Celebrating Oregon's History of Conservation: the 2000s

Going all out and establishing Oregon’s largest privately owned nature preserve.

Nature Stories

Hear Oregon Trustee Carter MacNichol on why he supports The Nature Conservancy.

Carter MacNichol was board chair when we acquired Zumwalt Prairie Preserve in 2000. Hear why he supports the Conservancy.

In the fall of 2000, we got word that an enormous native grassland property had come on the market. It had been on our radar since the 1980s. On the steps of the Outlaw Café in Joseph, Oregon, 27,000 acres were about to be sold at auction.

As it turned out, we didn’t have to bid. But we did have to marshal extraordinary resources to bring the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve into being.

Today it’s 33,000 acres — that’s 51 square miles — of grassland and canyonlands on the edge of Hells Canyon. It’s the largest private nature sanctuary in Oregon.

You really have to see it to believe it. I’ve been there when the herds of elk are too numerous to count. It’s an amazing refuge for birds of prey.

Our goal is not just to protect and restore a great preserve, but to work closely with ranchers and others in the community to ensure the entire prairie — more than 300 square miles – remains healthy and thriving.

Carter MacNichol was our board chair, and Pattie Wessinger had her sights on Zumwalt for the better part of two decades. She was a board chair in the 1970s and also served on the board in the 90s. A remarkable legacy.

We asked Carter about his experiences over the last decade. Here’s some of what he had to say.

In each of our five decades, we’ve learned, grown and achieved more than any of us thought possible a few years before. That’s just as true of our last decade as it was of our first.

We initiated our Williamson River Delta project on Upper Klamath Lake in 1996, responding to a community desperate for solutions to their struggles over water. I don’t think anyone anticipated that, 11 years later, our work to restore 7,000 acres of wetlands would involve using 100 tons of explosives.

But you go where the science takes you.

As our explosives contractor said at the time, “This is science. We don’t just blow stuff up.” Except he didn’t say “stuff.”

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