Returning Ancestral Homelands To Original Stewards

The Nature Conservancy in Oregon transfers Noble Oaks Preserve to the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

Portland, OR

  • Allie Gardner
    Director of Marketing & Communications
    The Nature Conservancy in Oregon

In a win for both conservation and community, The Nature Conservancy in Oregon (TNC) transferred Noble Oaks Preserve in Polk County to the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon (Tribe) on July 31. Situated on 665 acres, the property was part of the Tribe’s ancestral homelands that were managed by the Tribe until the Treaty of 1855. The transfer will allow for continued conservation of this significant savannah and oak wildland habitat while providing cultural benefits to the Tribal community.  The Noble Oaks Preserve is located approximately 10 miles from the Grand Ronde Reservation and will be managed by the Tribe’s Natural Resources Department.

“The fact that The Nature Conservancy has returned these lands to their original stewards is beyond words,” stated Cheryle A. Kennedy, Chairwoman of the Grand Ronde Tribe. “Their generosity allows us to step into our role as caretakers and ensure the existence of this habitat, and this place, for generations to come.”

TNC and the Tribe have a history of working together to achieve lasting positive impacts for conservation. In Southwest Oregon, the partners have been working to complete a 40-year vision to protect the culturally significant iconic habitats and geology of the Table Rocks landscape. Natural resource experts from TNC and the Tribe are working together to return fire to landscapes in Oregon, and in 2012 TNC transferred ownership of its 97-acre Rattlesnake Butte Preserve to the Tribe.

“TNC considers opportunities to transfer preserves to highly capable and motivated conservation partners where it benefits the long-term management and care of the preserve, the long-term goals of the partner and the Conservancy’s strategic goals,” said Derek Johnson, Deputy Director for Operations & Communications for The Nature Conservancy in Oregon. “We are excited that such an opportunity has developed with the Tribe for the Noble Oaks Preserve—for the future of the preserve, to support the goals of the Tribe and their deep connection to the land, and to advance TNC’s vision of a world where nature and people thrive together.”

TNC acquired the 665-acre Noble Oaks preserve in 2014-2015 with assistance from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s and Bonneville Power Administration’s Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program. The preserve is a haven for both savanna and oak woodland habitats, environments that once thrived in the Willamette Valley but are now increasingly limited. The site has been identified as suitable for re-introduction of the federally threatened Kincaid’s lupine, which is the host plant for the federally endangered Fenders blue butterfly. There are also populations of prairie bird species in the area—including streaked horned lark, western meadowlark, and vesper sparrow—all of which are federal or state candidates for listing. 

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.