Commissioner John Hillock and grandson Bodie Bauk talked about their love of the East Moraine at the Sept. 10 celebration at Wallowa Lake Lodge.

WALLOWA LAKE – To commemorate Wallowa County’s acquisition of more than 1,820 acres of the Wallowa East Moraine, the Wallowa Lake Moraines Partnership hosted a celebration at the Wallowa Lake Lodge – complete with dinner, music and dancing.

Approximately 130 people dined on bison burgers and homemade macaroni and cheese prepared by Chuckwagon Sisters on the lodge’s lawn. The dinner and dance followed an interpretive hike up the Moraine, now known as the East Moraine Community Forest.

Representatives from each of the Partnership’s members – Wallowa County, Wallowa Land Trust, Wallowa Resources and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, shared their overwhelming gratitude to the local community for coming together to make this long-held dream come true.  As Wallowa Land Trust’s executive director Kathleen Ackley noted, “this effort truly took a village.”

The celebration came just three days after the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners approved the Community Forest’s management plan developed by natural resource professionals, land managers, and members of the public. 

The management plan will help guide the Partnership’s executive committee oversight of the multiple uses of the land – livestock grazing, timber management, recreation, cultural resource protection and habitat conservation.

Commissioner John Hillock, member of the executive committee, provided the show stealing scene when his grandson Bodie Bauk stepped up to the mic to share his love of the Moraine. 

After the speeches, Chuckwagon sisters served up fresh cobbler and Joseph’s classic rock band “Good Question” turned the lawn into a dance floor.

The East Moraine was easily viewed from the party scene, a landscape the entire county wanted protected from the threat of development. Millions of dollars raised by the Partnership, including funds from the federal government’s Land and Water Conservation Fund, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and many private foundations and individuals, paid for not only the $6 million purchase price, but additional funding to support the stewardship of the property into the future.

Currently, 15 acres of forest are being thinned with a masticator, to promote large tree growth. All of the chips will be left onsite to break down into the soil and provide nutrients. Until the middle of October, 75 cow/calf pairs are grazing this year’s abundant grass crop and decreasing the risk of a grass-fueled wildfire. A visitor use study is underway, along with a survey for recreationists to describe how, when and how often they like to use the Community Forest’s public trail system. The trailhead development is finishing up with a new parking lot for horse trailers and passenger vehicles on the east side of the Moraine off of Turner Lane and signs installed detailing the history, conservation values and guidelines for recreational use.

A dream 15 years in the making became a reality – first with the property’s acquisition in January 2020, followed by a conservation easement held by Wallowa Land Trust and Oregon Department of Forestry, the land is now a treasure for generations to come.

Truly, these accomplishments deserved a party at the Wallowa Lake Lodge, which has its own conservation easement across most of its property, held by the Nez Perce Tribe.

Senior Staff Writer, Journalist, Writer | | + posts

Katy Nesbitt's accolades include the Capital Press, Oregon Cattlemen Association, La Grande Observer, East Oregonian, Wild Horses Thunder (formerly Wallowa Valley Online), and Chief Joseph Days Rodeo.

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