(Update: Adding video, quotes from conservation director)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — The Deschutes Land Trust announced Wednesday the acquisition of Priday Ranch, its newest conservation project, on 4,500 acres north of Madras.
NewsChannel 21 spoke with Brad Nye, the conservation director of the Deschutes Land Trust, who said the property comes with significant cultural value.
“All these areas are part of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs ceded areas, so areas the tribes occupied prior to European settlement,” Nye said.
He said the ranch also has a rich family history. The Priday family’s settlement in the area can be traced back to 1881.
At one point, the family owned up to 65,000 acres, including the Priday family agate beds, now known as Richardson’s Rock Ranch.
Nye said the land trust secured a $3.5 million loan to purchase the property and will repay the bulk of that amount with agency and foundation grants that are in process.
He said the land trust acquired Priday Ranch because of its value in steelhead production. The land trust said Trout Creek provides up to 25% of the entire Deschutes River’s steelhead production.
“This ranch is a big part of Trout Creek’s production, and agency folks made us aware of that, so we pursued it,” Nye said.
He said they hope to provide opportunities for the public to see the property, but planning for public access could take some time.
“What we really try to accomplish is keeping large intact properties from being fragmented into smaller properties,” Nye said.
He said the land trust is raising funds to support day-to-day management and the types of activities on its other preserves, including trails, educational programs with schools and noxious weed control.
“As much as we want to get the public out there, we have to figure out ways to do that that are sensitive to the needs and concerns of our neighbors,” he added.
Nye said since Priday Ranch is a fire-prone area, one of the land trust’s priorities is also mitigating wildfire risk.
The land trust developed a partnership with the Ashwood-Antelope Rangeland Fire Protection Association to create a plan with water access points, as one of their first steps in wildfire management.
“It’s a tough fire year, a tough water year, and a tough year in a lot of ways,” Nye said. “So we’re just excited to get moving on it.”
The land trust's news release continues in full below:
Annan and Marla Priday worked with the Land Trust to conserve Priday Ranch.
“We chose to work with the land trust because their goals for the land were similar to ours," Annan Priday said. "The main ranch had been part of our family’s ranching operations for more than 100 years, and we wanted to keep it intact. We felt the Land Trust valued that history and would build on our efforts to help keep Trout Creek healthy for steelhead.”
The land trust is working with partners and neighbors to develop a management plan that will guide its long-term stewardship of the private property.
One management priority will be working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District to maintain and expand their long-term restoration efforts on Trout Creek.
Other immediate priorities include planning for wildfire risks and responses and slowing the spread of noxious weeds.
The land trust said it will also work with the Wasco and Jefferson county planning departments to bring local communities onto the property through its guided Walks + Hikes, educational activities with local schools, and other avenues.
Like many land trust projects, Priday Ranch is within the lands ceded to the United States by the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation in the 1855 Treaty with the Tribes of Middle Oregon, and the Land Trust will look to involve the Tribes in developing management strategies.
The land trust said its effort to conserve Priday Ranch is part of its larger goal of identifying, conserving and caring for the land Central Oregon will need over the next 25 years.
The land trust has conserved many amazing places in its first 25 years, but the next 25 years — with climate change and the continued pressure of regional population growth—will require new strategies and a forward-thinking organization to execute them.
Donate to the land trust today to conserve vital places like Priday Ranch for the future of Central Oregon!
The land trust would like to thank the Pelton Round Butte Mitigation Fund, the Pacific Northwest Resilient Landscapes Initiative and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board for their initial support in conserving Priday Ranch forever.
The Deschutes Land Trust is Central Oregon’s locally based, nationally accredited land trust. Celebrating 25 years of conserving and caring for land in Central Oregon, the Deschutes Land Trust has protected more than 17,523 acres for wildlife, scenic views and local communities.
For more information on the Deschutes Land Trust, contact us at (541) 330-0017 or visit www.deschuteslandtrust.org.