Friends received an unanticipated increase in donations and interest from members, individuals and businesses reaching out to help with restoration after the Eagle Creek fire.Thanks to the generosity of those wanting to assist our work almost $350,000 came in. Additionally just over $48,000 was donated for the Hood River County Search and Rescue team to benefit their ongoing efforts after rescuing the hikers stranded because of the blaze.
Friends' Board of Directors and staff were amazed and humbled by the outpouring of support for the Columbia Gorge, its communities and our organization. Although the landscape had changed forever Friends mission remained. We had a responsibility to use these donations in a way consistent with the spirit in which they were given. This inspired thoughtful discussion on what would be most impactful moving forward in our efforts to protect the scenic, natural, cultural, and recreational resources of the Columbia Gorge.
What Friends has done with fire-related fundsAdvocacy efforts quickly turned to defeating the Walden logging bill, which would have allowed salvage or clear cutting in the national scenic area. Educational and informational Fire Forums were held to allow speakers to talk about the science behind the natural recovery of forests. Keeping our website up to date including maps that show trail closures and sharing with hikers where to explore the beauty of Washington trails and those further east.
As the number of interested volunteers reached over 600 it became clear we needed a stewardship volunteer coordinator. Before launching this program we consulted (and remain in close contact) with lead land managers in the Gorge where these activities would and could take place, the U.S. Forest Service, and Oregon Parks and Recreation Departments. In consultation with these agencies and with the Columbia Gorge Cooperative Weed Management Area, these partners confirmed the distinct niche we could fill. It wasn’t all about reopening and rebuilding trails but about a holistic approach to ensuring that the Gorge is protected and cared for well into the future. Working with partners like the agencies and Trailkeepers of Oregon Friends has and will be leading work parties to clear invasive species from trailheads damaged by the fire. Fighting invasive plants and advocacy issues aren’t one year tasks – many of these areas will need repeated treatments, especially as trails reopen.
Friends has spent $115,000 of the funds donated for post fire restoration and another $141,000 from our general donations through June 2018. We have budgeted to spend nearly $400,000 this next year as we continue with our advocacy, education, partnership, and stewardship work.
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