Protecting the Lands Around Us
The Whidbey Camano Land Trust works in Island County and has been protecting and caring for the two islands’ most important lands and water since 1984. The Land Trust is a 501c3 private non-profit nature conservation corporation that is supported by people who care about keeping the islands as treasured places, for now and for generations to come.
The Land Trust’s mission is to involve the community in protecting, restoring, and appreciating the important natural habitats and resource lands that support the diversity of life on our islands and in the waters of Puget Sound. We hold a vision where protected lands and waters are universally treasured assets on our thriving islands.
From the Beginning
It all started in the early 1980s when Albert Heath wanted to preserve the views for the public that walked along the Ebey’s Bluff trail adjacent to his land. If you’ve ever hiked the bluff trail at Ebey’s Landing, you know this trail; it has spectacular views and is one of the most popular hiking trails on Whidbey Island.
“We wanted to save our land forever . . . and we needed a Land Trust to do that,” Heath explained. A land trust was needed to accept a conservation easement on his property. So, in 1984 Heath became a founding member of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust. Almost immediately after its founding, the Hayes family and their neighbors also partnered with the new Land Trust to protect their north Whidbey Island agricultural land . . . and the land conservation movement in Island County got underway.
Starting Out Small
For its first 19 years, the Whidbey Camano Land Trust was an all-volunteer organization, its work done in board members’ homes. Learning by doing, these visionary volunteers protected 342 acres on Whidbey Island, including six conservation easements and one fee-owned property. These protected lands provided public benefits through conservation of open space, wetlands and forests and providing hiking trails and homes for wildlife.
Building Expert Conservation Capacity
In 2003, after successfully protecting the Saratoga Woods Preserve, the board realized there was much more that needed to be done than volunteers could accomplish. With generous financial support from the community, we raised the money to hire our first professional staff. Following a national search, the Board of Directors hired Pat Powell as executive director. Pat dramatically increased the pace and quality of island land conservation. With the addition of other highly skilled employees, we’ve been able to take on and complete multiple and complex land conservation projects and large-scale native plant restoration work. Since 2003, an additional 107 property transactions were accomplished, protecting another 9,100 acres, with much more protection and restoration efforts underway.
In 2012, after a rigorous process, we became one of the nation’s first land trusts to earn national accreditation. Being accredited means that our land trust meets national standards for excellence in upholding the public trust and ensuring the land we conserve is permanently protected.
Donations from individuals, households, local businesses and family foundations pay for 95 percent of the Land Trust’s operations. It is our donors who are the key to continuing our joint success in protecting the outstanding quality of life enjoyed on the islands – for now and for generations to come.
Taking a Strategic Approach
We take a proactive and strategic approach to land conservation. Our land trust is recognized widely for its effective and ambitious land protection and stewardship projects.
Our work is guided by our Strategic Plan and our Land Protection Plan. Both were first developed in 2004 and are regularly updated. The Land Protection Plan identifies key landscapes, called Land Protection Priority Areas, that represent the highest priorities to protect in order to produce the greatest good over the long term. Emphasis is placed on protecting larger parcels, lands adjacent to existing protected lands, and lands that serve as corridors between blocks of protected lands. In 2018, additional emphasis was placed on climate change and resiliency.
At the 35-Year Mark
As of January 1, 2019, we have protected 109 properties, totaling more than 9,468 acres. Of that total, 57 percent are uplands (forests, farms and other lands) and 43 percent are tidelands and wetlands.
Pressures for development in our Land Protection Priority Areas continue to threaten the distinctive character of Whidbey and Camano islands, so there is still much more to be done. We encourage you to learn more about the irreplaceable lands we’ve protected and are caring for. Become a member today to help save and care for the island places you love. Thank you!