Cowiche Canyon Conservancy, Yakima, WA

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Protecting our shrub-steppe and
connecting people to this vanishing landscape

About Us

The mission of the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy is to:  Protect our shrub-steppe, and connect people to this vanishing landscape.

Members of the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy are people who appreciate the rugged beauty of our area and believe deeply in the value of conserving our precious areas for future generations.  The organization has a Board of Directors and an Executive Director who believe that an active, experienced land trust organization is an indicator of a great community.  Cowiche Canyon Conservancy does much more than just conserve our most important places—we also manage a significant back-country trail network open 365 days a year, and have a very strong education mission.

Rare plant in soil crust
Rare plant in soil crust
We designed a program to integrate our conservation, recreation and education work that we’ve named “Experience Shrub Steppe”: Our focus is the shrub-steppe habitat, AND IT’S MORE THAN JUST SAGEBRUSH!  The shrub-steppe is a beautiful tapestry of grasslands, aromatic shrubs, dazzling flowering plants in all shapes, sizes and colors.  The mysterious cryptobiotic crust (literally “hidden life”) knits the above-ground life with the below-ground life at the delicate soil surface in a symbiotic realm of mosses, fungi, lichens, bacteria, and microscopic creatures.  The shrub-steppe habitat also includes a rich diversity of wildlife, streams, springs, deep wooded draws, towering sculpted cliffs, and creeps upslope into the eastern margins of the dry forests of the Cascades. 

A non-profit organization, CCC is particularly dedicated to preserving and restoring the essential features of shrub-steppe and riparian terrain within the Cowiche Creek and Naches River watershed areas in the Yakima Valley region of Washington State.  We own 2,000 acres, and have a conservation easement on another three thousand acres of canyon lands and streams, sunny slopes, and ridgelines where the views never fail to inspire.

Lands preserved by Cowiche Canyon Conservancy are a key component of a trail network that we are working to expand. We currently own or help manage around 30 miles of unpaved trails that serve a mix of activities including hiking, cross country skiing, mountain biking, snowshoeing and horseback riding.  Join with us as we develop new trails through our ”Wine Country to Wild Country”, “Butterfly Safari” and South Rim Trail projects.

Annual Report

Curious about our finances that you can review in an easy-to-read short story format? check out our Annual Report here.

Board of Directors

Cal Blethen, President
Talia Ibarguen
Nate Gilbert, Vice President Lisbeth Kaplan
Betsy Nagle-McNaughton, Secretary Amy Matthews
Karen Lervold, Treasurer Colleda Monick
Ted Gamlem, Past President Mike Preacher

Leigh Anderson

Matt Tweedy
Bill Bosch Vicki WangMiller
Tim Franks Tom Zeilman
Nate Fulton  



Celisa Hopkins, Executive Director

Celisa Hopkins, Development Director

Celisa Hopkins joined the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy team in 2014 as the Development Director. In addition to her duties as Executive Director, Celisa works on fundraising, communications, marketing and our education programs. She graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Political Science and Geography and has 20 years of experience in non-profit program management and administration.

Celisa grew up in Yakima and loves the unique beauty of the shrub-steppe.

When Celisa isn't working, she enjoys being outside with her 3 children, teaching and practicing yoga, and adventuring.


Elizabeth (Betsy) Bloomfield - Conservation DirectorBetsy Bloomfield

Before joining CCC in 2009, Betsy was the Eastern Washington Forests Program Director for the Nature Conservancy.  Betsy holds a Master of Science degree in Natural Resource Management from Central Washington University. She says, "I’ve worked at the state and national levels in the service of collaborative conservation throughout my career, but I’ve never been more inspired, challenged or rewarded as I am working for this small, but critically important local land trust.  I have grown to know and love so many people who give so much of themselves in caring for this precious corner of the planet.  I have lived in Yakima since 2000 and in the region since 1992. Not being a native, I am constantly surprised and delighted by what our community has to offer, and the incredible value and beauty the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy brings to our community's quality of life." Betsy served as the Executive Director from 2009 - 2017.


Cindy Dunbar, Customer Service and AdministrationCindy Dunbar, Customer Service and Administration

Cindy grew up in the Yakima Valley, graduating from Naches High School.  “I worked in the dental and medical fields for over 35 years before deciding to slow down and enjoy like at a different pace.  My 6 grandkids helped me come to that conclusion.”
Cindy's passion for the outdoors started at an early age.  "I was lucky –then- to spend my early years living at the base of Cowiche Canyon, running up and down the hills, along the railroad tracks and swimming in the creek.  I am lucky –now- to be working for Cowiche Canyon Conservancy, which is protecting all that I grew up loving.  Life is good!"



Ted Clausing, Lands Stewardship




Ted recently retired from over thirty years as a biologist and manager at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. His many skills are being put to great use in the field as we grow our lands base and recreational opportunities.


Photo Credits

Thank you to David Hagen for the use of his photography for our banner pictures.


Photograph by David Hagen

Cowiche Canyon Conservancy
P.O. Box 877
Yakima, Washington 98907
Tel. (509) 248-5065
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