RIVERSIDE – The Colville Confederated Tribes have acquired a Tunk Valley ranch with the financial help of Seattle-based Conservation Northwest.
Conservation Northwest closed on the 9,243-acre property Oct. 7, said an announcement from the group. Funds from private donors allowed purchase of the property; the deed was transferred directly to the tribe.
Appraised value of the property was $500 per acre, so the total cost was more than $4.62 million.
The property was sold by Figlenski Ranches LLC and is the heart of a family cattle operation that dates to 1904. It also is part of the original Colville reservation that stretched to the Canadian border until Congress shrank it in 1892 by removing the 1.5 million acres now known as the North Half.
“We’re especially grateful to the Figlenski family for their commitment to preserving this property intact for future generations of people and wildlife to enjoy,” said Chase Gunnell, spokesman for Conservation Northwest.
The ranch is the linchpin property in the east-west habitat corridor linking the Cascade Mountains to the Kettle River Range and the Rockies beyond for carnivores like lynx and wolverines, said the group.
“The importance of the protection of wildlife corridors from the Cascades to the Rockies cannot be forgotten and we as a tribe are honored to be a part of this important work of wildlife protection,” said Andy Joseph Jr., chairman of the Colville Business Council.
“Helping the tribes re-acquire this property for conservation and culture was essential to the future for iconic wildlife from the Cascades to the Rockies,” said Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest. “On this vital ground we bring together landscape conservation and environmental justice.”
The acquisition is part of a long-running public-private coalition effort to protect the corridor called the Working for Wildlife Initiative funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The property also is vital to the north-south corridor linking the sage lands of the Columbia Basin to British Columbia’s arid grasslands for shrub steppe species such as sharp-tailed grouse and badgers.
The deed has an associated covenant approved by the Colville Business Council in February. The stewardship vision and conservation objectives of the tribes for the property are laid out in the covenant.
“On behalf of the Colville tribes, I am excited to have 9,243 acres of the homelands of the Okanogan people returned to the tribes’ ownership,” said Joseph. “Our tribal members have close ties to their homelands through familial experience, knowledge of the history and of gathering areas, and stories learned from their elders.
“Having added the land to our sovereign control and with improved access, our members will now create new shared experiences and a growing sense of the land while creating memories,” he continued. “We are grateful to the Figlenski family and Conservation Northwest in making this possible.”
“This may be the most rewarding and meaningful action that I’ve been involved in,” said Friedman. “We served as a conduit for so many people — including our donors and the Figlenski family, to help restore ownership of this land to its historic stewards. We are making a statement here that injustices can be redressed.”
Some of the donors were in the $250,000 to $1 million range, said Conservation Northwest.