Last night, we hosted another sell-out crowd of over 500 people for a particularly special McKenzie Memories event. In addition to looking back over the last century, to remind ourselves of the vision and hard work and sacrifice of the people who came before us, we very much looked forward, with a shared vision about what we want the McKenzie, our Homewaters, to be like 10, 50, and 100 years from now. Last night, in addition to inviting everyone to immerse themselves in the history of lodges, and river trips, and the remarkable water cycle of the McKenzie River itself, we invited our community to commit to helping us reach to goals of the McKenzie Homewaters Campaign.
After working quietly for over a year, last night we launched the public phase of the McKenzie Homewaters Campaign. We seek to bring $6 million to bear on the health of the river by the time the campaign ends at midnight, New Years Eve 2017. The campaign centers on three goals:
- Conserving clean drinking water.
- Protecting salmon habitat.
- Preserving river access.
What will we do with the $6 million?
- We will pay down the $1.5 million loan we took out to acquire the Finn Rock Reach properties.
- We will put another $2 million aside for new land deals that protect other special lands riverlands in the McKenzie basin as the opportunities arise.
- We will gather over $1 million to enhance habitats, giving the river more room to roam, making places less suitable for largemouth bass, and more suitable for native McKenzie Redsides rainbow trout and Chinook salmon. This will also give us the ability to make improvements at the Finn Rock Boat Landing, and perhaps in the years ahead construct a trail through the site of the old Finn Rock Logging Camp adjacent to it.
- And we will put aside more than $1 million to care for these lands long term, to build on the culture of land and water stewardship that thrives throughout the watershed.
Now, I must say, we’ve been quietly working on securing these funds already. In fact there were many people in the room last night who have already given or made commitments to the campaign. Starting with a tremendous $100,000 contribution just one year ago, immediately following last year’s McKenzie Memories event, we have secured gifts, grants, and pledges of (nearly) $4 million.
We want to particularly thank the Oregon Community Foundation for the help they have given to this campaign, and the guidance they afford the families who have the means to contribute philanthropically to the betterment of Oregon, including tremendous early gifts to our campaign.
We are also extremely fortunate in this community to have not only the McKenzie River, but also forward thinking water utilities, Eugene Water and Electric Board and Springfield Utility Board especially, to care for and deliver these resources to our homes and businesses. I’ve said before that the McKenzie River Trust would not be where it is today without the steadfast support and encouragement from EWEB staff and Board members over the last two decades. For the Finn Rock Reach project and this campaign, once again EWEB stepped up immediately to help us assess and secure the Rosboro lands with a $250,000 grant. But they are doing much more for this campaign as well.
Last night, EWEB Commissioner John Brown joined me on stage to announce a special challenge opportunity for the campaign. For every $1 you give, EWEB will match that, dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 through December 31.
Our deepest gratitude to John and his fellow forward-thinking EWEB commissioners, who decided to offer up this grant and challenge opportunity. They recognize that we can keep our drinking water clean by protecting the lands that cradle this river, or by adding chemicals to clean it up after it gets dirty. Far more efficient to keep it clean to begin with. This campaign is an important way to do just that.
Whether or not you were in the audience last night, by being a member or a friend of the McKenzie River Trust, you are already announcing that you love this river, you love this place and its history, and you want to make sure that your grandchildren and their grandchildren can have it to love and cherish and care for as well.
We are hopeful that over the course of this campaign, your love will swell and your commitment will deepen. We hope that you will do what Jeff Ziller advised in the campaign video we premiered last night: get out in the field with us, help with your hands, help with your pocketbook. If you have an itch to donate right now, then do so through this link. But you can also ask for more information. I’d like you to consider reaching out to one of the MRT staff or Board members or campaign leaders; let us know that you want to learn more. Or join us on a field trip to the old Finn Rock Logging Camp next weekend. Then in the coming weeks and months we can sit down with you and your friends and colleagues or walk in the field with you and them to introduce you further to the project at Finn Rock and opportunities elsewhere in the watershed.
I’d love for you to think deeply about how much these Homewaters mean to you, and how transformational a gift you’d consider making. As our Honorary Campaign chair Barry Lopez said to us on the McKenzie Memories stage last year, when it comes to being a good resident of this place, whether your family has been here for 5 generations or you just moved here last week, isn’t the most important thing that we love this river, our Homewaters? Of course you can show your love for a person or a place or an organization in many ways. We welcome them all, from all.
Thank you for considering a gift to this campaign.
–Joe Moll, executive director of McKenzie River Trust since 2005