Frequently Asked Questions

Conservation easement on the Methow River
Conservation easement on the Methow River

1) What does the Methow Conservancy do?
The primary mission of the Methow Conservancy is to inspire people to care for the land in the Methow Valley. We do this through three programs:

    a) Conservation easements
    b) Community education
    c) Ongoing land stewardship
2) What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement is a voluntary, written legal
agreement between a landowner and a qualified conservation organization (like the Methow Conservancy) that permanently protects specific conservation values such as wildlife habitat, agricultural lands, riparian ecosystems, historic property, scenic views, and open space. A conservation easement limits a property’s uses in order to protect its conservation values and stays with the land in perpetuity, transferring from owner to owner.

When people own land, they also “own” many rights associated with it, such as the right to harvest timber, build structures, excavate minerals, etc. When landowners place a conservation easement on their land, they permanently give up some of those rights in exchange for protecting the specific features of the land. For example, they might give up the right to build additional residences to protect wildlife habitat. Each conservation easement is a unique document, tailored to each property and the financial and personal needs of the landowner.

Chinook salmon on a redd at a conservation easement on the Chewuch River
Chinook salmon on a redd at a conservation
easement on the Chewuch River

3) Does the Methow Conservancy own the land on an easement?
No. A conservation easement does not change the property ownership of a piece of land. The landowner still owns the land under the easement. The easement simply ensures that the restricted acreage under the easement will not be used for specified purposes (e.g., development, subdivision, etc.). The Methow Conservancy provides trained staff to help landowners (and future landowners) care effectively for the land under an easement and to ensure that the provisions of the easement are being met.

4) What types of land can have easements?

We accept easements on agricultural land, forest land, riparian land, and shrub land. Our easements range from seven acres to more than 1400 acres. We consider potential easements on an individual basis, and each easement that we accept represents a decision by the Board of Directors that is carefully researched and documented.

Conservation easement on the Twisp River
Conservation easement on the Twisp River

5) How do you ensure that easement land is protected forever?
Easements run with the land or exist in perpetuity. Each conservation easement is recorded on the title to the land and all future owners are bound by the terms of the easement. The Methow Conservancy upholds the easement, annually checking on the land with the landowner to ensure that the easement’s provisions are being followed. Each conservation easement has a succession clause that directs which qualified organization will hold the easement if the Methow Conservancy no longer existed.

6) If I put an easement on my land, does that take the land off the tax rolls?
Conservation easements do not necessarily change the County assessment of property tax. The County assessor decides on the assessment level for each property.

7) Is the Methow Conservancy a government organization?
No. The Methow Conservancy is a private, nonprofit organization with 501(c)3 status. We have no official connection with The Nature Conservancy or any other national environmental group. We are locally staffed and all of our board members own land in the Methow Valley and live here. We have a membership base of more than 1000 households who support our programs. We do occasionally work with government agencies, like the Forest Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and the County to coordinate land use plans and to help make sure local public land management (weed control, forest thinning, prescribed fire, recreational planning, etc.) is as effective as possible.

Conservation easement in the upper Rendezvous

8) How does the Methow Conservancy get its funding and how is it spent?
Almost two-thirds of the Methow Conservancy’s operating budget comes from direct public support—gifts from more than 1000 members. These basic operating funds help us run our core programs. About a quarter of our operating budget comes from public grants and about ten percent from private foundation grants. While some of these grant awards can help us raise significant funds to purchase conservation easements, they typically do not cover our basic and ongoing daily costs of monitoring and providing stewardship for that land forever and educating the public about the need for conservation.

9) How do conservation easements and the work of the Methow Conservancy benefit the Methow Valley?
Conservation easements help to ensure that vital wildlife habitat remains intact for future generations and help to protect the beautiful scenery that so many enjoy. Conservation easements that protect agricultural and ranch lands also help to ensure that these historically important ways of life may continue in this Valley. We are dedicated to the future of the Methow Valley and deeply committed to helping maintain the unusual qualities of our land and community.

315 Riverside Avenue / PO Box 71    Winthrop, WA 98862     509.996.2870