Letter to the Future: Gabe Olson - Columbia Land Trust
We asked wildlife documentarian Gabe Olson to write his vision for the Pacific Northwest, 25 years from now.

My son Rorrick,

I wake every morning with you and see a light for exploration and curiosity in your eyes. From such a young age, breathing the outside air calmed you. We brought you home on a clear day in the beginning of winter, and at only 2 days old, there was a sense of restlessness within you. With your belly full of milk I would bundle you up in a warm blanket and take you for a walk, the first light of the sun glowing on Mount Hood, freshly dusted with snow. Bowie our dog would run out ahead of us, leaping and bounding, leaving fresh tracks. With you in my arms I would walk out into the brisk morning, 20 degree air. By the time we’d reach the edge of the property you’d be sound asleep. This was one of the first times I got to see how calming nature is for you.

We chose the Pacific Northwest as a home for us, a special place to finally set roots down. Not knowing exactly what kind of kid you were going to be, your mother and I knew one thing for certain — we wanted to nurture you in a close connection to nature, and quickly realized that you had a natural curiosity towards it.

Remembering how wild spaces make me feel is a sensation that never leaves my soul. I still find healing power in nature. Not just the park, or where the trail head starts, but in the places where the land you stand on touches the sky, and when night falls you can hear the wind whistle through the trees. The place where the sky becomes filled with a life of lights you become lost in.

My photography and video work is all about the wild. Fighting to keep conservation efforts strong, concise and effective for future generations like you Rorrick, is part of what fuels this work. I feel the best way to teach people is to share the moments with them. When it comes to teaching you, the easiest way I can do this is to take you out into the wild. Expose you to it.

We want you to grow up with a close connection to nature, let it lead you to your own path, and find the places that speak to you. Maybe the ocean will carry you into the depths, or the sun will take you to the desert. Our hope is that you will find this strong connection, see the beauty, and need to keep it wild. We are instilling values that we hope give you a voice to advocate for places you connect with. Having found a place as remarkable as the PNW, I am ready to stick up for it and speak up for it. Not just for now, but for the future.

Organizations like Columbia Land Trust have become an integral part of my work in the PNW. Columbia Land Trust has led the way in protecting, rehabilitating, and preserving land throughout the Columbia River Gorge, the place in which we live. I feel a strong connection to this work and realize that this ultimately lives on with you, Rorrick. Not only are the values that we instill in you reflective of our own, but they are also a reflection of the community we are choosing to raise you in.

I envision the community where you were raised becoming one of healthy balanced ecosystems, and relationships. I want you to have an impact. I want you to learn. As you motivate me to become stronger willed about my passions, I in turn strive to raise you with awareness and confidence in standing up for the protections of wildlife and wild spaces. Stand up for healthy shared knowledge of land and human interaction. Watersheds should flow freely to the larger rivers. Wildflowers should bloom without hesitation. All of this will be in part of conservation efforts by humans, like you, your mother and I.

You should want the water, wildlife, sky and stars. And you can have them. Every day we think about how to foster an appreciation of nature within you. When I see you interact with nature, Rorrick, I learn from you.

The world is waiting for you. The connections you make with nature will give back to you for a lifetime. Find your story and passion within nature. We can see how you come alive outside. You learn in the outdoors, and I hope nature is always your teacher.

— Gabe Olson

Gabe, his partner Liz, and baby Rorrick at Habitap 2018.

More of Gabe’s work can be found at owlntreephotography.squarespace.com