The Language of the Land - Columbia Land Trust
[Guest Story] An Emerging Leaders Council member shares how he gives back to the nature of the Northwest in honor of Earth Day.


The land talks. The trees, wildlife, the water and the air. When I stop to listen, it’s not always an easy language to understand—especially as our busy lives disconnect and distract us from the natural rhythms of the wild. So I use my camera, no matter the rain or mud, to reconnect, to slow down, and to help translate what nature is trying to tell us.

When I was young I would always get in trouble for not being home before dark. I felt so at peace out there wondering and discovering—what the view was from that hill, or what was underneath that rock, or up that tree. Early on, I was enthralled by how the river flowed freely, the way birds sang and flickered in the tall grasses, the way the trees grew and how the sunlight would break through canopies to the forest floor, helping fungi form and begin a new cycle of life. My curiosity and respect for nature grew when my dad and I joined the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. This is where I learned the true meaning of “leave no trace” and how conservation and recreation can work together. It was a gift to spend time in the outdoors, to understand how we depend on land for its resources and inspiration, and to know that my relationship with nature would only grow more reciprocal as I grew older.

When I moved to the Northwest from California more than a year ago, I realized I had to do my part to give back to the wild places that had offered me endless adventure. I was introduced to Columbia Land Trust and I was so intrigued by its practices and mission statement to “conserve and care for the vital lands, waters, and wildlife of the Columbia River region through sound science and strong relationships.”  I decided to join the Land Trust’s Emerging Leaders Council, a group of young professionals working to grow the next generation of conservationists. Since joining, I’ve been able to learn more about the science of conservation, land management, and how hard it is to keep our Northwest places protected. In hiking some of the conserved areas the Land Trust has protected, I’ve seen how tedious restoration projects can be and how rewarding. I’ve observed new species of plants and wildlife, the importance of habitat connectivity, and how, in such an unlikely place, populations of birds and important pollinators are finding sanctuary right in the Portland Metro area by homes enrolled in the Backyard Habitat Certification Program. The people of the Northwest—from farmers to ranchers, foresters, and recreationists—take great care to protect this place for future generations. It’s one of a handful of places, where I have felt surrounded by people who share the values I’ve carried since my Boy Scout days.

I encourage the region’s newcomers: Get outside and explore, learn how nature inspires you, and then get involved as a way to give back to the lands, waters, and wildlife. Finding the right way to be a part of nature can sometimes be the most daunting part. As Edward Abbey would put it, “The idea of wilderness needs no defense, only defenders.”

-Gabriel Olson
Columbia Land Trust Emerging Leaders Council member

Follow our Instagram (@columbialandtrust) today and tomorrow as Gabriel shares some of his favorite outdoor moments in honor of Earth Day 2017.

Learn more about joining our Emerging Leaders Council and other ways to get involved today.

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