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Ranch purchase in north central WA preserves wildlife corridor

Ellen Morris Bishop/Courtesy Western Rivers Conservancy

The state and Colville Confederated Tribes buy land between the Kettle and Cascade mountains that's important for animal species.

A conservation group has helped broker the purchase of a ranch on Washington’s Okanagan River to allow it to be preserved for cultural and environmental purposes.

The 700-acre McLoughlin Falls ranch, south of Tonasket, sits on a rocky canyon with glacier-carved cliffs and ponderosa pines.

Its owners had plans to subdivide it into 54 parcels and sell the property to developers. But through efforts of the Western Rivers Conservancy, the Colville Confederated Tribes, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the land was purchased and will now be split between two entities.

The conservancy's vice president, Nelson Mathews, says the land has value to animals, like Canadian lynx.

“It's important from a wildlife standpoint because it's right in the middle of a migration corridor between the Kettle Mountains and the Cascades. That animals use it to move and forth between those two mountain ranges," Mathews said.

In a unique deal, Mathews says the land will be divided between the Colville Confederated Tribes and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“The goal of the tribes is to return ancestral lands, and the Department of Wildlife has to go through a planning process but their intention is to provide trail access to the property and more access to the Okanagan River there," he said.

Mathews says the tribe already owns adjacent property and this will connect that land to the river. Boaters will also be able to stop and picnic near the property's namesake falls on the Fish and Wildlife portion of the site.