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Ranch easement a win for family's heritage and wildlife

Posted by Jay Kehne, outreach associate at Dec 08, 2011 12:40 AM |

“When the property around us starts growing houses instead of grass and trees, that hurts our ranch, other local ranchers, and the wildlife." Bryan Gotham works hard for his family ranch and is finding new ways to protect his family's future and open space in the Columbia Highlands, including a new conservation easement purchased this month by Conservation Northwest.

Ranch easement a win for family's heritage and wildlife

“When the property around us starts growing houses instead of grass and trees, that hurts our ranch, other local ranchers, and the wildlife." ~Bryan Gotham. A new easement protected 300 acres in open space, wildlife habitat, and agriculture this week.

December 2012 update: By January 31, your gift to the Columbia Highlands Capital Campaign will be matched to protect the next important piece of the Gotham's critical lands. Donate now.

The Gotham family raises cattle and timber on their ranch just east of Republic. Ever since meeting them, I have been impressed with their land stewardship, ability to adapt to changing times, and fierce determination to keep their ranch whole and not allow development to take away the open spaces they so much enjoy.  

Last April, Bryan Gotham contacted Conservation Northwest to inquire about whether a conservation easement might work for him. With one look at their property, I could see that this vital connecting habitat for a variety of wildlife species would indeed be a fit for one of several easement programs.  Their property is key for its proximity to the Kettle Crest and potential hiking trails in and out of a proposed wilderness area.

It was also clear that it was prime real estate that would be in high demand for development.  Bryan made it very clear that what he wanted was to maintain the character of his place and not give in to development pressure just to make ends meet.

With a lot of hard work and a little luck, we have helped the Gotham's negotiate the complicated process of applying for conservation easements, retiring mining rights, and getting the best deal for them personally. This week, they entered into a conservation easement on over 300 acres on their place. Private donations from Conservation Northwest supporters have permanently committed these lands to open space, agriculture, and wildlife habitat. We are also working with them to apply for federal funding to protect most of the rest of their timber lands.

The Gotham's don't stand still and wait for things to happen.  They also recently started marketing their beef based on their good stewardship of their ranch and the public lands they graze--over 80,000 acres in the Colville National Forest, some of which are now being considered for wilderness. Their support of a wilderness designation where they graze cattle is just an example of how one ranch family is adapting to changing times and coming out better off for it.

Bryan has also spoken out in newspaper articles about the positive benefits of working with partners to protect ranches, timberland, and open space.  He's spoken up about the benefits of wilderness as well. Not everyone in the local community sees it this way, so hearing this rancher speak up is a refreshing change from what local newspapers normally print. 

According to Bryan, " I speak for my ranch and not others, and I am trying to better my personal situation in a way that makes sense for the land.  Having some wilderness in the mix will be good for wildlife, giving them more room to wander, and it really won't affect my operation that much." 

People like Bryan and Deb Gotham are giving new energy to the public/private partnerships that are so critical to the broader efforts to maintain wildlife habitat and open spaces, while supporting their own family and their community.

[Read the press release]    [Wilderness is wide open: the hows and whys]  [HelpInvesting in wildlife: Keeping the Cascades connected to the Rockies us protect more open space]

 

 

 

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