A Conversation with Forterra
People & Place: Linking Stewardship, Community, and Conservation.
As a part of Rushing’s Earth Month Series, the Sustainability Studio had the opportunity to interview Leanne Weiss, a Director of Conservation Transactions with Forterra. Rushing’s Sustainability Studio connects PNW clients and projects looking to achieve land conservation and restoration goals with Forterra’s programs. On April 21st, Leanne Weiss walked our team through Forterra’s work in linking community, stewardship, and conservation, and how organizations can get involved.
Rushing: Tell us about Forterra and your organization’s mission.
Leanne: Forterra is an accredited land trust founded in 1989. We work throughout Western Washington, throughout the Chehalis basin, and further east into agricultural regions. Our mission is to innovate and scale land-based solutions to address the climate crisis and support equitable, green, and prosperous communities. Our focus encompasses conserving land and working with communities. We do this work through land conservation and stewardship, policy and community programming, and community informed development.
Rushing: Tell us about Forterra’s habitat exchange and stewardship program.
Leanne: My work focuses on identifying properties with high conservation value that might be at risk of adverse types of land use or development. We collaborate with partners to first acquire the funding to secure those properties. We then work with landowners to identify needs and goals, sometimes placing easements on properties to allow owners to maintain the land under a certain use (i.e. agriculture). We also manage and monitor land by identifying problematic risks and implementing restoration strategies. Restoration work ranges from small scale actions of removing invasive species and replacing with natives to coordinating with partners on large scale wetland restoration projects. On some projects we improve wetlands and river ecosystems through installation of log jams, large woody debris, and riparian vegetation. In one instance we worked with a number of partners to lift and relocate a landowner’s home from the flood plain to allow for floodplain reconnection and remove the home’s risk to flood damage.
The following are links to case studies of our stewardship programs:
Rushing: What are ways Forterra is supporting environmental and social equity?
Leanne: Our Community Real-Estate Program is at the heart of this work through building interconnectedness of our environment and communities. Through this program we provide real estate acquisition, financing, fundraising, and entitlement to support local communities in sustainable development. An example of this work is a project in the town of Hamilton. This community was built in a floodplain. Forterra worked with the community of Hamilton to purchase parcels above the floodplain to rebuild the community outside of high-risk flooding. It also provides the opportunity to further restore a section of the Skagit that serves as a spawning area for five native species of Pacific salmon. This project is just one example of our work at the intersection of community real estate and restoration of ecosystems to mitigate and plan for climate change related events.
Rushing: How does a project or organization get involved with the land trust program?
Leanne: The best way is to start a conversation with Forterra. There are so many ways to work together on projects and achieve sustainable goals. We welcome landowners to reach out to us in their interest of selling, donating, or conserving their properties. We also welcome organizations and specific development projects to collaborate with us in reaching their conservation goals. Conversations start interesting new projects! We welcome all to check out our website at Forterra.org to learn more about our programs and starting a conversation about your next project or goal.
Image courtesy of Forterra.