Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Methow Conservancy acquires iconic Sunny M Ranch

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WINTHROP – For the second time in a shade over two years the Methow Conservancy has engineered a major land purchase of an iconic site in the Methow Valley – the 1,200-acre Sunny M Ranch west of Winthrop,

The purchase was made possible with the help of 1,500 donors who raised the $8.7 million needed to acquire a prime chunk of real estate that includes 400 acres of agricultural fields, 10 miles of community trails and building sites that would quicken the pulse of many commercial land developers.

In December 2022, the Conservancy created Imagine the Methow: The Campaign for Sunny M Ranch, with the intention of preserving the land. A mere six months later donors had not only raised the requisite purchase funds but also enough to enable stewardship dollars to maintain and manage the new acquisition. More than half a million dollars came from gifts under $5,000 with the average being $400.

The Conservancy board next passed a resolution designating the ranch be used as conservation and community lands. The resolution “outlined our standards for ethical practices by identifying the primary management goals for the Sunny M Ranch lands and the process that must be followed in the event change in use or management is contemplated,” a statement on their website, methowconservancy,org, said.

The purchase ensures the local community will determine the future uses of the site. Those uses include wildlife, farmin, affordable housing, and trails.

            • Wildlife habitat protection: Land attractive for high-use development will now remain a haven for wildlife.

            • Farmland preservation: Productive irrigated farmland will be maintained.

            • Affordable housing: Land close to Winthrop will provide affordable housing for workers.

            • Permanent trails access: The future of the Community Trail, Winthrop Trail, and Barnsley-Bitterbrush loops is now secure. The 10 miles of trails now preserved form part of the 120-mile network of the largest cross-country ski area in North America.

The Sunny M served as a cattle ranch from early in the 20th century and later a dude ranch as it passed through the hands of several owners.

Wagner Ranch preserved

In September 2021 the Conservancy seized the opportunity to purchase the Wagner Ranch, 328 acres and 1.6 miles of Chewuch River frontage five miles north of Winthrop. That property was originally offered to the Yakama Nation, but when expected funding did not materialize the Conservancy stepped in with the $3.3 million to acquire the Winthrop landmark.

The following May 2022 the Conservancy gifted the land – once traditional territory for the Methow Tribe - to the Colville Confederated Tribes (CCT). The Methows are among the 12 tribes that comprise the CCT.

Mike Maltais: 360-333-8483, mike@ward.media

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