Population and Land

The Methow Population and Land (PAL) Project is a sub-component of the State of the Methow Project. The PAL project is a series of reports and webpages that include information on the current conditions and trends in human population, land use, development, and land protection in the Methow Valley. The project is a “living” project, and data and associated reports will be updated every 5 years, with select key parameters updated annually on this website. The project includes two written reports: (1) Human Population, Land Use, and Residential Development Report, and (2) Land Protection Report. The current versions of the reports provide data through July 2020.

In this section:

The charts and text below refer to Mazama, Winthrop, Twisp, etc. These names refer to the areas encompassed by the zip code boundaries, not the actual towns.


Over the 15-year period from 2005-2020, the total population increased at a moderate rate of 31 percent (an average annual increase of about two percent over this time period). The five-year period from 2005-2010 saw the highest rate of population growth (3.6 percent average annual increase), and the five-year period from 2010-2015 saw the lowest rate of growth (two percent average annual increase). From 2020-2023, the total population increased at a relatively rapid rate (3.8 percent average annual increase).

Full-time and Part-time Population

The percent of residents who are full-time has remained quite stable over time and is lower for communities in the Upper Valley than other areas.

Percent Full-time Residents

Full-time and Part-time Residents, 2023

Land Use

Of private land acreage, about half is in agricultural parcels, one quarter is in residential parcels, and one quarter remains undeveloped.

Private Land Use

in the 15-year period from 2005-2020, private parcel acreage in agriculture decreased by 13 percent, undeveloped land decreased by 12 percent and residential acres increased by 27 percent.

Land Use Category Over Time

Parcel Size

The majority of private parcels are less than 5 acres in size.

Parcels by Size Class as Percent of Total Number of Private Land Parcels, 2020

While parcels over 40 acres in size represent only 5 percent of the total number of private parcels, when we look at total private land acreage, these larger size classes comprise almost half of the total acreage.

Parcels by Size Class as Percent of Total Private Land Acres, 2020


About 52 percent of the private parcels in the watershed are developed (as of 2020).

Residential Development Status

The percent of private parcels that are developed is higher for the Upper and Middle Methow than the Lower Methow.

Private Parcel Development Status by Area

The number of developed residential parcels increased by 33 percent from 2005-2020.

Developed Residential Parcels

From 2005-2022, an average of 68 building permits for new residential structures were issued each year. Building was concentrated in the Upper Valley during this time period. The years 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2021 had the highest numbers of permits issued.

Building Permits by Area

Land Protection

About 15 percent of private land acreage in the Methow Watershed has been protected (through conservation easements or purchase by non-profit conservation organizations), with percent protected being greatest for the Upper Methow.

Protected Acres of Private Land, 2020

18.5 percent of agricultural land has been protected (through conservation easements), as of November 2020. Percent of agricultural land protected is greatest for the Upper Methow, but acres protected is greatest for the Middle Methow. Total acres of private land in agriculture has continued to decline.

Protected Agricultural Acres, 2020

Private Agricultural Acres, 2020

Private Agricultural Acres, 2005-2022

Note that rate of decline from 2005-2010 partly reflects WDFW’s purchase of ag lands during this time. Rate of decline is relatively high in the past couple of years (2020-2022), with average annual decline double the average annual rate of decline from 2010-2020. Might partly be due to more scrutiny by County assessor.

Approximately 50 percent of the area within the 100-year floodplain in the watershed has been protected. “Protected” means that the land is within a conservation easement, owned by a conservation organization, or is held by public or tribal entities.

Protected Acres within the 100-year Floodplain, 2020

Floodplain Protection Status

With the return of Wagner Ranch lands to the Colville, acres in tribal ownership increased significantly from 2020-2022

Acres in Tribal Ownership, 2020-2022

Human Population Land Use and Development Report

Human Population, Land Use, and Residential Development Report

Download PDF (9 MB)

Methow Conservancy, 2021

Land Protection Report

Land Protection Report

Download PDF (1 MB)

Methow Conservancy, 2021

Data compilation and analysis by Julie Grialou. Graphics and photography by Benjamin Drummond.
Last updated October 2023.

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

Join Team Methow Conservancy and support conservation work in the Methow Valley!