If you’ve been keeping up with ESLT recently, you’ve likely heard about Lands & Legacy – our “Party of the Year” that celebrates our important conservation work. This annual weekend helps to inspire the support of our community so that we can continue our work saving the Eastern Sierra lands we all love.
At this year’s Lands & Legacy on July 24-26, that support went a step further by raising much-needed funds to keep our boots on the ground protecting the places, plants, and creatures we treasure. We’re thrilled to announce that we surpassed our projections; in fact, we tripled our ambitious fundraising goal! We are deeply thankful to all who helped make this possible, and can’t express enough how incredibly inspiring it is knowing just how much our efforts to protect our stunning Eastern Sierra landscapes matter to you.
For those of you who couldn’t make it (as well as for those who were there from start to finish!), we wanted to take this opportunity to share with you what a fantastic weekend we had.
Conway Ranch Walking Tour
To begin our celebration, on Friday July 24th we organized a walking tour of Conway Ranch. Mono County Supervisor Tim Alpers, County staff leader Tony Dublino, and ESLT staff all helped lead the tour. Also participating and representing Caltrans – a critical funding partner for this project – were Brent Green, District 9 Director, and Ryan Dermody, Deputy Dictrict 9 Director. ESLT Vice President and co-founder Tony Taylor summed up the afternoon perfectly:
“The tour of historic Conway Ranch was amazing. From the 19th century historic origin of the ranch through the many uses and incredible tales of the property’s colorful history, right up to the Mono County purchase of this productive and scenic land and finally to ESLT’s work with the county and several public grant funders to finally and permanently protect this special place, a large group of us came to know Conway Ranch in a very special way. Fifteen years ago representatives of Mono County encouraged the establishment of Eastern Sierra Land Trust. The permanent protection of the Conway Ranch is for the County and all of us who love the Eastern Sierra, a large and special dividend of the foresight of those County representatives.” ~Tony Taylor
Green Creek Arborglyph Tour
At the conclusion of our Lands & Legacy weekend, we held a second walking tour that Sunday, July 26th at our Green Creek Powerhouse Preserve, a tour which focused on the historic Basque tree carvings in the area. ESLT Education Coordinator / AmeriCorps member, Sara Kokkelenberg, shared her thoughts on that lovely morning:
“The Green Creek Arborglyph Tour was one of a kind! All eyes were on Richard and Nancy as they shared with us their wealth of knowledge on Basque culture and sheepherding in the area. Participants were soon able to identify the names and dates of sheepherders carved into aspens – Rafael, Victor, Pyere and more. As we walked above the area where ESLT currently has a land preserve, participants also visited the site of one of the earliest hydroelectric power plants in the United States. It was a beautiful day to be outside and I couldn’t help but get seconds of the sheepherder bread and sheep cheese samples Nancy and Richard provided!” ~Sara Kokkelenberg
Lands & Legacy Benefit Dinner
Lands & Legacy’s main event, our annual Benefit Dinner hosted by Mammoth Mountain, was held Saturday July 25th at the Mountain’s stunning Parallax Restaurant. The evening kicked off to the sound of laughter and glasses clinking, as friends found each other in the crowd and reconnected over wine and cocktails overlooking amazing views of the High Sierra. Then everyone moved to the dining room and enjoyed a meal that was, by all accounts, delicious. After some very big news about two different grants ESLT has recently been awarded (more on that later – those announcements merit their own post!), landowner Jeff Hunewill spoke about what it means to him knowing that one of these grants provides an initial, big step towards protecting his family’s ranch in Bridgeport Valley in perpetuity. There was hardly a dry eye in the room as he stepped away from the podium.
Then Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory stepped up and stunned everyone with the announcement that he would be matching up to $10,000 in donations during our impending Paddle Raise. Moments later, we were alerted that an anonymous donor sitting in the room had already donated $5,000, before the Paddle Raise had even begun.
After those jaw-dropping announcements, the night passed in a haze of emotion for me. As the Paddle Raise kicked off, staff and Board members joined volunteers and friends as they acted out in hilarious and heartwarming fashion the different projects in need of support. From the very first moment, audience members started to lift their paddles to pledge donations; our scribes could hardly keep up! All in all, the Paddle Raise lasted just 20 minutes – but in that short timeframe alone, over $70,000 was donated to help protect sage grouse and mule deer, and get our community out on the land learning about bees, birds and the unique Eastern Sierra lands we so cherish.
It was in shock and joy that I found myself shortly thereafter, swaying and singing along to the soulful tunes of our evening’s fabulous musical performers, Chris Webster and Nina Gerber. These remarkable artists gave us a perfect end to a remarkable evening, and their playful remarks – “how do y’all live this high up – can you breathe?” – made everyone laugh. Each said to me how fortunate they were to be asked to come back for a second year. They too love the Eastside, and were delighted with the opportunity to join us as we safeguard its future.
Though it was nearly a month ago, I’m still awestruck – and knowing just how much our work matters to all who were in attendance still brings tears to my eyes. I don’t know quite what to say but thank you.
Thank you to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and Rusty Gregory for their incredible generosity and for co-hosting such a fantastic party. Thanks to the Mountain’s professionalism and superior hospitality, the whole evening went off seamlessly, and their match donation was the catalyst that made the Paddle Raise such a momentous success.
Thank you to our incredibly generous event sponsors: Betsey Tyler, Bruce & Karen Licher of Independent Project Press, Tim and Pam Bartley, Bob and Karen Gardner, Tony and Sherryl Taylor, the Mammoth Lakes Rotary Club, Mono Market, the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, and Herb and Phyllis Benham. Each of you made tremendous contributions to the celebration, and Lands & Legacy would not have been possible without your support!
Thank you as well to those of you who could not make it to the event, but still sent in donations to honor our work. Though we were sorry you could not join us, it is a joy to know that our efforts are still so meaningful to you.
And to each and every person who was there to laugh (and cry) beside me, thank you!!! When those paddles started to rise, I knew I didn’t have a chance of holding in my emotions – and now, just thinking back on that evening, I still can’t. We work day in and day out to protect this unique landscape, and it is deeply moving to know what a special place this land holds in your hearts, and to know all that you are ready to do (and give) to protect its wonders.
It’s beyond inspiring. It’s why we do what we do, every single day. And no matter how challenging the work can sometimes be, it’s why we get up every morning. Because we go to work with the knowledge that we’re fighting for something bigger than ourselves: we’re fighting for the future of the Eastern Sierra.
From start to finish, our Lands & Legacy weekend was a blast. If you couldn’t make it this summer, we hope you’ll consider joining us next year: who knows what new surprises and inspiration we’ll have in store for you by then!
Until next time,