Stories Emerge Following Gorge Activist’s Death

Sept. 22, 2011 | OPB
Kristian Foden-Vencil


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As last month’s death of Columbia Gorge activist Russ Jolley becomes known, stories are emerging of his efforts to protect the national scenic area.

Jolley was born in Kansas but came to Oregon to attend college. Friends say it was the start of a life-long love affair with the Gorge.

“The Gorge itself is a very remarkable place,” Jolley said.

An OPB Film crew captured what is perhaps Jolley’s last interview for an upcoming Oregon Field Guide special.

Jolley worked over a half century to protect nature from Mt. Hood to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, according to Friends of the Gorge Executive Director Kevin Gorman.

And Jolley did it his own way.

“You know he never worked for an environmental group. That wasn’t part of him. His off time he really focused on conservation and protecting special places. And that’s a really special breed of people that we don’t see so much anymore,” Gorman said.

Jolley wrote a book, Wildflowers of the Columbia Gorge, just as activists were working to create the National Scenic Area. The Gorge has about 800 species of wildflowers, including 15 species that aren’t found anywhere else in the world.

© 2011 OPB
Columbia Gorge
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