Land Conservancy's VISION 20/20: shaping our future

and Nancy Tait

We are all here from different paths — from growing up along Bear Creek to moving here from California and Washington years ago — but the one thing that we all love about living in Southern Oregon is the abundant natural beauty that surrounds us.

Everyone living here can enjoy this unique setting, either steps from where you live or close by. We are blessed to have pristine rivers such as the Rogue and Applegate, the Smith and Illinois, and mountain lakes abundant with fish and wildlife.

Our timber lands provide us with a sustainable crop of renewable resources from which we build our homes, offices and stores. Small and large farms are more and more supplying us with local, fresh food, everything from produce to meat and drink, cheese and fruit.

Our public lands offer parks, playgrounds, walking, hiking and riding trails, and views that are the envy of all who visit. Each year thousands of tourists travel to this gorgeous area of the world to float down a river, enjoy the scenery and music at Britt, take in a play, explore our historic towns and dream of retiring here someday.

It sounds idyllic, and in many ways it is. It's easy to take for granted all that we have here; but let's not. Without proper care, attention and planning, it could change, and the things we cherish could disappear.

It's happened elsewhere. Let's not let it happen to our Southern Oregon home.

One way we can make sure that what we truly love about Southern Oregon isn't lost or diminished is by taking care of the land. After all, the land is what feeds us, sustains us, nourishes us and inspires us. It's where we build our homes and schools, plant our crops, orchards and vineyards. In Oregon, you can still hunt, fish and gather. The land is where all the critters we share the Earth with reside. It's home, and we need to make sure we're doing our part to protect it.

This is why each of us enthusiastically supports the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy's VISION 20/20 Initiative. VISION 20/20 is a solid, well-thought-out plan for protecting the most important lands in Jackson and Josephine counties. It uses a cooperative and collaborative approach to seek science-based conservation.

Since 1978 the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy has worked with willing landowners to permanently protect more than 8,500 acres of land.

One of those landowners is Jud Parsons. He and his wife, Diana Gardener, own the property surrounding the iconic Wood House along Highway 62 north of Medford. The Southern Oregon Land Conservancy worked with Jud and Diana to permanently safeguard the farmland and unique habitat around the house and ensure that it remains protected for generations to come. And we can do even more.

With VISION 20/20, the Southern Oregon Land Conservancy is leading a charge to conserve 20,000 acres by 2020. That's about the size of Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Medford combined. Because VISION 20/20 is solid and well thought out, both the Meyer Memorial Trust and The Collins Foundation, two important Oregon foundations, are supporting it with matching grants.

The VISION 20/20 Campaign is taking place now, raising the funds needed to launch this bold initiative. With more than three decades of experience and an impeccable track record, our Land Conservancy, Oregon's oldest, could accomplish this. Imagine what a difference that will make.

Imagine our corner of the world in 50 or 100 years. Let's imagine that it will still be as beautiful then as it is today. That is the legacy we can leave to our children. That is a vision we can all share.

Jeannie Taylor, Karen DeBoer and Nancy Tait are VISION 20/20 Campaign co-chairwomen.

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