Sept. 15, 2008
Gift to Whitworth, Conservation Easement Preserve Land for Environmental Education
Generations of Whitworth students will study the ecology and wildlife of picturesque Scotia Valley in southern Pend Oreille County through a recently-announced planned gift of 605 acres to the university and a conservation easement granted to the Inland Northwest Land Trust.
Longtime Scotia Valley residents Betty Verbrugge and her late husband, Durand, made provisions more than a decade ago to donate the land to Whitworth upon the death of their son, Gary, who currently lives on the property. Betty and Gary Verbrugge recently established an endowment fund with Whitworth to be used for maintenance of the property and for future construction of a small field station for environmental studies and research.
"We are deeply grateful to the Verbrugge family for the vision to preserve their beautiful property and for their gifts to Whitworth that will enable countless generations of students to learn on the land and from the land," says Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Le Roy. "As the great American writer Henry David Thoreau observed in his classic book Walden, nature challenges one 'to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life… and learn what [the woods have] to teach.' We hope and expect the Verbrugge land to teach our students great things."
Click here to view an narrated photo slide show of Whitworth faculty-student research already taking place on the Verbrugge land.
The conservation easement permanently protects the land as scenic open space and wildlife habitat. In addition, a special term in the easement allows Whitworth to create a field station for educational uses within a specific portion of the site, according to Chris DeForest, executive director of the Inland Northwest Land Trust.
"The easement keeps the land from ever being split up and sold off in pieces," DeForest says. "It prevents unwanted commercial or residential development on this land, no matter who owns it."
Gary Verbrugge says he and his parents placed a high priority on preserving the land, which has been in their family for nearly 50 years.
"This could have been developed as five-acre lots, each with a tiny bit of frontage on the Little Spokane River; that's not what we want," he says. "We want to preserve it for the wildlife, and we want to encourage future generations to conserve land for wildlife."
Located south of Newport near the headwaters of the Little Spokane River, the property contains 3,000 feet of winding riverfront. Four, year-round streams tumble about 1,000 feet down forested hillsides into wetlands on the valley floor. Wildlife that live and pass through the land include moose, elk, bears and cougars as well as a wide variety of birds, reptiles and amphibians.
Whitworth faculty and students already have visited the property to study animal scat for evidence of parasites and to conduct water quality studies of the river. A Whitworth biology professor and student also helped Gary Verbrugge plant several test plots of native plants along the river as part of his effort to restore the wetlands. Another professor has expressed interest in moving Whitworth's telescope to the property to avoid light pollution associated with its current location on campus. The Celestron 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope is one of the most advanced telescopes in the region and can be operated remotely via the Internet.
Longer term, Le Roy says the university hopes to establish a small field station so that groups of students and faculty interested in environmental science can spend a semester, Jan Term or shorter periods engaged in intensive study and research on the property. Specific plans have not been made, and timing depends on arrangements between Whitworth and the Verbrugge family. Whitworth plans to own and use the land for educational purposes in perpetuity and doesn't have any intention of selling it, according to Le Roy.
"I know that when I'm gone, the land will still be the beautiful place that my parents loved, and will always provide a home for the wildlife," Verbrugge says.
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,600 students, offers 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Michael Le Roy, vice president for academic affairs, Whitworth University,
Chris DeForest, executive director of Inland Northwest Land Trust, (509) 328-2939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg Orwig, director of communications, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4580 or email@example.com.