Cavness Ranch Preserve

Area: 613 acres

Location: Washington

Date Acquired: March 2019

Acquisition Type: CNLM holds a conservation easement as well as a long-term agreement to protect the imperiled species and their habitats on the preserve. The preserve is owned by third party.

Key Habitats: North Pacific Douglas-fir Forest and Woodland, North Pacific Oak Woodland, Puget Sound Upland Prairie and Savannah, North Pacific Riparian

Species of Special Interest to CNLM: Golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta), western bluebird (Sialia mexicana)


The Cavness Ranch Preserve was protected with a conservation easement in March of 2005, with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) acting as the grantee, to protect the conservation values of the property and prevent subdivision and development.  TNC deeded the conservation easement over to the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) in March of 2019.

Conservation Significance

The property has a diversity of vegetation types. The northern boundary of the property is formed partially by Scatter Creek, along with its associated riparian area. A 50-acre Oregon white oak forest also extends along the north of the property.  This oak forest is one of the most expansive in the county. The extreme southwest of the property consists of a mature 70-acre Douglas-fir forest, with trees 60 to 80 years of age.  Adjacent to this forest is an extensive wetland area, approximately 20 acres in size; the wetland is the headwaters of drainage to the Skookumchuck River.  Large portions of the property consist of mixed forest and have been selectively logged within the last decade. All logged areas have been replanted with both Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana).  The mixed forests are predominately combinations of Douglas-fir, big leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), red alder (Alnus rubra), and western redcedar (Thuja plicata), in addition to a variety of understory shrubs and plants.  Also of importance is the soil formation on the property.  All of the area currently being restored to native prairie (approximately 160 acres) consists of prairie soils (Spanaway gravelly sandy loam).  This gravelly outwash soil, created by the retreat of the Vashon glacier approximately 11,000 years ago, forms the foundation for prairie habitat.  Historically, these soils on the Cavness Ranch formed the westernmost extent of Frost Prairie.  Federal- and state-threatened Yelm pocket gophers (Thomomys mazama yelmenis) have been identified on Frost Prairie, and reintroduction to the Cavness Ranch may be pursued in the future.

Our Work

The total acreage of the Cavness Ranch is approximately 664 acres, but the conservation easement is approximately 613 acres. The other 51 acres consist of an approximately 40-acre forested parcel in the southeast portion of the ranch and an 11-acre “Active Use Area: around the historic sandstone farmhouse and barnyard. There are also two leases on portions of the conservation easement – a 56-acre Christmas tree farm and a 62.5-acre cattle grazing lease.

Habitat restoration of the degraded Christmas tree production fields to high quality native prairie with a robust population of golden paintbrush is the first management priority at the Cavness Ranch. Currently, 102.5 acres are in the process of prairie conversion, while 56 acres are still in Christmas tree production and another 62.5 acres are being grazed.

Secondary Preserve priorities include maintaining and enhancing the 50-acre Oregon white oak woodland, targeted rare species enhancements, managing grazing practices to enhance conservation values, wet prairie restoration along Scatter Creek on the north and the unnamed Skookumchuck tributary running through the Ranch, and listed species introductions if and as appropriate.

Sanders Freed, Pacific Northwest Preserve and Restoration Manager, South Puget Sound, manages the restoration projects on Cavness Ranch. Sanders participated in a video with USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife (Partners Program) to describe our partnership towards prairie restoration in the South Puget Sound. The Partners Program has been supporting CNLM’s restoration work at Cavness Ranch for several years. We are working together towards achieving robust populations of all the listed species on the Ranch–with such efforts providing much progress towards recovery and down-/de-listing of those species in the South Sound. Click HERE for a great video about the restoration effort and our partnership.

Public Access

Due to the vulnerability of the species and habitats that exist on this Preserve, it is not open to the public.


For more information on Violet Prairie-Scatter Creek Preserve or Center for Natural Lands Management please contact Sanders Freed, Pacific Northwest Preserve/Restoration Manager at or 760.731.7790 extension 304.