Join our Cascades to Rockies Capital Campaign to preserve a critical piece of wildlands

Join our Cascades to Rockies Capital Campaign to preserve a critical piece of wildlands

Conservation Northwest / May 10, 2021 / Cascades to Rockies, Connecting Habitat, Okanogan Working for Wildlife, Protecting Wildlands, Sagelands, Work Updates

To protect critical wildlands and connect two great mountain ranges, we’re raising $4.75 million to purchase protection for 9,243 acres in Okanogan County

By Mitch Friedman, Executive Director

I’m excited to introduce you to our new Cascades to Rockies Capital Campaign, one of the most innovative and impactful efforts Conservation Northwest has ever undertaken.

Sunset and snow on the Figlenski Ranch in the Tunk Valley, Okanogan County. Photo: Justin Haug

Through this campaign we aim to purchase protection for 9,243 acres–almost 14 square miles!–of the historic Figlenski Ranch in the Tunk Valley of central Okanogan County.

This is the linchpin property in the east-west habitat corridor linking the Cascades to the Kettle River Mountain Range (and the Rockies beyond) for carnivores like lynx and wolverine. It’s also vital to the north-south corridor linking the sagelands of the Columbia Basin to British Columbia’s arid grasslands for shrub-steppe species like sharp-tailed grouse and badgers.

We’ve sought to permanently secure this property’s wildlife values for over a decade. And now we’ve found a way to do it that restores the land to its rightful stewards: the Colville Confederated Tribes. And you can help.

More detailed information is available in this case statement, or you’re welcome to contact us at development [at] conservationnw.org if you’d like to learn more about how to support this critical land conservation campaign. 

The Okanogan Valley and Working for Wildlife Initiative project area shown as part of a regional network of critical wildlife habitat connectivity, particularly between the North Cascades, Kettle Range and Rocky Mountains.
The Okanogan Valley and the Working for Wildlife Initiative project area (Riverside Linkage, circled) shown as part of a regional network of critical wildlife habitat connectivity, particularly between the North Cascades, Kettle Range and Rocky Mountains.
A map showing several ongoing Working for Wildlife Initiative projects, including the Figlenski Ranch we are fundraising to permanently conserve.

Click here for another map summarizing Cascades to Rockies wildlife habitat connectivity.

For wildlife habitat connectivity and environmental justice

The Figlenski Ranch is the linchpin to the Cascades to Rockies habitat corridor, and our action will be the capstone on a 15-year public-private partnership to sustain that corridor.

This body of work, called the Working for Wildlife Initiative (primarily funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and led by Conservation Northwest), includes:

  • Wildlife crossings on Highway 97 just downhill from the ranch, including the one at Janis Bridge our Sagelands Heritage Program Lead Jay Kehne created last year using private funds from our donors and partners through the Okanogan Wildlife Crossing Campaign. While details still need to be ironed out in Olympia, the Washington State Legislature recently included $18 million in funding for the remainder of Safe Passage 97 project in a transportation spending package. This will cover six additional wildlife undercrossings and 11 miles of deer fencing.
  • The neighboring 1,500 acre Chapman property that two years ago Conservation Northwest purchased with donated funds, placed a conservation easement upon, and sold to a family of wonderful conservation stewards.
  • The state’s 2,000 acre Carter Mountain Wildlife Area, right next to where wildlife underpasses are going to be on Highway 97, which was purchased from two private owners over a decade ago using federal funds we helped secure.
  • Additional hundreds of acres under easement and thousands more that will be by the end of next year through use of state and federal funds that our partner, Okanogan Land Trust, has mostly already secured.
  • Extensive habitat restoration (including removal of miles of barb wire fence and old logging roads) on private, tribal, and national forest land.
  • And restoration of the local sharp-tailed grouse population by our partner the Washington Deptartment of Fish and Wildlife and, expected to start this coming winter, restoration of Canada lynx to the Kettle Range through collaboration with the Colville Tribes and the Okanagan (Syilx) First Nation.

The Okanogan Valley and the North Cascades beyond, seen from the Figlenski Ranch in the Tunk Valley. Photo: Justin HaugI’m very proud of this entire initiative, and all the non-profit, state, federal and tribal partners that have made it possible. But it only counts if we succeed with conserving the vital Figlenski Ranch.

When the owner, Ernie Figlenski, and I signed a purchase and sale agreement in February, it culminated a decade of work by our coalition.

When Ernie died a week later while tending his cattle, it left me to wonder about persistence, fate, and much more. I didn’t know Ernie well; but I do know he died content that the legacy of his family’s ranch and the wildlife they loved were secure.

Chairman Rodney Cawston.

The Colville Tribal Business Council has already passed a resolution committing to accepting ownership of this property with a covenant (drafted by our lawyer) on the deed that establishes the intent of conserving its wildlife and cultural values. This property has particular value to the  Colville Tribes, as its part of their original reservation (established in 1872) that was shamefully reduced by half in 1892.

“The Colville Tribe is excited by the prospect of having 9,243 acres of the homelands of the Okanogan people returned to the Tribe’s ownership. Our tribal members have close ties to their homelands through familial experience, knowledge of the history, fishing and gathering areas, and stories learned from their Elders. Having access, our members of the Colville Tribes will create new shared experiences and a growing sense of the land while creating memories. Under our ownership the Tribe can ensure future management supports the conservation goals and objectives consistent with tribal values.”Rodney Cawston, Colville Tribal Chairman

For our new Cascades to Rockies Capital Campaign to be successful, we need to raise $4.75 million by October 2021.

We started raising funds last month, and already more than $2.5 million has been pledged. Included in this is a million dollar gift from a long-time Conservation Northwest donor and over $500,000 from The Nature Conservancy. The continued support of our donors and partners is essential for this effort.

I look forward to celebrating soon the completion of this great win for wildlife conservation, cultural persistence, and justice.

WANT TO LEARN MORE OR MAKE A DONATION? Contact DEVELOPMENT [AT] CONSERVATIONNW.ORG or CLICK HERE for more details.
Sunrise over Beehive Mountain in the Tunk Valley. Photo: Justin Haug