Thursday, April 18, 2024

McLoughlin Falls Ranch conveyed to Colville Tribes, WDFW

Wagner Ranch acquired last fall


OKANOGAN COUNTY – For the second time in less than a year the Colville Confederated Tribes (CCT) has been designated by a conservancy group as the custodial beneficiary of former tribal lands and prime wildlife habitat in the county. Earlier this month, Western Rivers Conservancy (WRC), a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit, conveyed a portion of the 727-acre McLoughlin Falls Ranch near the Canadian border to the CCT and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). CCT received the northern portion of the ranch and WDFW the southern. This unique arrangement conserves critical habitat for fish and wildlife, returns ancestral lands to the Colville Tribes, and provides new recreational access the Okanogan River.

WRC purchased McLoughlin Falls Ranch in 2022. The ranch is located about 30 miles south of the Canada-U.S. border and is part of a larger wildlife movement corridor stretching from the Cascade Mountains to the Kettle River Range. It is home to mule deer, mountain lion, elk, bighorn sheep, endangered Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, and the country’s healthiest population of Canada lynx.

A WRC media release included comments from principals involved in the project:

“What makes McLoughlin Falls Ranch so special, beyond its breathtaking scenery, is how integral it is, and always has been, to communities of fish, wildlife and people,” said WRC vice president Nelson Mathews. “Conserving McLoughlin Falls Ranch in partnership with the Colville Tribes and WDFW means this area will remain a haven for imperiled animals and that ancestral lands will be returned to their original stewards.”

The Okanogan River supports federally threatened Upper Columbia River steelhead and one of only two self-sustaining runs of sockeye salmon left in the Columbia Basin. The area has been inhabited by members of the Colville Tribes for millennia, and the property is an important ancestral hunting and fishing site.

Conservation Northwest

The McLoughlin acquisition was made possible by funding and support from Conservation Northwest, an organization that works to protect, connect, and restore wildlands and wildlife across Washington state and into British Columbia. Support from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Giles W. and Elise G. Mead Foundation, and the James M. Lea Foundation was also pivotal to the project.

“We’re proud to have contributed to the protection of this unique and vital property,” said Conservation Northwest director Mitch Friedman, based in Seattle. “This extends a body of work that conserves a vital wildlife corridor and is a great outcome for everyone.”

"We appreciate the partnership with WRC, WDFW, and Conservation Northwest in making this acquisition possible by working together in the name of conservation,” said CCT chairman Jarred Erickson. “McLoughlin Falls was a very important fishery to our people and the cultural ties to these places are at the core of who we are as people. This collaborative work will ensure our people will have future access to a historic fishing site while also ensuring these areas stay wild and allow the movement of many keystone species from the Cascades to the Kettle River Range.”

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The portion of the ranch under WDFW stewardship will soon be open to the public. Boaters are permitted to stop and rest or picnic near the property’s namesake, a large Class II rapid called McLoughlin Falls. On land, visitors will have non-motorized access.

“Opening this land to public use is a huge win for the people of the area to be able to hike, bike, boat, hunt, and wildlife watch,” said WDFW Region 2 director Brock Hoenes. “Public lands benefit all of us but also the many species of wildlife that call this land home. Preserving it for the future means preserving much needed habitat, as one of the biggest challenges our wildlife faces is loss of habitat.”

The WDFW's mission is to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.

Western Rivers Conservancy

WRC acquires lands along rivers throughout the West to conserve critical habitat and to create or improve public access for compatible use and enjoyment. By cooperating with local agencies and organizations and by applying decades of land acquisition experience, WRC secures the health of whole ecosystems and has protected hundreds of miles of stream frontage on great western rivers, including the Hoh, Nisqually, John Day, Salmon, Snake, North Umpqua, Madison and Methow rivers. Regarding the latter, WRC played a key role in an earlier acquisition of the 328-acre Wagner Ranch with 1.6 miles of frontage on the Chewuch River, a Methow tributary, north of Winthrop.

WRC purchased the Wagner Ranch for $3.3 million in 2018 with the original intent of conveying it to the Yakama Nation’s Upper Columbia Habitat Restoration Project. When expected funding from the Bonneville Power Administration did not materialize to complete the deal, the Methow Conservancy stepped in, acquired the parcel, and transferred ownership to the CCT last May.

The land lies in the heart of traditional Methow territory and will be conserved under the guidance of Methow descendants through Colville Tribal ownership. The Tribes’ Fish and Wildlife Anadromous Program will continue work in this watershed serving as a prime area for salmon recovery efforts.

Colville Confederated Tribes

Today, more than 9,286 descendants of 12 aboriginal tribes of Indians are enrolled in the Confederated Tribes of the Colville. The 12 tribes which comprise the CCT include: Chelan, Nez Perce, Colville, Entiat, Lakes, Methow, Moses-Columbia, Nespelem, Okanogan, Palouse, San Poil, and Wenatchi.



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