Snow Mountain Ranch Protected (WA)

COWICH, WASHINGTON, 1/24/05—The Yakima-based Cowiche Canyon Conservancy has acquired the majority of the 1,728-acre Snow Mountain Ranch with the help of the Trust for Public Land.

The purchase will help conserve up to a mile of important salmon and steelhead habitat and hundreds of acres of shrub-steppe (original sagebrush) habitat. The Conservancy will develop a plan for hiking trails and possibly an interpretive center on the property, which is south of Tieton between the south fork of Cowiche Creek and Cowiche Mountain. The group will grant access on a portion of the ranch to Pegasus Project, a local nonprofit that provides horse riding therapy to kids with special needs. The Conservancy will also develop a plan to maintain the shrub-steppe and stream habitat in as natural a state as practicable so as to enhance and maintain critical wildlife and vegetative habitat.

“This is a fantastic project. Purchasing Snow Mountain Ranch protects an important community resource and it will eventually provide the public access to a remote and beautiful area in the Yakima Valley,” said Dave McFadden, president of the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy Board of Directors. “We are particularly excited about working with the Pegasus group. Janie Plath provides an extraordinary service within our region. We also want to thank Carol-Anne de La Chapelle, the former property owner, for her cooperation and patience.”

The Conservancy owns property in nearby Cowiche Canyon. It has worked for 20 years to maintain and preserve a trail corridor along the old abandoned rail line that runs along Cowiche Creek. Each year thousands of people visit the canyon and its uplands area to enjoy hiking trails, wildflowers and scenic vistas.

“During the past couple years our board has embraced the idea of coupling public access and recreation with habitat conservation so people can enjoy the resource in the Cowiche Creek area,” said the Conservancy’s Director John Aylmer. “The Snow Mountain Ranch purchase is certainly a step in this direction—it advances our education and conservation goals.”

The Snow Mountain Ranch project was funded by the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board and mitigation funds from the Bonneville Power Administration. A deed restriction will insure the habitat will be maintained in a natural state for perpetuity.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) helped bring the funding sources together and orchestrated the technical details of the purchase. TPL works with willing sellers, public agencies and local citizens to help facilitate land transactions that serve the interest of the local community. While the Snow Mt. project was a simple purchase, many of TPL’s projects are designed to preserve ranchland and agricultural uses through the Farmland Protection Program.

“We were pleased to be asked to assist a project that provides a meaningful addition to the local recreational and humanitarian effort,” said Bob Betcone, TPL project manager. “We are also looking for opportunities to facilitate a Farmland Protection project in the area.”

Snow Mountain Ranch was once a cattle and Arabian horse operation. “Times have changed though, and I was concerned about the loss of open space,” said Carol-Ann De La Chapelle, the property owner. “The sale to the Conservancy became an attractive option.”

Many local people also recall that former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas would sometimes visit the ranch as a close friend of the family.

“Snow Mountain Ranch is steeped in history—it is a very special place,” Aylmer said. “Our plan is to invite the public to the property after we have made some repairs and addressed access issues.”

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.9 million acres of land in 46 states. In Washington, TPL has protected more than 48,000 acres. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve its land for people mission.

Posted 2/3/05