senator Brad Hawkins, he learned that they both shared a love of the Wenatchee foothills. “Senator Hawkins said that he was doing a listening tour in several 12th District communities this fall to hear directly from constituents,” says Curt Soper, Executive Director of the Chelan Douglas Land Trust. “And he had plans to finish the tour with a community hike at Saddle Rock!”

Saddle Rock is a community treasure in the Wenatchee foothills. Back in 2011, this 325-acre property was permanently protected by the Trust and City of Wenatchee with the help of Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) funds.

“It was a beautiful fall day,” said Curt. “A lot of land trust members were there, as well as the Mayor of Wenatchee. We had a chance to chat with Brad in a beautiful setting about the great things that WWRP can for our community.”

To complement the Saddle Rock hike, Senator Hawkins also took the time to sit down with land trust staff and board members and discuss community priorities.

“When you engage your political officials, it is an educational opportunity. It’s about them having a recognition of who you are and how you benefit the community,” says Curt. “Outdoor recreation. Kids in nature. These are things that cross the political aisle.”


Rep. MacEwen sees Puget Sound restoration in action with Capitol Land Trust
Legislators out at Bayshore Preserve
Conservation supporters gather with Rep. MacEwen at Bayshore Preserve. Photo Credit Joe Mentor

In early October, Capitol Land Trust and several conservation partners met with Representative Drew MacEwen out at the Trust’s Bayshore Preserve on Oakland Bay.

Representative MacEwen had just joined the board of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, the group that advocates for the WWRP. “This was an opportunity to help Representative MacEwen learn more about the WWRP and see the impact that these projects have in his own district,” explains Amanda Reed, Executive Director of Capitol Land Trust.

Capitol Land Trust purchased the 74-acre shoreline property in 2014 with the help of WWRP funding. Since then, the Trust has worked to restore tidal and upland habitats, and hosts school children through the year for educational programming.

“We got to spend quality time with Representative MacEwen, more than two hours, and had real discussions about trends in his district and land conservation. He offered ideas for how to fund our future work at Bayshore Preserve and get even more of the community involved.”

“Getting on the ground and seeing the work that we’re doing helps legislators see that we are community partners,” explains Amanda. “Land trusts are rolling up their sleeves and doing real work that benefits the community in many ways.”

“It is great to have this connection. Next time we call him up during session with input, he can remember that we’re a great partner for the community.”

The legislator left impressed with the amazing conservation work done by Capitol Land Trust in the Bayshore Preserve. “He asked if he could bring his family to the Preserve that weekend,” says Amanda.


Legislators value working lands in PCC Farmland Trust tour across Pierce County

On a bright October morning, community members gathered at the Wilcox Farm to kick off a tour of Pierce County farms hosted by PCC Farmland Trust.

Representative J.T. Wilcox grew up on this family farm in rural Pierce County, and still lives there today. The Wilcox Farm was the first stop on a three-farm tour across the county, and in addition to Representative Wilcox, Representative Andrew Barkis and an aide to Senator Hans Zeiger joined the farm tour.

“Representative Wilcox, Representative Barkis, and Senator Zeiger are all supportive of farmland conservation,” explains Megan Jenny, Community Engagement Manager at the Trust.  “Our goal was to get them out on our conserved properties and talking with producers about how farmland conservation helps make farmland more affordable and supports viable farm businesses.”

After Wilcox Farms, the group visited two Trust protected farms, Mountain View Dairy in Graham and Wild Hare Organic Farm in Tacoma. “The producers on each property gave a tour of their operation,” says Megan. “They talked about what producing on conserved land means for them and their businesses, and about how their businesses contribute to the community.

“Our staff also talked about the important role that public funding plays in our conservation work. We utilize public dollars and leverage philanthropy to be more nimble in our approach.”

“Public officials make important decisions that have an impact on our work. We host tours like this one to ensure they hear about the multiple benefits of farmland conservation,” says Megan. “Not just from our staff, but also from their farmer constituents.”

Group Photo in front of Barn
Farmland tour-goers gather for a group photo. Photo Credit PCC Farmland Trust


Building a network of conservation champions

The Washington Association of Land Trusts works to build strong support for conservation in both Olympia and D.C. Together with WALT, our land trusts are building a network of champions for conservation across Washington.

Together, we are advocating to protect the places that our communities love most. Join us by donating to WALT today!