Preserving the Forests and Rivers of the Upper Yakima River Basin

Mission & History

MISSION

The mission of the Kittitas Conservation Trust (KCT) is to protect and enhance critical fish and wildlife habitat in the upper Yakima River basin.

HISTORY

In the late 1990s, Plum Creek Timber Company sold over 6,000 acres of land surrounding the lower Cle Elum River to a private developer called Trendwest Investments. Concerned about the potential impacts to salmon, elk, and other wildlife, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Yakama Nation sat down with the developer to find a way forward that allowed for growth while protecting habitat. In the end, the three entities developed a cooperative agreement that preserved over 3,000 acres of riverine and upland habitat within the resort. 

The three entities created Kittitas Conservation Trust (KCT), a non-profit land trust, to hold the easements for these lands. To this day we steward over 1,200 acres of land surrounding the Cle Elum River, which flows through the heart of the Suncadia resort. In addition, we work with Suncadia to manage 2,200 acres of conserved natural and managed open spaces within the resort. The founding stakeholders created KCT with the vision of becoming a community-based land, water, and habitat land trust. Our board envisioned KCT working with public and private partners and landowners through the upper Yakima Basin to create benefits for fish, wildlife, plants, and people.

Purpose of Kittitas Conservation Trust

Implement the terms of the Cooperative Agreement between Yakama Nation, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Suncadia to further a policy of no net loss of fish and wildlife habitat. These terms include:

– Acquiring and owning conservation easements and real property interests to protect fish and wildlife habitat, open space and scenic views
– Protecting and enhancing natural resource assets for the benefit of the public
– Acquiring water rights to provide instream flows in the upper Yakima River and its tributaries
– Managing Trust property interests using land stewardship plans and Land Trust Alliance standards and practices
– Securing public and private fiscal support to achieve natural resource conservation goals

Board of Trustees

The Trust’s By-Laws specify that the governing board be comprised of three Trustees, each appointed by an original signatory of the Cooperative Agreement.

Jeff Tayer
Jeff TayerBoard President
Representing Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife
Former WDFW Region 3 Director
Yakima, WA
David Blodgett III
David Blodgett IIIBoard Vice President/Secretary
Representing the Yakama Nation
Technical Coordinator
Yakama Nation Fisheries

Toppenish, WA
Tucker Stevens
Tucker StevensBoard Treasurer
Representing Suncadia LLC
Chief Development Officer for Suncadia Real Estate
Cle Elum, WA

Staff

mitch long

Mitch Long
Executive Director

mlong@kittitasconservationtrust.org

Mitch Long joined KCT in August of 2012. He holds a Masters of Public Administration Degree from the University of Washington. He worked for two tours with the Washington Conservation Corps. As an Assistant Crew Supervisor he worked on a variety of conservation projects throughout the state of Washington. Additionally, Mitch worked for the US Forest Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service as a wildland firefighter for 6 years. After firefighting, he worked with the City of Roslyn in Public Works for 5 years. As a city worker, he specialized in project management of capital projects and managing Roslyn’s 300+ acre community forest. Mitch served on the Roslyn City Council (2013-2017) and continues to work with the small community he lives in. When he’s not focused on ecosystem rehabilitation and protection, Mitch enjoys fishing, mountain biking, camping, playing the banjo, hiking, and traveling with his family and friends.

mitch long

Mel Babik
Restoration Director

mbabik@kittitasconservationtrust.org

Mel Babik joined KCT in June 2023. She holds a Master of Science degree from Central Washington University as well as a Master in Elementary Education from Western Governor’s University. Mel has an extensive history in the Yakima Basin. She served as a board member for Kittitas Environmental Education Network, worked as an Environmental Education Specialist for the Forest Service, taught 5th and 8th grades, was a Project Manager for Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, and served as a Biologist for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Mel has gained valuable experience enhancing headwater streams, leading restoration efforts post wildfire, managing forest health projects, and engaging communities in restoration. She led local beaver reintroduction efforts from 2011-2015 and sat on the statewide Beaver Working Group that developed a program to support Certified Beaver Relocators. Mel is so grateful to the partners and community members in the Yakima Basin that have supported her restoration and outreach efforts. When not focused on habitat restoration, Mel enjoys camping, hiking, rock climbing, and playing in the water with her husband, son, and buddies.

mitch long

Mark Young
Project Manager

myoung@kittitasconservationtrust.org

Mark joined KCT in June of 2023. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Bachelor of Science in Biology, both from Central Washington University. Mark has been a resident of Ellensburg for 19 years, and an employee of CWU for most of that time. For the ten years prior to joining KCT, Mark worked for the Department of Biological Sciences at CWU as a technician. He enjoys camping and being outdoors, playing bass trombone in the Ellensburg Big Band, and spending time with his partner and their three daughters.

Kittitas Conservation Trust Vision

We envision an upper Yakima River Basin community with dynamic ecosystems that sustain diverse habitats shared by all creatures.

Our Values

Conservation of natural open space
Restoration of critical habitats using natural physical processes
Preservation of ecosystems that support biodiversity
Stewardship of land and water assets to benefit the Yakima River Basin community
Education as a tool to connect people to nature
Partnerships that work synergistically for conservation outcomes

Accomplishments

For almost 20 years Kittitas Conservation Trust has worked to protect the important lands and habitat of the upper Yakima River Basin. KCT is the steward of over 3,500 acres in Kittitas County. We maintain and enhance the conservation values of our acquisition lands. We also provide recreational and educational access to the public when appropriate.  In addition, we have protected over 4,000 acres through easement agreements and acquisitions. We hold some of these easements, but not all. In many instances, we created connections between landowners and agencies that resulted in an easement agreement.

Since 2002, KCT has completed 12 river restoration projects in the upper Yakima River Basin. Projects range from river, floodplain, riparian, wetland, and upland ecosystems. The result? Enhanced habitat for a wide diversity of fish, wildlife, plants and people. This work is critical for endangered native salmon and bull trout in addition to other wildlife dependent on these important areas. We work in places like the Cle Elum River, Yakima River, Kachess River, Gold Creek, Coleman Creek, Currier Creek, Nelson Creek, Swauk Creek, and so many others. You can learn more about these and other projects at our project page.

Partners

Our partners are part of what enable our success in conservation and restoration. Below are some of the organizations helping us get meaningful work done on the ground.

Support Conservation in the Upper Yakima River Basin

Become a steward of these important lands! With your help we can continue to protect the unique habitat and wildlife that make this place special to you!