Methow Conservancy’s Sunny M acquisition critical to valley’s future
Our friends at the Methow Conservancy have quite a challenge and opportunity for preserving and enhancing the strong sense of community in that mountain valley. The Haub family, long-time owners of the iconic Sun Mountain and about 2,500 acres of land in the valley, are in the process of selling off their holdings, including 1,200 acres near Winthrop that connect the community trails systems to Mazama and serve as a corridor for wildlife.
The nonprofit is seizing this opportunity and has raised more than $6.9 million of the $8.3 million cost to purchase the property and fund ongoing stewardship costs. They have until June 15 to either raise the rest of the money or lose the opportunity. Sarah Brooks, speaking at an event at Pybus Public Market last week, said the organization will not move forward with the purchase unless the full amount has been pledged.
One of the things I love about the Methow Conservancy is its commitment to strengthening community that is equally as important as conserving land for future generations. It has been one of the truly exceptional community-building organizations in our region, thanks to the kind of holistic thinking that defines the Sunny M Ranch project.
Brooks, the organization’s executive director, and Ashley Lodato, the assistant director, were on hand to brief supporters in Wenatchee about the campaign for Sunny M Ranch. About half the property, including Sun Mountain Lodge, has already been sold to a Seattle-based property company.
The Haub family was a vital partner in the development of the world class cross-country ski trails that thread through the Methow Valley and in supporting the vitality of the community. Erivan and Helga Haub for decades allowed the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association access to groom ski trails during the winter. A sale of the Sunny M Ranch property to an outside organization for development purposes would likely end that collaboration and cut the link between the town of Winthrop and the trails north of the valley. That would be a devastating loss.
The vision that Brooks and Lodato shared is a community-centric effort. A small portion of the land would be set aside for the development of affordable housing, which is one of that valley’s most pressing challenges. The conservancy would ultimately make that land available for a developer to erect the housing rather than do it themselves, Brooks said.
A portion of the land is currently being farmed and that land would continue to be in agriculture if the land purchase is successful. The purchase also will benefit wildlife in the valley, with deed restrictions and conservation easements that will steward the land consistent with the Haub family vision and the values of the Methow Conservancy.
The conservancy has in the past avoided purchasing property in favor of conservation easements. But in this case, Brooks and Lodato said it made sense given the short time frame and the critical nature of this project to the future of the Methow Valley to take on the ownership of the Sunny M Ranch properties.
The conservancy has just a few months left to raise the remaining $1.4 million to complete the purchase of the property. The conservancy has created space on the conservancy website for the Sunny M Ranch campaign that details the project costs, shows the location of the property and the vision for the long-term use of the property.
Like many people in our region, I treasure the Methow Valley both for the traditional farming and the longtime families that live there and also for the outdoor recreation mecca and sense of community that has long defined the valley. Let’s spread the word and do what we can to support the conservancy’s efforts to maintain access to the property for agriculture, recreation and wildlife. You can learn more and support this effort by accessing the Methow Conservancy website, methowconservancy.org/sunnym