Wash. hopes to buy historic ranch for conservation

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BENTON COUNTY, Wash. (AP) -- Washington state officials are trying to find the money to buy a historic ranch that is being sold by the descendants of the man who settled it in 1903.

The McWhorter Ranch covers more than 20 square miles of arid shrub-steppe habitat in eastern Washington.

Jeff Tayer of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says the state is working with conservation groups to try to find enough money to buy the ranch for public use. But he says the ranch also neighbors the nation's fastest growing metropolitan area and a booming wine region.

Washington's Tri-Cities is the site of the Hanford nuclear reservation and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and it's a key grape-growing area for the state's booming wine industry.