By Alec Hrynyshyn
It is painful to see harm come to the people and the places you love. The recent fires in the McKenzie Valley and other parts of western Oregon have been heartbreaking because we have personal connections, from the practical to the spiritual. We all want to help put it right, to rebuild community, to renew chances to make lives and make memories. It will take time, sacrifice and a groundswell of support.
It can begin with land and water.
Starting last week a group of local organizations comprising the Pure Water Partners deployed staff to meet with landowners who’d lost homes and trees and surroundings along the McKenzie River. The assessments will help identify priorities and bring resources for site cleanup, hazard removal, erosion and run-off prevention, and replanting.
All of these actions will reduce the impacts of fire on the McKenzie. That river provides drinking water to most of us reading this paper, dozens of miles downstream. I chair the board of one of those member organizations, and see its recovery work today as both a responsibility and a privilege. There is a way you can help directly, both for near-term needs and for the long-haul resilience in the community.
On the voting ballot this month is a pennies per day measure (20-312) that will support the Upper Willamette Soil and Water Conservation District. The UWSWCD is the public’s voice in water and soil conservation, and represents all citizens of eastern Lane County.
The measure will also fund habitat conservation work by partner organizations in each of the four upper Willamette watersheds. It will reach across urban and rural water and soil. It will directly support local farmers and gardeners. It will provide students with a doorway to the natural world and to careers in natural resources. It will strengthen the natural infrastructure that is rooted in the High Cascades and is networked throughout our communities.
Clean water and healthy lands are basic human rights. When the latest fire is a memory, the local stewardship of land and water will still be challenged as Lane County grows and changes in sometimes unpredictable ways. We need stable funding to ensure their care, not completely dependent on the currently fickle stream of grants derived from lottery revenue. We need your support, and we need your involvement.
The Soil and Water Conservation District Board members are voter-selected. After casting your ballot in favor of Measure 20-312, please consider joining us in this work. You can learn more about us at UWSWCD.org and about the ballot measure at CleanWaterandHealthysoil.com.
Caring for each other begins with caring for places we all call home. We’re fortunate to have rich soils and abundant clean water in Lane County. With your support, we can keep it that way for generations to come.
Alec Hrynyshyn is chair of the Upper Willamette Soil and Water Conservation District Board.