This view looks north across the Tunk Creek valley with Beehive Mountain in the distance. The Okanogan Land Trust has worked with several partners to secure a conservation easement over 1,403 acres, including a portion of the land seen in this photo.

OKANOGAN — Since 2013, Okanogan Land Trust (OLT) has been working with a consortium of partners on the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Working for Wildlife Initiative. OLT’s role is to hold conservation easements on private land when landowners volunteer to make their property part of the corridor.

This collaborative group has a multi-faceted approach to the work plan, with an emphasis on protecting habitat for mule deer, Canadian lynx and sharp-tailed grouse. The goal is maintaining and restoring habitat connectivity for wildlife between the Cascade Mountains and the Kettle Crest.

Recently, the land trust secured a conservation easement (CE) on 1,403 acres of Tunk Creek headwaters in the Tunk Valley east of Riverside. The property will remain in private ownership and on the county tax rolls but will be protected in perpetuity by an easement that focuses on forest stewardship and wildlife habitat preservation.

The coalition has sought a solution to this project since 2013, and other efforts to protect this ground date back over a decade. The landowner was extremely patient, while we worked to figure out funding and the best means to protect the landscape. He had purchased it with the intention to log and develop rural home sites on the land. We were able to convince him that the land could be both protected for wildlife and utilized as a timber resource.

The final resolution of the challenge brought together the Conservation Fund, Conservation Northwest, OLT and a private buyer.

Stacy Schutt, OLT’s executive director, explained, “The Conservation Fund provided a bridge loan that Conservation Northwest supplemented with donated dollars, NFWF brought Working for Wildlife funding to the transaction, and OLT was able to negotiate a reduced price for the project and provide conservation easement stewardship. The private buyer entered the picture late in the timeline but has proven to be deeply committed to protecting the resource.”

The CE limits future development of the property to a single residence and provides for active management of the timberlands. The Tunk Valley lies in the heart of the Working for Wildlife focus area and provides prime habitat for many species of wildlife.

For more information about the work of Okanogan Land Trust, contact the office in Okanogan at (509) 557-6306 or visit our website, okanoganlandtrust.org.

Jerry DeBacker is a senior conservationist with the Okanogan Land Trust.