Van Wyk Ranch

Essential habitat; an incomparable setting

Photo by JL Cummins
An oak forest on shrub steppe by the Van Wyk Ranch

August 2019 | Together with our partners, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Forterra has secured the Van Wyk Ranch. At nearly 4,500 acres, Van Wyk Ranch occupies more than seven square miles. Its expanse of flatlands, gently rolling hills and steep slopes spreads into a fragile landscape of shrub-steppe.

Historically one-third of Washington’s land mass, most of our shrub-steppe has now been lost to development. And new threats loom: the extreme weather and wildfire climate change brings will be especially acute for shrub-steppe that’s broken up or not well cared for.

Amid the sagebrush, riotous wildflowers, aspen trees, and ponderosa pines — some 300 years old — an astonishing array of creatures find a home or a migration corridor on the Van Wyk property, including seventy species of butterfly. Still more species thrive in famed Cowiche Creek, which gains volume and power as it wends its way for miles through the ranch.

Want to learn about the beauty and history of the area? Click here.

A thrilling menagerie of wild creatures

Huge numbers of elk spend their winters on or near the 4,500 acres of the Van Wyk Ranch. Their longtime champion is the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a key partner in Forterra’s effort to save the property.

The ranch also provides habitat for bighorn sheep, mule deer, wolves, bear, cougars, astonishing butterflies, and a bevy of beautiful birds, including spotted owls and eagles (both golden and bald).

Growth pressure in the area has heightened the urgency of protecting this habitat, as more and more neighboring land is converted to residential development.


Intensive development in Yakima and Ellensburg has heightened the urgency of protecting this habitat.


Photo by Carrie Hawthorne

Cowiche Creek

A tributary of the Naches River, the south fork of Cowiche Creek winds gracefully through six miles of the Van Wyk property. Thanks to long-running efforts at riparian restoration, it is home to spring Chinook and cutthroat and rainbow trout. Additionally, the creek provides an important migration channel for wild steelhead and Coho salmon, which are being reintroduced by the Yakama Nation.

Photo by Carrie Hawthorne

Forterra Steps Up

As part of our mission to secure places that are keystones of a sustainable future in Washington, Forterra has joined with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to purchase the Van Wyk Ranch. Doing so will protect the land from development and open the way for restoration and stewardship that will provide healthier and more resilient habitat.

Through an innovative Stewardship Easement, Forterra is committing to work with WDFW as a long-term steward of the land, ensuring it receives needed care for years to come.

To help cover the transaction costs of the purchase, and to initiate this stewardship effort, we must raise $300,000.

Please help us raise $300,000 to safeguard this keystone property