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The Program

Columbia Basin Riparian Conservation Easement Program

In 2005, CBWTP launched the Columbia Basin Riparian Conservation Easement Program to complement ongoing efforts in water transactions. Piloted in the Columbia Cascade Province of north-central Washington, the easement program aims to permanently protect high-quality habitat in areas of strategic significance for fish. So far, 263 acres are now conserved.

Protecting An Anchor Habitat for Anadromous Fish in the Methow River

“The Methow River corridor faces a huge threat from floodplain development. But here on the Heath property, the river still functions in its dynamic, natural state; it can move across the valley floor in equilibrium. Habitat like this is a very rare thing anymore.”
– Jennifer Molesworth, Fisheries Biologist
U.S. Forest Service
The Heath property, a pristine 141-acre swath of wetlands and forest with 1.5 miles of shoreline along the Methow River, lies several miles northwest of the town of Winthrop, Washington. With major funding from the CBWTP to match support from the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Douglas County Public Utility District, the Methow Conservancy completed a conservation easement here that had been in the works for three years. Permanent protection for this ecologically significant landscape secures one of the most productive stretches of salmon redds in the valley, along with two spring-fed ponds that connect to the Methow, supplying constant year-round flows that help keep temperatures in the river amenable for endangered spring chinook salmon, threatened steelhead and bull trout. The parcel also hosts bald eagles, cougars and black bear and is home to the only known great blue heron rookery in the Methow Valley. “Biologically, it's incredibly rich and diverse,” says John Sunderland, Methow Conservancy Land Project Manager. “When we had biologists on the property, they told us that of any project in the Methow, this would be the one to ‘go to the mat’ for.”

Conserving A Prime Refuge and Recharge Area in the Methow River

“Protection of Hancock Springs is vital. This is an important acquisition-one of the only recharge streams in this part of the Methow River.”
– Bud Hover, Okanogan County Commissioner
In 2005, the first year of CBWTP's easement program, three organizations responded to a request for qualifications and a set of three proposals were reviewed. One grant was awarded to the nonprofit Methow Conservancy to purchase an easement permanently limiting future development on a 122-acre parcel with 1.75 miles of shoreline. Located at the confluence of Hancock Creek and the Methow River, it is an area rich with side channels and woody debris, a key refuge for spring chinook, steelhead and bull trout. More than 60 chinook redds were counted here in 2002. "It's one of the most productive reaches of the upper Methow, and it's in prime condition-a gem," says Katherine Bill, the Methow Conservancy's executive director. "If impacted, the cost of restoration in this area would far exceed the cost of protection today."