Aerial photo of Hog Canyon in Hells Canyon Wilderness, Oregon.

Partnership preserves two State owned parcels in the Hells Canyon Wilderness

Partnership preserves two State owned parcels in the Hells Canyon Wilderness

Nov. 21, 2014

Sale provides income for Oregon’s Common School Fund


The American folk singer, Pete Seeger, rafted the Snake River through Hells Canyon in 1962 to focus national attention on its beauty and inspire people to prevent America’s deepest river gorge, deeper than the Grand Canyon, from being dammed.


In 1975, it was finally designated as Wilderness within a National Recreation Area.  The Snake River that runs for 31 miles through the Wilderness was also designated a Wild and Scenic River, where you can take the raft trip of a lifetime - or fish for the legendary Hells Canyon White Sturgeon, up to 15 feet in length (catch and release). For nearly 40 years, the Hells Canyon Wilderness has been loved and enjoyed by those who visit it, backpack it, hunt it and run its river – secure for all generations and for bighorn sheep, ospreys, eagles, steelhead trout, salmon, chukar partridge, otters, elk, turkeys, bear and deer.


But it is not safe and secure.  Deep within it are lands still open to development, threatening the solitude and recreation humans experience in wilderness and the homes and travel corridors of the diversity of wildlife species that need these lands to survive.  Because of these private lands on which people still have the right to live and remain, Seeger’s work to save Hells Canyon might be for nothing. 


The Wilderness Land Trust just bought three parcels from the Oregon Department of State Lands: two within the borders of the Wilderness Area and one in the National Recreation Area adjacent to it. The approximately 146 acres will now be conserved in perpetuity, according to Reid Haughey, President of the Wilderness Land Trust. Haughey said the Trust will turn the lands over to the U.S. Forest Service. 


An additional bonus of the purchase is that Oregon’s Common School Fund received $41,000 from the sale. The Department of State Lands is obligated to generate revenue from its “school lands” for public education in Oregon. The fund distributes earnings income to Oregon K-12 public school districts twice a year.


“We are so pleased that the Wilderness Land Trust stepped up to make this sale happen. Now these lands will be conserved for many generations to come, which is the appropriate status for them” said Mary Abrams, director of the Department of State Lands.


“Protecting the wilderness character of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area continues to be a high priority for the Forest Service.” Says Tom Montoya, Forest Supervisor of the Wallowa-Whitman NF.  “We appreciate the efforts of the Wilderness Land Trust to help protect and secure these lands for public use, and look forward to working with them over the next year to complete this land transfer.”


“Just this past year, we tenaciously completed the Idaho side of the Hells Canyon Wilderness, transferring the last private property to public ownership.  These two Oregon properties are the Trust’s first acquisitions in Oregon and our first successes in working toward completion of the Oregon side of the Hells Canyon Wilderness,” said Reid Haughey, President of The Wilderness Land Trust.  “We worked closely in partnership with The State of Oregon Department of Land and the Forest Service to make this project a reality and look forward to completing the Oregon side of the Hells Canyon Wilderness.”  


There were five private parcels remaining within the Hells Canyon Wilderness in Oregon.  Now there are three.  In 2011, The Wilderness Land Trust completed an inventory of all private lands (inholdings) within Oregon wilderness. Now, the Trust is collaborating with other organizations in the state, like Oregon Natural Desert Association, to acquire lands that complete designated and proposed wilderness areas, or directly protect wilderness values.


The Trust acquired the two identified properties in the Hells Canyon Wilderness, as well as the identified property in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area


Contact: Reid Haughey,, 970-963-1725


The Wilderness Land Trust

The Wilderness Land Trust is a small, highly specialized nonprofit organization established to buy and protect wilderness land. Since it was founded in 1992, the non-profit organization has preserved 412 parcels comprised of more than 42,000 acres of wilderness inholdings in 90 designated and proposed wilderness areas. The Wilderness Land Trust, a 501(c)(3) organization, has offices in California and Colorado. For more information or to support our work, visit our website


The year 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, which initially designated 9.1 million acres as the National Wilderness Preservation System. The Wilderness Land Trust’s work is more relevant than ever, striving to protect the integrity of what is now more than 109.5 million wilderness acres for current and future generations to enjoy.


The Wilderness Land Trust is an accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission and is a 1% for the Planet Non-Profit Partner.

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