Ways to Get Involved
Back in the 1970s, Oregon had a visionary governor, Tom McCall, who said, "Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky. They are people who say, 'This is my community, and it's my responsibility to make it better.' "
Land trusts offer an excellent community-based avenue for participation. But there are many other ways you can become active in land-use planning and conservation efforts.
To follow up on any of these suggestions, or to get more information, call your local land trust or land-use planning office and ask how you can help.
Join a trust. Land trusts depend on local support. You can become an active member, talk to friends and family members about trusts, and provide financial support.
Volunteer. Consider the skills you have, how much time you can give, and then get in touch with a regional land trust. You may be asked to pull weeds, clear paths, lead nature walks, serve on the board of directors, stuff envelopes or help to ensure that conservation easements are being honored. Whatever you can do, your land trust will surely welcome the assistance.
Form a partnership. If you are a student, have a company or work in a government agency, there many ways for your school or office to partner with a land trust. Talk to your local land trust about their needs and see whether there is a natural partnership opportunity that would benefit both the trust and your group. For example, could your school or class help to inventory the biodiversity of a wetlands area in exchange for on-site environmental education? If you're a government employee working on pollution mitigation, could you partner with a trust to set up a series of testing sites? Can your company have an annual outing to an urban forest where clean-up activities would help to build employee teamwork? Imagine the possibilities for creating a new form of partnership.
Choose a career. Many smart, successful people have changed their career paths to become involved with the land trust movement. People in high demand by trusts include: lawyers who know real estate law; biologists and other scientists who can help to conduct field research and biodiversity studies; engineers who can offer help with mitigation planning; and people with a background in city planning, grant writing or nonprofit administration. If you're committed to the land, consider making it a career.
Help educate people. Most land trusts have a large educational component. Field trips for students, politicians, landowners and land-use planners are a large part of land trust activities. Are you a teacher? A docent? An amateur expert on Oregon wildlife, vegetation or birds? Consider joining the education team at your area land trust.
Be a conserving landowner. You don't have to donate your property to help a trust conserve land. But changing the way you manage your land could help to preserve its value and resources. Trusts are usually glad to help landowners learn about conservation tactics such as planting trees to stabilize stream banks or using sustainable harvest practices. Land trusts are based on willing participation -- no one will pressure you to donate.
Think about donating. If you are a landowner interested in donating your property to a land trust, you may want to talk with several trusts before deciding what to do. All trusts will be responsive to your conservation goals, but you'll want to choose a trust with a mission that matches your personal objectives. For example, some trusts focus on public greenspace, while others concentrate on restoring wildlife habitat.
Vote! Nearly every election offers an opportunity to choose pro-conservation officials, to voice your opinions on taxes or to help make decisions that will affect the growth of your community. This is a quiet, simple way to make a significant difference.
Write letters or emails. Take the time to send a message to your local, state and national officials. Tell them about land trusts (at this point you probably know more than they do). Encourage elected officials to support land-use planning and conservation.
Learn about city planning. Every Oregon city and county is required by law to have a land-use planning program. You can get involved by attending public hearings and planning meetings or by joining a citizen advisory committee (CAC) or citizen involvement committee (CIC). Learn about proposed amendments to your city's land-use plan. Participate in "community visioning" projects. To learn about land-use planning groups in your area, see the 1000 Friends of Oregon Web page on citizen involvement.