We believe that a wholesome and secure society depends upon inspired, educated and caring individuals. We are encouraged by the constructive influence on the habit and attitude of young people that comes from positive encounters with the natural world.
We support an individualized curiosity-based approach to learning about nature, and believe that practical hands-on experiential learning can have a profound positive influence both on the individual, and how our society relates to resources for future generations.
We manage the Little White Salmon Biodiversity Reserve (LSWBR) and learning center called Highland overlooking the heart of the Columbia Gorge to support these goals and values.
While running an inquiry-based Living Lab at Sacajawea Elementary School in Portland, Oregon in the mid-seventies, World Steward & LWSBR’s founder Hank Patton received an invitation to purchase an 80 acre farm where he had worked as a volunteer, from the owner, the father of a college classmate.
The farm, now called Cold Spring, was situated on a cliff over the Columbia River about an hour from Portland, at the mouth of the Little White Salmon River in the very heart of the spectacular Columbia River Gorge. Asking his students in the living lab if they thought a farm in the Columbia Gorge would make an improved classroom, all the hands went up, so a $500 deposit went down.
Over the following three decades nine additional parcels of farm and forest land were optioned or acquired, mortgaging one to secure the next, building on the original vision for a center for practical learning about the “art and science” of managing resources as if the future mattered.
Phase I of what is now called the Little White Salmon Biodiversity Reserve was completed in 1999 when the Paul G. Allen Forest Protection Foundation granted $1.25 Million to place the first nine parcels in permanent protected trust, under the aegis of the Columbia Land Trust.
The Allen fund was matched in part by Gifford and Elizabeth Pinchot III and other founding trustees who contributed $500K in appraised value, and PacifiCorp, which brought 120 acres of old forest on the Columbia cliffs to the Reserve.
In 2000, Denis Hayes and the Bullitt Foundation provided a portfolio loan to the World Steward to secure an additional 220 acres of farm and forest at Highland for a new kind of outdoor school, a working classroom for experiential learning in sustainable farming, forestry, renewable energy and the arts.
In 2014, World Steward and the Institute for Culture and Ecology (IFCAE) joined forces in developing a research station to test and demonstrate a partnership with future generations on the protected farm and forest properties of the Little White Salmon Biodiversity Reserve. IFCAE and its scientists have specialized in the relationship between communities and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Working through the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop metrics and data demonstrating the environmental and economic benefits that result from economic systems that sustain the productivity of the ecosystems in which we live. IFCAE’s work with research on non-timber forest products remains among the best references in the field. IFCAE is chaired by Dr. Gregory Hill, former chairman of the Math Department at the University of Portland, and co-chaired by Hank Patton, founder of World Steward and the Little White Salmon Biodiversity Reserve.
In 2016, LWSBR joined the ranks of Biological Field Stations.