Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

We come to our conservation work because the outdoors inspires us, because the beauty of the Methow Valley sustains us, and because we believe it is important to protect the ecological health of places like the Methow watershed. We recognize, however, that not all people have equal access to or feel welcome in this beautiful place we work to protect. We take seriously our role in learning and in taking action to do more to address issues of systemic injustice, both past and present.

Our Work on Ancestral Lands

For tens of thousands of years or more, the Methow Valley has been cared for thoughtfully by the mətxʷu/Methow People. We continue to build better relationships and reckon with our past with the mətxʷu/Methow descendants who still live on and care for the land in this Valley, as well as with descendants of those who were forcibly removed and relocated.

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Since Time Immemorial

13,000 years ago the last of the Missoula floods swept across Eastern Washington and down the Columbia River Gorge. Glaciologists estimate that the glaciers in the Methow Valley were up to a mile deep. The First People of the Methow Valley have stories about the great flood and its impacts.

For hundreds of generations, the Methow Valley has been the home of the mətxʷu/Methow People. The Moses-Columbia Reservation was formed in 1879 as part of early strategies to separate Indigenous people from their ancestral homelands. In 1884, the Moses-Columbia Reservation was dissolved and most of the mətxʷu/Methow People were forcibly removed out of the Methow Valley and relocated to the area east and south of present-day Omak, becoming one of the twelve tribes of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

Others in this diaspora refused to enter the reservations and simply stayed or dispersed in the region. Even today, many mətxʷu/Methow Tribal families maintain a consistent presence in this valley. We are grateful for the mətxʷu/Methow People's careful stewarding of this land and hope to learn from their example.

You can learn more about the mətxʷu/Methow People HERE. Additional cultural, governmental, and other information about the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, a sovereign nation, can be found HERE.

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In 2021 we purchased 328 acres of ancestral lands along the Chewuch River: a piece of property that is culturally, ecologically, and spiritually important to the mətxʷu/Methow People. In 2022 we returned that land (now called x̌ʷnámx̌ʷnam, “Hummingbird") to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation on behalf of the mətxʷu/Methow People. At their request, we remain involved in supporting their presence and work in the Methow Valley. Read more HERE.

If you'd like to contribute directly to the mətxʷu/Methow People's cultural activities in the Methow Valley, please let us know.

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Ongoing Learning

Currently, our entire staff is participating in Indian Country 101: an online tribal engagement training series built with natural resource practitioners in mind. An Indigenous-led and Indigenous-designed training, Indian Country 101 is developed through a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the Whitener Group.

Two other local/regional organizations in particular contribute to our cultural awareness and understanding of Indigenous peoples in our area.

Please consider learning more about these organizations and supporting their work. You can also learn more about the mətxʷu/Methow People HERE.

Equity in Conservation Work

As we work to broaden the lens through which we see our work, we continue to sustain and grow our efforts in addressing other inequalities in the Methow Valley, such as those related to housing and food. We also continue to highlight and encourage the support of organizations that work to ensure that conservation and outdoor recreation are safe and accessible to everyone.

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Housing Equity

As amenity-rich mountain valleys across the west become increasingly inhabited by part-time residents, vacation recreationalists, and tourists, the workforce necessary to sustain community functions has been forced to reside further and further from the communities they support. Without a concerted, collaborative community effort to address the housing crisis, the Methow Valley will become the next community whose essential character is forever altered by disparities between income and housing. Since 2018, home sale prices have outpaced wages 4:1 in the Methow Valley. For many of those just entering the sale and rental markets, median home values and rent in the Methow Valley are beyond the ability of what those who derive their income locally can afford to pay.

In 2003-2004 and 2007 we conducted community focus group interviews to gather input regarding the role of our conservation organization into the future. A shortage of affordable housing emerged as a primary concern even back then. The issue has only increased in urgency in the years since.

In 2016, a community needs assessment showed that the Methow Valley was approaching a crisis regarding housing affordability; after 2018, we found ourselves definitively facing the crisis. In 2000, 51% of owner-occupied homes were valued at less than $150,000. Now only 17% are in that price range, and most of those are in remote areas or in poor condition. 40% of Methow Valley homes are seasonal and/or vacation use homes, and only 13% of the valley’s housing stock is available as rentals. Nearly 30% of the children in the valley live below the poverty line.

In 2023 the Methow Conservancy had the opportunity to purchase a piece of land close to the Town of Winthrop that is well-suited for an affordable housing neighborhood to serve local residents, to help address the affordable housing shortage faced by our local workforce, and to address the workforce shortage faced by local businesses. As we explore possibilities for the neighborhood density and design, we are engaged in community input sessions regarding the values that will inform the eventual design. Learn more HERE.

In addition to exploring options for affordable housing on land owned by the Methow Conservancy, we are also a founding member of the Methow Housing Solutions Network, which is aimed at raising awareness in the community about potential housing solutions and the possibility for purposeful, structural change.

Food Justice

Farms to Neighbors is a pandemic-inspired collaboration whose need has persisted. The Methow Conservancy raises funds from people and organizations who care about supporting local food systems and uses the funds to purchase high-quality, locally-grown produce at market prices from participating farms in the Methow Valley. The Cove Food Bank then distributes the fresh food to their clients in their weekly food boxes. Every penny goes to farmers, and every pound of food goes directly to community members in need.

The Farms to Neighbors program is based on two simple truths: everyone should have access to high quality, locally produced food and farmers deserve to be paid full price for the fruits of their labor. When it comes to food access, these two truths are often at odds. Thanks to generous community support, our Farms to Neighbors program sustains both of these truths.

Our target population is clients of The Cove Food Bank, which serves singles, families with children, and seniors on fixed incomes (ie, all ages birth-elders). The demographics reflect the Methow Valley School District. Nearly 40% of Methow Valley families are considered low-income and qualify for some form of food assistance. Distinct from the school district, 12.6% of Methow Valley residents had an income below the poverty level in 2021, which was 21.0% greater than the poverty level of 9.9% across the entire state of Washington. For disabled adults the poverty rate is even higher: 20.1% among males and 24.3% among females. Farms to Neighbors currently serves 75 local families, with need growing. Learn more HERE.

Other Organizations

Each month in our monthly Enews, we feature a new organization that is engaged in DEI work. We have also curated a list of local and regional non-profit organizations below, all of whom, in unique ways, contribute to addressing systemic inequalities. Please consider supporting them and the important work they're doing.

  • Methow Housing Trust – our local community land trust, which "develops and preserves permanently affordable, quality housing for residents of the Methow Valley."
  • The Cove Food Bank – our local food bank, whose mission is "feeding and caring for the Methow Valley Community while honoring and respecting one another at difficult times in our lives."
  • Team Naturaleza – a resource for the Spanish-speaking community in North Central Washington, Team Naturaleza’s mission is to: engage Latinx/Hispanic bilingual communities in informal natural science education and to achieve a healthier community by getting people safely outdoors.
  • FYRE - Foundation for Youth Resiliency and Engagement - founded by Amitie Sandoval, Mady Sandoval, and Michelle Sandoval, PhD, all of whom grew up in Okanogan County, FYRE is "committed to centering the voices of today's and tomorrow's youth, using knowledge and critical thinking for the betterment of our community, and addressing equity and inclusion through deliberate representation and advocacy."
  • Climbers of Color - a Washington State non-profit that aims to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the climbing and mountaineering community by creating leaders of color.
  • The Mountaineers -- based in Seattle, this outdoors-based adventure organization has a variety of programs and initiatives focused on ensuring the outdoors are and feel accessible to all.
  • Latino Outdoors – a Latinx-led organization working to inspire, connect, and engage Latino communities in the outdoors and embrace cultura y familia as part of the outdoor narrative, ensuring our history, heritage, and leadership are valued and represented.

We encourage you to join us on this journey of understanding how loving the Methow Valley requires us all to think deeply about how systemic inequalities affect our ability to care for nature and each other.

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Inspiring people to care for the land of the Methow Valley since 1996.

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