Joanna BastianBy Joanna Bastian

On a dark and cold evening last Thursday (Dec. 5), a handful of lower valley residents gathered at the Methow Community Club and met with the executive director of the Methow Conservancy, Jason Paulsen, and Associate Director Sarah Brooks. The Methow Conservancy held several focus groups throughout the Methow Valley last week, including the lower valley, to seek community input and spark discussion about valley residents’ view for the future of the area and how the Conservancy can support land owners.

To date, the Conservancy has protected nearly 8,000 acres and 2.4 miles of shoreline habitat along the Methow River and tributaries. Most recently, the Conservancy acquired its 100th conservation easement.

Conservation easements help families keep their farmland and protect the open space and scenic views that make the Methow Valley a unique place to live, work and visit. According to the Conservancy website,, a conservation easement “permanently protects specific conservation values like: wildlife habitat, scenic views and open space, riverfronts, forests, working farms and ranches.”

The Conservancy hosts community discussion groups every five or so years to set priorities for the next five to 10 years. Attendees to the Methow community forum suggested that they would like to see the Conservancy involved in county government and planning commission land use. A few mentioned that they had been asked by friends what a conservation easement entailed, but did not know enough to describe it.

As a result, it was suggested that the Conservancy host a workshop at the Methow Community Club at a later date to describe the conservation easement process and what the landowner would gain or lose. Some attendees discussed the need to preserve migration corridors and winter habitat for Methow Valley wildlife.

A conservation easement can be tailored for each person and their property. Depending on what the individual desires to protect, the easement can be used for preservation of wildlife habitat, scenic views of the landscape, or ensuring that the land will be used for agriculture in future generations.

The Stennes family, owners of Cascade Crest Organics, have been producing fruit in the valley since their grandfather, Britanus Stennes, arrived in 1894. Keith, his grandson, has secured several conservation easements to preserve the family’s orchards.

When asked why this was important to him, Keith responded by describing in detail the bend of the river and the scenic beauty of his family home: “I wanted to preserve the landscape,” he said.

Keith and his family have worked with the Methow Conservancy over the last few years to secure conservation easements. Of the relationship, Keith noted, “These are great people to work with.”

Keep your eyes open for additional Methow Conservancy workshops throughout the coming year. And if you have any questions or suggestions, the Conservancy wants to hear it. Visit the website or call 996‑2870

Speaking of preservation, come celebrate the long lasting preservation of Art and Grace Nordang’s marriage of six-and-a-half decades! Coffee and cake will be served at the Methow Community Club from
1-4 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 14). The Nordangs are celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary.