South Santiam collaborative gets nonprofit status, increasing ‘transparency’

Scott Swanson

The South Santiam All Lands Collaborative is seeking federal 501c3 nonprofit status after incorporating as a nonprofit in March.

SSALC has been tasked with meeting goals set forth in the Sweet Home Gateway Community Livability Assessment Report and establishing a community forest east of Sweet Home, continuing the work of the Governor’s Solutions Team that began in 2013.

It is, as its name might indicate, a cooperative venture between a variety of government and private agencies and organizations focused on planning and implementing “projects that will provide employment, watershed restoration and recreation opportunities near Sweet Home,” as its website states.

The partnership is seeking to develop resources in the Sweet Home area that include uses for local forests.

SSALC is also working closely with Oregon State University, which plans to establish “world-class research and outreach center for healthy landscapes,” the Institute for Working Forest Landscapes, in the Willamette National Forest east of Sweet Home, which will dovetail with many of the objectives of both the Livability study and the community forest.

Sharon Kanareff, who was hired last year as SSALC’s coordinator, said establishing itself as a nonprofit was important “to carry out our mission.

“We need the flexibility for people to be able to donate property – possibly easements, along the route of the proposed Santiam River Trail,” she said.

The trail, one of the focuses of the Governor’s Solutions team’s efforts, would stretch from Sweet Home to Cascadia, to the Santiam Wagon Road in the National Forest.

Kanareff also said SSALC will be seeking grants to carry out its work.

“We needed a governmental structure that people could be confident would exist for a while,” she said. “(Nonprofit status) gives us some credibility in the community that we’ll be around.”

Also, she said, having that structure will more likely bring tangible results.

““I think in this community, in particular, it’s easy to say you’re going to do something. But when you set up the structure to forces you to be accountable, then you actually need to do something, demonstrate that you are going to.”

Members and organizations represented in SSALC include the South Santiam Watershed Council, Sweet Home Ranger District, Cascade Timber Consulting, Linn County, the City of Sweet Home and others.

The initial board members of the new nonprofit corporation are: Eric Andersen of the South Santiam Watershed Council as president; Dave Furtwangler, president of Cascade Timber Consulting, as vice president; Joanne McQueary as treasurer; Craig Martin, Sweet Home city manager, as secretary; County Commissioner Will Tucker; County Parks and Recreation Director Brian Carroll; Blake Keesecker; Ian Munanura of OSU; and Nikki Swanson of the U.S. Forest Service, interim Sweet Home District Ranger.

Kanareff said SSALC is looking to add board members representing local healthcare, conservation, education and an at-large member from East Linn County, “ideally Cascadia.”

During the past year, SSALC has reached out to the Cascadia community in particular, hosting both a barbecue and tour of Cascadia Cave for members of the Cascadia community. The future of Cascadia Cave, on land currently managed by CTC for the Hill Timber Interests, was a major talking point for the Governor’s Solutions Team, members of which are continuing to discuss how it could be transferred, through a land swap, to federal or state ownership.

SSALC’s ambitions extend much further, Kanareff said. The Livability report is viewable at It is full of suggestions on ways to improve Sweet Home’s economy, transportation, housing and lodging and take advantage of its naturalm cultural and recreational assets.

Kanareff said the goal is to accomplish some of the goals that were set by community members last year in a workshop after the release of the Livability report.

“We’re going go back to the Livability study and pick some action items,” she said. “We’re going to move forward on the trail.

“By setting up this structure, we can take in grants to move forward on that.”

She said SSALC was among the approved finalists for an Oregon Department of Forestry grant this year to do “forest collaboration,” but fell short of the “funding line.”

This year, she said, more money will be available for that grant, so she is reapplying.

“I hope to make that cut,” she said. “We’re positioned this year as a credible entity.”

It’s also time, she said, for SSALC to start more outreach to the Sweet Home public.

Local residents are welcome to the organization’s monthly meeting, from 2 to 4 p.m. on the third Monday of each month at the Jim Riggs Community Center.

“We will have more transparency now that we’ve got a structure together,” she said. “We will have relevant speakers for different economic development topics. People who are interested in that can come and listen.

“We want to meet where people can come and learn more about us.”