It’s All About the People - Columbia Land Trust
Relationships and community remain at the heart of the Land Trust’s projects

By Dez Ramirez

Life is full of relationships. We’re finding ways to relate to one another on a daily basis in our homes, jobs, and lives. We also have a relationship with the natural world around us, and if you’re a resident of the Pacific Northwest, this relationship can be close—something good you get to experience on a daily basis.  

When we pursue projects and buy land, we also create relationships. We collaborate with local communities and landowners so together we can conserve and care for lands, waters, and wildlife.  

There is a complex technical side to this process, but there’s also an emotional, human side to it. The technical part, is technical: think legal analysis, environmental compliance, documentation of resources, conservation value, stewardship time, internal approvals, etc. If you were buying a new car or a home, this is the part where you are cross your fingers during the home inspection and sign a ton of serious paperwork with a lender.  

“First, we look at the five regions that we work in and take a look at what needs to be conserved through a nature, habitat, and ecosystem lens,” said Conservation Director Dan Roix. “Once we identify an opportunity, then we go out and talk to landowners and see if they are interested in working together. Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t.”  

With the goal being to figure out how to conserve the most valuable piece of land with the resources we have, we start by asking ourselves some basic questions: What’s on the land? Where is it? How big is it? Who owns it now? Can we afford it? 

“With each piece of land, there comes a relationship with the property owner” said Roix. “For some, it’s a real estate transaction. But for others, it’s more. We’re working with families and people who have a connection to the land and stories to tell. Learning from the landowners and combining their knowledge with our own science helps us understand the land better—the great parts about it as well as the risks.” 

Spending time with people in the community, thinking about the language we use, and building trust are essential components of what we do.  

“Part of the joy of this work,” said Conservation Lead Nate Ulrich, “is focusing on how we’re using land to bring people together. How do people experience a place? How did they historically experience a place, or could they, even? How might they be able to experience it in the future?” 

As we strike a balance between logistics and relationships, our work moves forward with conservation at the heart of it.