Dear Placer Land Trust family,
We lost one of the finest members of our family last weekend. Skip Outman, past Secretary and six-year member of Placer Land Trust’s Board of Directors, passed away. Please join me in offering your prayers to Skip’s wife Jan, his son Chad, and the rest of the Outman family.
Even though Skip had been sick for a long time with leukemia, his death was a punch straight to my heart. Less than two weeks ago the diagnosis wasn’t so bad, Skip was fighting his ailments and was calling me back in between blood transfusions to offer advice on how we might be able to complete the 75-acre K-Stone Ranch project, a difficult project that we’re attempting as part of our Small Farm Program.
“Is this a bad time?” I’d ask, “how are you feeling?”
“I’m fine, just a little tired,” Skip would say, brushing aside my concern with a disparaging remark about all the “damn wires sticking outta me”. All he wanted to talk about was how we could make the K-Stone project a reality.
That’s just the way Skip was; his giving spirit was always low key. If I could in any way capture the quality of Skip in words, I’m sure I’d be a Pulitzer Prize winner. But maybe this will give you an inkling of the type of person Skip was.
Skip was a teacher at Weimar Hills School for 13 years and was a member of a local running club for 15 years. He coached girls basketball and was head of the San Francisco 49ers Summer Camp for several years at Sierra College. He worked for several local real estate companies over the years, and was a member of the Placer County Association of Realtors. Among other groups, he was a member of both the California Farm Bureau and the Sierra Club, and he’d be the first to tell you why these two organizations should work together.
Skip joined the Placer Land Trust Board of Directors in 2006. On letterhead featuring a stylized ranch fence next to a photo of Skip on horseback, he explained his desire to serve on our Board:
“I’ve lived in Placer County for over five decades and I have always been, and continue to be, concerned about the quality of life in Placer County,” he wrote. “Our area is under increasing pressure from urban sprawl. To me, it is vital to retain as much land in its open and natural state as possible. I’ve worked in the real estate industry since 1990, with most of my work concentrating on the sales of large parcels and ranches in Placer and Nevada Counties, and I work very hard with my clients to see the benefits of protecting the land, creeks, woodlands and ranches.”
Skip ended his application to the Board of Directors with this prediction: “I believe I could contribute in a positive way to Placer Land Trust.”
That turned out to be the understatement of the century.
As a horse and cattle rancher and a much respected realtor with decades of local experience, Skip was known to nearly all the owners of large ranch lands and open space properties in Placer County. As a former teacher, an avid endurance runner (long before “endurance running” was popular), bicyclist, horseman, and a supporter of numerous local charities and causes, he was much loved throughout the community.
Skip knew just about everyone, and – just as important to Placer Land Trust – he also knew the landscape. Practically every time I talked to him about a new potential project, he would say, “Yeah, that’s a wonderful piece of land; I sold it to the current landowner several years back.” Then he’d add a bit of history, something like: “Did you know that property used to be a stop on the old stagecoach route?” Every time I’d talk with Skip, I was constantly amazed at his knowledge and love of the land, and the bits of history he provided.
Once Skip told of a landowner who was convinced that the landowner’s property contained evil spirits, so they held a shamanistic cleansing ceremony around a bonfire to get rid of the spirits. “No, really,” he said to raised eyebrows, “that happened right over there”. I guess the ceremony must have worked, because Placer Land Trust eventually acquired and protected the property in perpetuity.
Skip was adamant in his view that the best of our agricultural and natural lands must be protected to hand down to future generations. Skip and his wife Jan raised Quarter Horses and Longhorn cattle at their small north Auburn ranch, and Skip assisted many other ranchers with their work.
“Our county has a rich history of agricultural excellence ranging from fruit to rice to beef production,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that this history is protected.”
“All of us living in Placer County should be very grateful for our surroundings,” he added. “The opportunities are endless for outdoor recreation, and there are few places in the world that match the beauty of our environment. Placer Land Trust is doing a wonderful job for our county and its citizens, and I feel honored to be a part of it.”
As a Board member, Skip was instrumental in shepherding a half-dozen Placer Land Trust projects to completion. As with everything we do, the acquisition of land or conservation easements is a team effort. But let’s face it, the odds are stacked against us – typically we can’t compete with developers and speculators on land, and most of the landowning public still doesn’t really understand conservation easements nor have a familiarity with Placer Land Trust. Add to that the recent downturn in the economy, and our work, while rewarding, can be very, very difficult. Every team member counts, and Skip was an MVP – he counted more than most.
Over the years Skip served as our Secretary, as Chair of our Audit Committee, and as a member of our Project Selection Committee. But his assistance beyond his role on the Board of Directors – more as a volunteer to the organization and a personal mentor to me – was even more critical. His personal and professional support led to the completion of four large conservation projects totaling over 3,000 acres. Skip volunteered real estate knowledge and expertise to Placer Land Trust that would have otherwise cost us tens of thousands of dollars – he never made a dime from his work with the land trust. The money he saved us was then put straight into the conservation projects themselves.
In 2007, Placer Land Trust was leveraging oak woodland mitigation funds to protect ranch lands in the Coon Creek and Bear River watersheds north and between Lincoln and Auburn. Skip provided the introductions and ongoing facilitation with landowners, land managers, and other realtors resulting in the acquisition of conservation easements on the 313-acre Liberty Ranch Big Hill Preserve and the 912-acre Garden Bar Preserve.
Moreover, Skip was always a cool head with good advice for both landowner and land trust (including its Executive Director) when projects stalled or issues arose.
In 2008, Placer Land Trust began discussions with landowner Daryl Oest about permanently protecting some or all of the Oest Ranch around Auburn. Not surprisingly, Skip and Daryl knew and respected each other. When Daryl and I were at our wits end on how to make the deal work, Skip would lend us both some of his calm confidence, and sure enough, we’d all work through it. The respect and personal comfort level Daryl had for Skip was a big part in the completion of the agricultural conservation easement on the 350-acre Oest Ranch – Lake Clementine Preserve at the end of 2009.
And finally, Skip was one of our superstar Board members and volunteers who helped us protect the 1,773-acre Harvego Bear River Preserve in 2010. This was another very difficult, time-consuming and extremely complex project with many partners, and I seriously doubt we’d have been able to protect this amazing property without his help.
These wonderful properties are truly part of Skip’s legacy, and I cannot step foot on them without thinking of him.
Skip, on behalf of all of us associated with Placer Land Trust, we will carry on in your memory but we will always miss you.
With much love,
Placer Land Trust
P.S. – The night I wrote this, I got home late and went to bed around midnight. Before I went to sleep, I heard something I’ve never heard at my house before in six years living there. A Great horned owl, somewhere very close to my house, was calling out a hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo for about 15 minutes. I don’t know if Skip had a particular affinity for owls, but the deep call of the owl, coming at that time and place, reaffirmed my connection with both Placer Land Trust and with Skip … and left me humble and thankful. Happy trails Skip.