For the 10th year in a row, the nonprofit Wood River Land Trust is trying to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to match the gift of an anonymous donor.
Executive Director Scott Boettger said the organization has been given a “challenge grant” of $90,000 from an anonymous donor. The donation will only be made if the Land Trust can raise $360,000 from the community.
The grant will also be partly matched by a $90,000 donation from the organization’s board of directors, for a total of $540,000. Boettger said the funds will go toward general operating expenses.
“It’s to keep our doors open,” he said, including upkeep on the organization’s historic office building in Hailey, bills, insurance and the salaries of the six full-time staff people.
Boettger said it’s typically harder to raise money for operating expenses than it is for large projects. For example, he said, all the funding for the recently completed Bow Bridge at the Draper Preserve in Hailey was given by one donor.
“Donors want to see bricks and mortar,” he said, adding that none of the projects that the organization accomplishes would be possible without the funds for basic operations.
The $360,000 goal is larger than last year, Boettger said. Last year, the fundraising goal was a little over $325,000.
“This is a bump up,” he said. “We’re asking our donors to give just a little bit more.”
When asked if he worried that the economy had not recovered enough for a “bump up,” Boettger said he did but was optimistic about the giving capacity of the Wood River Valley.
“It keeps me up at night, but it’s amazing how responsive our donors are,” he said. “People really believe in what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Boettger said the Land Trust is now able to buy property that it wouldn’t have been able to several years ago because of low prices.
“These are the times,” he said. “A few years ago, these properties were way out of our league. Now is our chance to be the big fish in a small pond.”
Boettger said the organization is looking at “major, transformative” acquisitions over the next year, in addition to working to keep the fishery below Magic Reservoir healthy. A lawsuit filed last month by J. R. Simplot Co. could require the Big Wood Canal Co. to release a large amount of water from the reservoir, causing high waters and a drastic effect on rainbow and brown trout below the dam.
Boettger said last week that the “fragile” fishery will be damaged by the reservoir’s release, but said Tuesday that the organization will continue to protect the fishery as best it can. The organization is working with the Big Wood Canal Co. to maintain stream flows below the reservoir and protect the fishery.
Last year, the Wood River Land Trust arranged with the canal company to release enough water from the dam to keep a water flow through the area below the dam and into the Richfield Canal.
“It’s a spectacular resource, despite how it’s being managed,” he said.
The deadline for fundraising is Dec. 31, Boettger said.
Kate Wutz: firstname.lastname@example.org