Conservator Stories

Rich with Wildlife
Spawning salmon, bald eagles, cougars, osprey, nesting great blue herons, black bear and much more make their home on Harold and Tina Heath’s property.

Harold & Tina HeathThe Heaths bought the land in 1967, one year after they married.  “When I was first introduced to this property, we drove around for a while, then went down to the bottomlands, and the sun was out and the pine trees smelled so good and water was everywhere.  I knew I wanted it,” said Harold.  

In 2006, 140 acres of the Heath’s property was protected with a conservation easement so that the riparian forest, spring-fed wetlands, and the dynamic Methow River floodplain would never be subdivided or developed.  Before the easement, this land contained the most productive area of unprotected salmon redds remaining in single ownership in the Methow Valley.  Now, those salmon redds as well as scenic open space, conifer woodlands and agricultural lands are permanently protected.

“As we got older we thought we would have to sell it to developers.  The conservation easement was the perfect solution.  We retain ownership and it’s protected forever,” said Tina Heath.

For Future Ranches
Vic StokesAsk Vic Stokes about his cattle or alfalfa and hay fields and an unmistakable gleam in his eye appears.  With a quiet but subtly strong voice, he’ll easily describe every inch of the shrub-steppe uplands, agricultural fields and pastures, and riparian lowlands that to him are simply home.  He knows this land like the back of his hand.

Vic and his wife, Carrie, however, also recognize that family farms face real challenges from increased development and that their future is not always guaranteed.  That’s why the Stokes family made a strong commitment to ensure that their family farm on Beaver Creek will forever remain in agriculture.  In 2005, the Stokes family worked with the Methow Conservancy to place a conservation easement on more than 350 acres of their property.  The Stokes’ ranch was the first in Eastern Washington to be protected under the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program.

The Stokes family wants to see family farms and ranches in the Valley for future generations.  They have taken an important first step by protecting their land forever.

Moccasin Lake Ranch
"Our family believes that the Methow Valley's natural beauty deserves to be maintained and preserved forever. This easement represents a positive step in that direction."

The Pigott Family at Moccasin Lake RanchMoccasin Lake Ranch is a place where rolling pastures, aspen groves and sage covered hills offer refuge to soaring raptors, migrating songbirds,deer, elusive cougar, coyotes and black bear. In 1888, George Thompson, built a small house into the hillside of Wandling Mountain, thereby laying claim to the original 120-acres of the Ranch. In the early years of the 20th century, subsequent land owners consolidated adjacent properties until the Ranch was bought by Jon and Gaye Titcomb in 1961. They eventually added neighboring properties, bringing the Ranch to its current size of 2,327 acres by 1966.

The traditional flavor of this special landscape, that could easily have been transformed into a checkerboard of development, will remain intact in perpetuity thanks to Jon and Gaye Titcomb's heirs, who chose to protect their ranch with a conservation easement. The 1,433-acre easement maintains 14 wetlands, upland habitat, and graceful views across the Methow Valley. The Moccasin Lake property has a long history as an ecologically sensitive working ranch, and the family's vision and partnership with the Methow Conservancy will help keep it that way.

For the Love of the Land
If it is possible to fall in love with a piece of land at first sight, then Eric (“Ric”) and Heather Redman did.  When Ric stepped onto the nearly 300 acres of sage and bitterbrush land sandwiched between Davis Lake, Bear Creek, and Balky Hill, he knew it was a special place. Two coyotes casually scavenged, while numerous deer grazed amidst a backdrop of bright yellow arrowleaf balsamroot that literally covered this land known as Round Hill Ranch.  He took photos to share with his wife, Heather.  When Heather first stepped on the land, she, too, was instantly smitten. 

In 2003, the Redmans completed an easement with the Methow Conservancy to ensure that their land will be protected forever.  They said, “We’ve never felt better about anything in the end—knowing that this land will never be spoiled.”  The 297 acres protect a prominent ridgeline visible from much of the Valley, as well as shrub-steppe land, open agricultural meadows, and an ecologically-rich wooded draw.  The land also provides excellent deer, songbird, hawk, small mammal, reptile, and raptor habitat.  The protected open space and natural qualities of the hilltop property help maintain the broad views and rural feel that are the essence of the middle Methow Valley.

A Family Tradition
"Over the last several years I have continued to work on my short and long term goals for the family and ranch. The Methow Conservancy has helped me draw nearer to accomplishing those goals."
Craig Boesel

Craig Boesel's family were homesteaders in the Methow in the late 1800's. Being raised on a farm Craig learned of the ongoing relationship between land and the people who use it at an early age. Craig always hoped to raise his own family on a farm, so after graduating from Washington State University and traveling the country as a Smokejumper, he re-settled in the Methow Valley.

As Craig saw the Valley changing, he became concerned for the future of agricultural lands like his. In 1999, a 63-acre parcel of his property was accepted as the first agricultural conservation easement for the Methow Conservancy.

Craig believes that the people of the Methow have an opportunity to plan today for tomorrow, and he sees that conservation easements can help the Valley shape its own future.

For Craig Boesel, protecting his land is not only about ecological conservation, but also about preserving agricultural values and enabling future generations to experience the connection with the land that he values in his own life.

A Heritage of Farming
For more than 100 years, a member of the Lehman family has worked the land on their ranch between Winthrop and Twisp on the East County Road.The property’s productive soils have supported cattle and grown a variety of crops, including alfalfa, corn and grains.  In 2008, Charlie and Youngme Lehman completed a conservation easement on part of the property, ensuring that it will remain available for agricultural use forever.

A unique partnership between Okanogan County and the Methow Conservancy permanently protected 110 acres of the Lehman’s highly productive agricultural land.  The Lehman Farm was the first farm in to be protected under the new State Farmland Preservation fund that is part of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP). 

“This project is a good example of how we can work together to preserve productive farmland and in doing so retain the rural character and agricultural economy of Okanogan County” stated Okanogan County Commissioner Bud Hover. 

Mac Shelton & Frauka RyndConnecting Wildlife Corridors
When Mac Shelton and Frauke Rynd, along with Rick Rapport and Valerie Trueblood, bought more than 90 acres along the Twisp River, they knew they weren’t simply buying the land for themselves.  They had found a place that spoke to them and that, forcenturies, has served as an important home for numerous fish and wildlife species.  This remote and wild land is surrounded by undeveloped land --excellent habitat for many plant and animal species and for quiet contemplation.

“We felt we owed it to future generations to protect this beautiful land,” said Mac.  Driven by the notion that they never wanted this beautiful and biologically rich place to change, they quickly started thinking about ways to ensure it would be cared for permanently.
Their acreage could easily have been developed into a patchwork quilt of 16 smaller parcels.  Instead, the two couples placed a conservation easement on their property in 2002, ensuring the wildlife corridors would remain intact. Today, this conservation easement is one of 11 in the area, permanently protecting more than 500 acres and over three miles of riverfront along the banks of the upper Twisp River. 

A Family’s Hope
The Sukovaty-Argraves FamilyLouis Sukovaty and Jennifer Argraves at Crown S Ranch like to say that their pasture-rotation, grass-farming practices are “better for the animals, better for the environment, and better for you.”  After working with the Methow Conservancy to place a conservation easement on their 42-acre family-run farm, they can now add “better for the future” to that list. 

The Crown S Ranch easement property has been a working farm since the mid-1950’s and was most likely utilized as farm or ranchland throughout the early and mid-20th century.  Currently, Crown S Ranch raises cattle, pigs, chicken and turkeys and sells organic, locally produced meat, eggs, and vegetables. 

The conservation easement permanently prevents subdivision, limits residential development and prevents the loss of prime farmland on the Crown S Ranch while supporting the agricultural economy of Okanogan County. This easement provides a connection between four existing farmland conservation easements within the Winthrop-Twisp farm corridor. Without easement protection this property could have been divided into up to ten home sites and productive farmland would have been permanently lost.

Caring for the Land
John Adams & Caryl CampbellJohn Adams and Caryl Campbell weren't planning to move from Seattle to the Methow when they first saw the 160 acres of forest in the Rendezvous. The heavily logged landscape seemed to speak to them in a special, indescribable way-despite its clear need for rehabilitation.

Before long they not only owned the property, but found themselves in the midst of a major effort to restore the forest. Scientists by trade, they launched headlong into learning about forests and their dynamic nature. In just a few years, the forest had taken hold of them, and they were building a full-time home.

As their appreciation for the land grew, John and Caryl began to worry about what would happen in future generations to all their restoration work and the wildlife they now considered part of their family. They wanted some assurance that others would continue the commitment they had made to the health of their property.

John and Caryl created a conservation easement with the Methow Conservancy-in part to limit future development on the property, but largely to permanently cement the idea that protection of the land requires ongoing work. Their easement includes a detailed stewardship plan with long-term goals for what the forest should look like in perpetuity. With their foresight, John and Caryl have created an easement that has not just protected, but improved the health of the land that continues to astonish them every day.

Family Orchard
The Stennes property has been a working farm and ranch since Britanus Stennes, a Norwegian immigrant, settled and homesteaded the land in 1894.  Five generations later, the Stennes’ are still farming and caring for this beautiful and highly visible property along Highway Keith & Debbie Stennes153 and the Methow River that includes shrub steppe habitat, riparian habitat along the Methow River, and a variety of agricultural fields mostly devoted to the fruit trees of Cascade Crest Organics, the Stennes family business.

The high quality farmland soils of the Stennes property are the primary reason the Methow Conservancy and the Stennes’ sought to protect the land.  Still, there are many more conservation values.  The Stennes property is so diverse that the habitat provided by the riparian and river front areas, as well as the large areas of intact shrub-steppe are critically important, not to mention the scenic beauty and open space qualities.

Upon finalizing the easement, Keith wrote to us, “The Stennes Family (Keith & Deb, along with their sons Kevin and Mark and their 5th generation families) are pleased to have been able to work with the Methow Conservancy to achieve our goals of maintaining this special piece of property our family has been blessed to have owned, farmed and been entrusted stewardship of since 1894. It is exciting to know that this land that I have been privileged to live on and farm for a lifetime will be passed on to the future generations to steward, use and enjoy in much the same form that it was with the earlier generations.”

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