The Evergreen Land Trust Association (ELT) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established in 1974 in Washington State. The purpose of the Trust is to encourage the development of cooperative communities and sustainable land use practices through the preservation of land and housing. ELT serves to:
Hold title to real property, and the development rights to real property, in order to protect affordable housing, resource lands, and conservation lands.
Provide education and encourage the study of ecological systems, human development, resource conservation, and sustainable technologies.
Develop organizational models for cooperative stewardship of land that benefit both present and future generations.
The Evergreen Land Trust Association is the oldest community land trust in the Pacific Northwest. The organization began as a grassroots effort to promote affordable housing, cooperatives, recycling, and other progressive initiatives related to land reform. Founded in 1974 through the efforts of Thomas von Bahr, with early support from Joyce Siniscal, Henry Boothe, and George Case, along with several hands-ful of dedicated progressives. In 1976, the first properties were donated into ELT—Prag House in Seattle and Pragtree Farm, near Arlington.
For each of these properties, a Trust Agreement was established to convey specific stewardship and educational purposes that would be held in perpetuity. A corresponding Use Agreement was written to define the responsibilities of residents in caring for the property. Over the years, ELT incorporated other properties using the same model. Each property’s unique stewardship and educational objectives align with ELT’s core purposes.
ELT holds both urban and rural properties in the Puget Sound region, including cooperative houses and farms. The ELT Board of Directors is made up of two representatives from each ELT property and Board members representing the community at-large. The Board meets quarterly to provide fiscal and legal oversight to the Trust and to advance long-range goals.
Once a year, a general membership meeting is held for all members of ELT to share information, report on annual stewardship activities, and elect the Board of Directors. The diverse mix of residents from the urban and rural properties brings a rich exchange of experience and perspective to the organization.
Communities of ELT
The communities of Evergreen Land Trust are self-governing, cooperative stewardship associations. Each community is unique, but all of them operate by consensus decision-making of the residents, and all share a common commitment to the principles of ELT. The communities range in size from six members up to 15 members.
Prag House, located on Capitol Hill in Seattle, was originally purchased in 1972 by a collective of University of Washington graduate students and professors in sociology. They put the property into Trust in 1976 to maintain it as a cooperative house in perpetuity. The purposes of Prag House are to encourage communal living as a viable alternative and to advance the growth of cooperating communities and non-polluting technologies.
Pragtree Farm also came into ELT in 1976, with the vision of being the rural counterpart to Prag House. Pragtree is a twenty-acre organic farm, located in Snohomish County near Arlington. The purposes of Pragtree include advancing the methods of organic farming and providing education on agriculture and low-impact technologies. Pragtree was the birthplace of Washington Tilth.
Sunset House was donated to the Trust in 1978, and is located in the Central District of Seattle. Sunset was established in 1970 to provide affordable, resident maintained cooperative housing, and to demonstrate the value of cooperative ownership. The community of Sunset House is committed to supporting positive social change in the Seattle area and providing ongoing education about land trusts as an alternative to renting or private home ownership.
Walker Creek, a twenty-acre rural community near Mount Vernon, was established in 1973 to practice and promote organic farming, food self-reliance, energy efficiency, and non-polluting technologies. Donated to ELT in 1978, the stated purposes of Walker Creek include “assisting the growth of a new culture and society which incorporates the principles of human cooperation, personal growth, ecological awareness and the preservation of the natural beauty of this earth…”
River Farm is an 80-acre homestead on the South Fork of the Nooksack River in Whatcom County which was established in 1971 and donated to ELT in 1983. The purposes of River Farm are to treat the land, water, and forest in an ecologically sensitive manner and to maintain wildlife habitat in balance with a working farm. The Farm serves as an educational resource for organic agriculture, ecoforestry, practical homesteading, and renewable energy.
A housing cooperative in the University District of Seattle, Sherwood has roots in the University of Washington student coops of the 1930s. An ELT member since 2007, the house provides affordable housing for Seattle residents and students so they can focus on their studies and be active, creative community members. Additionally, Sherwood aims to raise awareness about sustainability, introduce cooperative living as a choice beyond school, and support the development of other coops.
WOW (Wild Old Women)
Wild Old Women (WOW) house became a part of the Evergreen Land Trust in 2009. WOW is located in a lovely Capitol Hill home. WOW residents have lived, more or less, collectively since 1978. Residents are comprised of older women with the aim and desire to live in peace and with grace into their old age; while promoting the study and practice of environmentally harmonious technologies, and a sense of balance between urban and rural lifestyles. Residents are committed to social justice, healing, and advocating for women’s issues. They are committed to changing the world one potluck at a time.
QTL (Queer The Land)
Queer The Land is a collaborative project grounded in the self-determination of queer, transgender, and Two-Spirit Black/ indigenous/ people of color (QT2BIPOC). Founded in Summer 2016 by two local QT2BIPOC community-based organizations, Building Autonomy and Safety for Everybody and the Queer & Trans Pan-African Exchange, we’re creating our own solutions to the housing crisis and other crises that disproportionately impact QT2BIPOC. With the Evergreen Land Trust, we have re-vitalized and re-focused a long-standing collective household - the former Emma Goldman Finishing School - and are the hub for the QTL community - with a co-working space, venue space, communal space, and a community garden, to support each other and do this important work together.