FAQs

Thank you for taking an interest in the Campaign for Sunny M Ranch! This is a working document that will be updated over time. As we learn more and make decisions about various components of the project, we will post the information here.

FAQ 1: I thought the Methow Conservancy didn’t own land?

While it’s true that the Methow Conservancy has relied on conservation easements as our primary conservation tool, we have actually owned a small amount of land for many years. Land ownership is the appropriate tool for a conservation project of this scale and scope. We believe that land ownership in the hands of a community organization is the best way to ensure that the ways in which this land has been used within the community (both human and wild) can continue. By owning this land, we protect current uses—wildlife habitat, farming, trail access—and preserve possibilities for other initiatives, such as supporting the local economy by providing land for housing close to Winthrop that is affordable for people who work in the Methow Valley.

That’s a lot of acres for you to manage. How will you do that? Through partnerships. Many land trusts own land; in fact, some use it as their sole or primary conservation tool. We feel so lucky to have existing community partners who will continue to do what they’ve been doing on the land, which will contribute to our stewardship of the land. We don’t plan to become farmers, groomers, or builders. For example, Methow Trails will continue to maintain and groom the winter trails. Other community organizations like the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance will help with the summer trails. The farmer who currently grows alfalfa on the irrigated farmfields will continue to farm the land. And when the time comes, we’ll ensure that the housing that will be affordable for people who work here will be developed by an appropriate entity or entities. With these partnerships serving as a foundation, we feel confident about our ability to steward this land effectively.

FAQ 2: Tell me more about your housing plan

As you know, we have a critical housing shortage in the Methow Valley, especially for housing that is affordable for people who work in the valley. The Methow Conservancy is committed to being part of the housing solution in the valley and we think we can best leverage our expertise and resources by making a small parcel of the Sunny M Ranch land available for housing, to be designed and developed by an appropriate entity or entities. We envision a small, thoughtfully-designed neighborhood clustered near the Town of Winthrop and near the trails, with housing that is affordable for people who work in the valley. The type and mix of housing will be informed by the Winthrop and Twisp Housing Action Plans, the availability of water, infrastructure costs, public comment, the interested partners, and other factors.

Will the Methow Housing Trust build some of the houses? We hope so! We recognize that the Methow Housing Trust is another organization that takes a “forever” perspective on serving the community. We may work with other partners as well. The property we make available for housing will be encumbered by covenants that will ensure that the scale, functionality, and aesthetics of any future development reflect community values and answer community needs.

How many units are we talking about? We don’t know yet; however, we think the neighborhood will encompass about 10-15 acres of the 1200-acre property, near the Town of Winthrop. We recognize that there is complexity regarding water availability for housing, so we are working with consultants to achieve the best community outcome possible.

Tell me about zoning and water issues on the housing parcel. While we understand that there is complexity surrounding water availability for housing, we are optimistic that with community support, building a small, affordable neighborhood will be possible. The community will have opportunities for public comment with any water right changes and during county approval of the project.

FAQ 3: It sounds like you’ll be taking away some buildable lots from the local inventory?

We are; however, the lots we’re removing would never be affordable for people who work here—they would be high-end homes perched on a bench visible from many locations in the Winthrop area or on other areas of the property that would be in high demand for upscale development. As part of our commitment to ensuring this valley can remain livable for locals, we will be designating a parcel for a partner to develop housing that can answer the needs of local families and workers. There are many details still to be worked out, but we are committed to the vision of viable housing that is affordable to people who work here, close to the Town of Winthrop and close to trails.

FAQ 4: Will Wes Hover keep farming the agricultural fields?

We’re very happy that Wes wants to continue farming these fields for the foreseeable future. With land so expensive in the Methow Valley, leased farmland is one way to ensure that farming can remain viable. We will place an agricultural conservation easement on the property so that it can be farmed in perpetuity.

What happens when Wes doesn’t want to farm the fields? We’ll lease to a different farmer. Farmland is expensive in the Methow Valley. Leased farmland is a way for farming to remain a thriving part of the Methow Valley economy and rural landscape.

Will those fields always be alfalfa? We don’t know, but they will always remain agricultural. Down the road a different farmer, or group of farmers, may want to grow something different, or a series of different crops. By protecting this land for agricultural use, we preserve possibilities for the future.

FAQ 5: What will happen with the ski, fatbike, and bike trails?

For 35 years access to those trails has been permitted only through an annual handshake agreement. You might know this property as the Winthrop Trail and Power’s Plunge area, the iconic Sunny M Ranch’s agricultural fields, the Barnsley-Bitterbrush ski and fatbike trails, kilometers 2-5 of the Methow Community Trail, and the riparian area just downstream of the Winthrop Fish Hatchery. We are thrilled to partner with Methow Trails to ensure deeded access to the trails, so that recreationalists can continue to enjoy these trails that connect Winthrop with the Sun Mountain trail system as well as with Mazama.

Will you charge a fee for using the trails? Summer trail use will remain free. Although we will own the land, we will not be grooming the winter trails. Methow Trails will continue to do that. We will be like any of the 175 other landowners that Methow Trails negotiates access with. The Methow Conservancy will not charge a use fee; however, Methow Trails will continue to require trail passes for winter use, to cover their grooming and maintenance costs, which are significant (fyi—it costs about $1800 per night to groom the trails located on this piece of property alone).

FAQ 6: Will you change any of the trails or allow/prevent any different types of use?

Existing uses (summer bike/walk, winter ski/fatbike/snowshoe) will remain in place. Once we own the property, we will continue conversations with partners like Methow Trails and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance about best trail uses on the property. For now we need to focus on being able to purchase the property, to preserve these possibilities for the future.

FAQ 7: What wildlife habitat are you talking about?

Wildlife is abundant on all 1200 acres of this project, but in particular the Power’s Plunge area is home to many important species, as well as serving as a wildlife corridor from the valley floor to the upland terrain. The farmfields east of Patterson Lake are filled with important species. And even the areas near trails and homes teem with local songbirds, raptors, mammals, reptiles, and other local critters. By owning this land, we can ensure that the wildlife that is already a part of this ecosystem can continue to thrive.

FAQ 8: Will you be selling any lots?

We’re not sure. At some point we will sell a small parcel close to the Town of Winthrop that someone else will develop into housing that is affordable for people who work here. We may need to sell a few other small parcels to help us purchase the property. These lots would be near areas with existing homes and would not compromise any of the conservation values of the property as a whole; they won’t be in critical habitat areas, they won’t interfere with trails, and they won’t compromise the farm fields.

FAQ 9: Tell us about the math for this project.

How much are you paying? The purchase price for the 1200 acres is $6.2M. To cover the purchase price, transaction costs, and establish a stewardship and maintenance fund to care for the property in perpetuity, we need $8.3 million by June 15, 2023. We believe we can bring about half of that to the table. To cover the other half, we have launched Imagine the Methow: A Campaign for Sunny M Ranch.

How much have you raised so far? Click HERE to see how the campaign is doing. We update the chart on Wednesdays.

Why do you need a $1M stewardship and maintenance fund? Caring for land properly takes money. A stewardship and maintenance fund will generate some revenue each year that will help us cover some of the expenses related to the property, like paying property taxes, undertaking restoration efforts, and other maintenance.

What will you do if you exceed your goal in your capital campaign? We’ll put it into our stewardship fund to ensure the property’s care in perpetuity. We also wouldn't need to sell any lots to help fund the purchase.

What happens to my donation if you don't reach your campaign goal? We will know by mid-May if we are going to reach our goal and purchase the property. If you'd like to make a pledge toward our goal, but want to hold off on donating until we're sure the campaign will be a success, you can access our pledge form HERE.

What happens if the Methow Conservancy can't purchase the property? We can't speak for the Haub Family, but we understand that they are divesting themselves of their Okanogan County properties. If the Methow Conservancy can't buy the land, we believe it will be made available for another buyer or buyers.

FAQ 10: The Methow Conservancy is launching a capital campaign? What about other organizations in the valley that need project and organizational support?

The Methow Valley community has shown it believes in abundance. The valley is home to dozens of nonprofit organizations that make this place special, and we know most donors contribute to many organizations. We’re always willing to shine a spotlight on the good work of other nonprofits in the Valley and we encourage you to learn about and support other valley organizations, visit Volunteer Methow.

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We’re excited to launch Imagine the Methow: A Campaign for Sunny M Ranch. We have until June 15, 2023 to preserve these possibilities for our community. To join us and to learn more about the Campaign for Sunny M Ranch, visit methowconservancy.org/sunnym. To make a multi-year pledge, contact Executive Director Sarah Brooks to schedule a meeting: sarah@methowconservancy.org or 509-996-2870. Or click here to access a pledge form.

Help the Methow Conservancy purchase 1200 acres of the Sunny M Ranch for the community (human and wild) by June 15th!

Learn more and donate to the Campaign for Sunny M Ranch Now