Oregon Nonprofit Returns Wallowa Land To Nez Perce Tribe

A generous gift from an Oregon nonprofit is set to enhance wildlife access to the pristine waters of Wallowa Lake, bringing renewed hope for the local ecosystem. The Wallowa Land Trust, led by Kathleen Ackley, is dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of Northeast Oregon, particularly in the face of increasing vacation home and Airbnb developments in Northwest lake communities. In a remarkable gesture, the nonprofit recently donated 30 acres of untouched land near the lake to the Nez Perce Tribe. Ackley explained that as they collaborated with the tribe and learned more about their values, it became clear that the tribe would be just as capable, if not better, at managing the land. The acquisition of the land was made possible by funds from a settlement reached in 2011 between Portland General Electric and a lawsuit over emissions from a Boardman coal-fired power plant. As part of the settlement, $2.5 million was allocated for environmental restoration and clean energy projects, and the Wallowa Land Trust used a portion of those funds to purchase the land. Shannon Wheeler, vice chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, shared that the land will be designated as a wildlife corridor, providing crucial access for various species to reach the lake. For the Nez Perce Tribe, this connection to the land holds deep cultural significance. Wheeler emphasized that they view themselves as intricately tied to the land, with their blood and heritage interwoven with its very essence. The Wallowa Lake area holds historical significance for the Nez Perce Tribe, as it encompasses part of their ancestral homeland. Ackley's organization believes in the principles of restorative justice and returning land to its rightful owners and caretakers. By gifting the land back to the tribe, they are taking a step towards rectifying past injustices. While the Nez Perce Tribe assumes stewardship of the land, the Wallowa Land Trust will continue to pay property taxes on the property, demonstrating their commitment to its preservation and the collaborative partnership with the tribe. Samuel N. Penney, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, expressed gratitude for the protected land, highlighting its importance for the tribe's future. Acknowledging the broader significance, he emphasized that each step taken towards protecting the land and its surroundings is a crucial stride towards a brighter future. For the Nez Perce Tribe, managing these lands is not solely about their own well-being but also about their profound connection with "Pike' Weetus," or Mother Earth. Wheeler emphasized the tribe's desire to coexist harmoniously with the land, as it is intricately intertwined with their identity. This remarkable act of generosity and environmental stewardship sets a powerful example, showcasing the transformative potential of returning land to its rightful owners and prioritizing the preservation of natural habitats. It is a testament to the resilience and determination of the Nez Perce Tribe and their unwavering commitment to protecting the land that is an integral part of their heritage.

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