Commentary: Life of a nonprofit land trust in the Chehalis River Basin


The Chehalis River Basin Land Trust was born from two ideas.

One was the appreciation of the beauty of this wonderful area, and the second was the desire to preserve this splendid diversity for future generations. 

The path for preservation led to reading and interacting with the Land Trust Alliance, which is the national resource organization for land trusts. In 1993, when the internet was very young, most of the help from the alliance was from classes and phone calls. Now, it has research information on its website, and it still has classes and seminars to help people get started on this journey. 

With the help of the Land Trust Alliance and some discussions with members of the Capitol Land Trust in Olympia, the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust (CRBLT) began to take shape, and a board of directors came together to begin this journey. Board members had a steep learning curve, but the group was congenial and supportive of each other and the mission. In 1994, papers were filed with the state of Washington to become a 501c3 nonprofit organization, and the land trust officially came into being.

Land trusts are citizen-driven organizations. The mission of the CRBLT is to preserve, protect and restore environmentally significant properties in the Chehalis River Basin.

Land trusts work with private landowners and state agencies to acquire properties that will benefit the environment for everyone’s benefit. Private land owners who want their property to remain as it is contact the CRBLT. 

The trust works with the owner to see if owner goals and trust goals are compatible and, with luck and effort, a deed of conservation easement is created, checked by attorneys and signed by both parties. 

In the early days, the CRBLT worked with a couple who wanted to protect their property while they retained ownership. That agreement is still in place today and will continue for generations. 

Then, a partnership was formed with Grays Harbor Audubon Society. Audubon owns several properties in Grays Harbor County and, through a partnership with CRBLT, has retained ownership of those properties. The land trust visits the parcel each year to ensure it remains in good condition. 

Over time, other property owners learned about the work of the trust and began reaching out and entering into agreements. Currently, the CRBLT manages over 4,500 acres in the basin, and the land trust plans on continued growth. 

The Chehalis River Basin Land Trust is 30 years old this year. 

It will continue protecting natural places that contribute to clean air and water in the Chehalis Basin. 

Our mission is to protect these lands in perpetuity, and we can use your help.  If you want to learn more about land trusts in general, the Land Trust Alliance is a great resource. 

For more information about the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust, visit or email


Kathy Tennyson is the founder of the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust.