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Philanthropist Makes Down Payment on Oregon’s Future

November 8, 2012 | The Land Trust Alliance | Washington, D.C.


Contact: Wendy Ninteman
Western Director
406-549-2750 |

Boosts Land Trust Capacity to Save Farms, Forests and Watersheds


PORTLAND, OR -- The family of John Gray today announced an unprecedented gift to Oregon’s land trust community, a $4.5 million grant to build the capacity of land trusts to conserve the lands most important to their communities. The generous grant was made shortly before John’s death through the Yarg Foundation, a Gray family private foundation, and will be disbursed to members of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts. The money will be used exclusively for the Oregon Advancing Conservation Excellence (ACE) program through the Land Trust Alliance, which hired Oregon land trust veteran Brad Paymar to manage the program. John Gray passed away at age 93 on October 19th, 2012, leaving a legacy of philanthropy focused on supporting education, health and the environment in Oregon. Gray’s generosity will continue through the charitable endeavors of the Gray Family Foundation.

“Oregon land trusts are poised to make a big impact on the quality of life for all Oregonians,” said Nick Walrod, a Gray family member. “Land trusts have proved that they know how to conserve land for the economic, social and environmental benefit of their communities for generations to come.  My grandfather’s hope was that this will be a cornerstone that brings further recognition to land trusts and the fundamental role they play in our communities and state.”

Land trusts are local, state or nationwide nonprofits whose mission is to conserve land in its natural or traditional state, including farming, ranching, and forestry, through voluntary agreements with landowners. From coastal estuaries in Nehalem to the Wallowas, Oregon land trusts work to protect the land we all depend on for our livelihoods and well-being, and are part of an extensive network of over 1,700 land trusts across the country that have collectively protected over 47 million acres according to the national census released by the Alliance. Land trusts in Oregon have permanently protected 53,000 acres – more than half of the acreage in all Oregon state parks combined.

Land Trust Alliance President Rand Wentworth praised the foresight of Mr. Gray, saying that “This is a smart investment by someone who cared deeply about Oregon’s irreplaceable landscape and Oregonians who depend on it. Land trusts have the local knowledge, tools and support of their communities to do meaningful conservation that benefits everyone.”

The grant period is for five years and the family foundation expects this initial gift to attract and leverage additional funding for the work of land trusts from organizations and individuals across the state. While the investment from the Gray family is truly remarkable in its breadth, in reality the funds are a portion of the true costs of conservation in Oregon. “This gift is meant to be a catalyst,” John Gray explained when planning the gift, “I want Oregonians to take an active role in being stewards of this land, and to join my family in committing to funding conservation and restoration.”

In fact, this gift has already leveraged an early investment from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust  to advance the Land Trust Alliance work in the Pacific Northwest.   “I’m thrilled to be a part of this unique venture,” said Brad Paymar, Northwest Conservation Manager for the Alliance and former Deputy Director of the Columbia Land Trust, which serves Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington.  “It’s exciting to be working with the local land trusts in Washington and Oregon. I am pleased that the Alliance will launch our Pacific Northwest work in partnership with the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts to save the lands that give meaning to our lives, and to play a role in helping to continue the legacy of John Gray.”

About the Land Trust Alliance

The Land Trust Alliance is the umbrella organization for the nation’s 1,700 land trusts.  The Alliance saves land people love by increasing the pace of conservation, so more land and natural resources get protected; improving the quality of conservation, so the most important lands get protected using the best practices in the business; and ensuring the permanence of conservation by providing resources needed to defend protected land over time. The Land Trust Alliance is based in Washington, D.C., and has several regional offices, including a new Portland area office. Visit

About the Yarg Foundation

The Yarg Foundation was established in 2011 by John Gray as a private family foundation of the Gray family. The Yarg Foundation seeks to fulfill John and Betty Gray’s faith in the human spirit. The Gray family acknowledges their responsibility to give back to the systems that nurture all of us: our culture, our natural environment and our communities. The primary purpose of the Yarg Foundation is to implement and fund a 10-year, $10M initiative to support the land trust movement in Oregon. The vision of the Initiative is to instill in Oregonians that we all individually and as a collective are the stewards of our natural spaces and in so doing we strengthen our community, provide a connection to the natural world and can support a healthy economy.


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