After exploring the wonders of the Northwest for nearly a century, Orlien Becker is donating a 20-acre woodland plot in central Washington in support of conservation.
“I’ve never had the patience for fishing or birdwatching,” says Orlien Becker, “Maybe that’s why I like wildflowers. They don’t flit around, so you can sit and watch them for a while.”
Calypso orchids and chocolate lilies are just a few of the charms that enticed Orlien and his wife Margot to buy 20 acres of land along Icicle Creek in Chelan County, Washington back in 1985. Over time, the Beckers realized that building on their isolated plot, located nine miles upstream from the town of Leavenworth on the steep slopes of Icicle Canyon, wouldn’t be worth the time and effort. Instead, they led hiking parties to tour the property’s woodlands and wildflowers in late spring each year. Gradually, Orlien’s hiking trips—explorations of the nearby Enchantments and Alpine Lake Wilderness drew him to the region in the first place—grew more infrequent.
Orlien is 91 years old and legally blind. Because reading and writing now require the assistance of a machine, the prospect of selling the property and poring over endless legal documents seemed like more of a hassle that it was worth. That’s when the Beckers thought of Glenn Lamb at Columbia Land Trust, whom Orlien first encountered years before out on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula. The Beckers sold the Land Trust 90 acres of prime trumpeter swan habitat at a bargain price despite receiving aggressive offers from other interested buyers.
Orlien stayed in touch with the Land Trust’s conservation efforts along the lower Columbia River, a region he first came to know as a boy in Tigard, Oregon, hiking with an old rucksack from the local Army Surplus. Knowing that the 20 acres on Icicle Creek required more maintenance than he could manage and that selling to the U.S. Forest Service could take time, Orlien opted to donate the property to Columbia Land Trust as a trade land.
Trade lands are properties that generous individuals donate to the Land Trust so that it can, in turn, sell the land and use the proceeds to support its strategic conservation goals. In this unique case, the Land Trust aims to sell the land to the U.S. Forest Service (the property is an inholding within Wenatchee National Forest and is adjacent to a campground), which will provide a financial benefit to the Land Trust, while still ensuring the property is conserved.
Even as Orlien’s sight dims, his memories and his connection to the patch of land along the hard-charging Icicle Creek remain as strong as ever. He recalls one summer day high in the nearby Enchantments when he and a hiking companion stopped for lunch amidst families of mountain goats. The men smiled as billies scolded their rambunctious kids, not so unlike their human counterparts.
As he prepared to part with the woodlands, wildflowers, and swift waters he came to know so well, Orlien conveyed his sentiments in the form of a poem:
I love the land, this beautiful land,
Pine-scented woods, wildflowers nodding in sun and shade
Endowed by nature’s bountiful hand
Yet when I go, I will leave a debt unpaid.
For years I thought it mine to own
In my care, control and custody,
In truth it was but a temporary loan
And I poorly served what was entrusted to me.
For I found too little time to spare
To conserve the woodlands truly
So the forest did what forests do,
It grew and grew, unruly.
So the land I love, this beautiful land
Lies back, in wary expectation,
For fire, in Nature’s vengeful hand,
To bring its extirpation.
– Orlien Becker
We at Columbia Land Trust would like to thank Orlien and Margot for their generous donations of land, funds, and support over the years. Orlien assures us that none of these generous donations, and particularly the donation of the Icicle Creek property, would be possible without Margot.
If you own land, inside our service area or beyond, you can donate it to Columbia Land Trust as a gift in support of our conservation and restoration work. Donating land can offer you tax benefits and reduce the hassle of selling the property, all while helping advance the Land Trust’s conservation efforts. Visit our Donate Land page for more information or call our conservation director Dan Roix at 360-696-0131.