The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is developing a new management plan for the Scotch Creek Wildlife Area and the nearby Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in north central Washington.
The plan, called the Okanogan Valley Wildlife Area Complex plan, will provide management direction for nearly 48,000 acres in the region.
The Scotch Creek Wildlife Area encompasses 23,980 acres in central Okanogan County. It was established in 1991 as a site to support recovery of the region's sharp-tailed grouse population.
The new management plan will address the status of wildlife species and their habitat, ongoing restoration efforts and public recreation opportunities at both Scotch Creek and Sinlahekin wildlife areas.
Scotch Creek includes seven different management units:
Scotch Creekis the largest continuous unit in the wildlife area with 8,694 acres. Shrub steppe dominates the landscape, along with some conifer forest and riparian habitat. Eighty acres remain in cultivation but most of the 1,500 acres of old dryland agricultural fields have been restored to native shrub steppe habitat, providing diversity and nesting cover for sharp-tailed grouse. More than 100,000 trees and shrubs have also been planted in wet draws, north slopes, and irrigated areas to provide critical winter habitat for sharp-tailed grouse.
- Chesaw is a 4,351-acre unit in northwest Okanogan County, four miles south of the Canadian border. The major habitat type is shrub steppe, with patches of conifers at higher elevations. There are several lakes and man-made ponds as well as Mary Ann Creek. Chesaw has one sharp-tailed grouse lek site. It also supports mule and white-tailed deer, various upland game birds, bald and golden eagles, peregrine and prairie falcons, northern goshawks, Lewis woodpeckers, and loggerhead shrikes.
- Pogue Mountain consists of 1,196 acres northwest of Omak. The mountainous property is predominately shrub steppe and scattered conifers, with tall stands of mature big sagebrush along the lower elevations. The unit is managed as mule deer winter range. However, there are historical accounts of sharp-tailed grouse use on the lower elevations. Public access is difficult but there are camping, hunting and fishing opportunities available at this unit.
- Tunk Valley unit's 1,399 acres are mostly north-facing and have a gentle topography. It includes about two miles of Tunk Creek and its riparian trees and shrubs as well as several springs and one man-made pond. Most of the habitat is shrub steppe, with a small stand of timber near the center of the property. Sharp-tailed grouse have been observed along Tunk Creek. The area also supports mule and white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, California quail, hawks, owls, and many species of songbirds. Tunk Creek has rainbow and brook trout.
- Similkameen – Chopaka encompasses 1,139 acres west of Oroville along the Chopka road. The Similkameen River forms the eastern boundary and is lined with cottonwoods, aspen and alder. Stands of conifers in this area include ponderosa pine, and Douglas fir. The wildlife unit is known for trophy white-tailed buck deer. Other big game animals include bighorn sheep and mountain goats on the slopes of Chopaka Mountain, black bear and cougar. Upland birds include ring-necked pheasant, chukar and mourning dove. Each spring, the ponds and oxbows are filled with Canada geese, dabblers and diving ducks of all kinds and trumpeter swans.
- Charles and Mary Eder unit consists of 5,739 acres east of the town of Oroville and Osoyoos Lake. The previous owner has lifetime agreement with the department to farm 748 acres at the center of the unit. The unit's lands are predominately shrub-steppe habitat, with riparian habitat along Nine-mile and Tonasket creeks. The low elevation, 1,200 to 2,800 feet, and relatively mild winters attract large numbers of migratory deer, raptors and other wildlife.
- Ellemeham consists of 1,462 acres on Ellemeham Mountain. The unit is predominately sagebrush-steppe with some aspen. There is some scattered ponderosa pine in the southwestern portion of the area that is associated with small ponds and intermittent streams. The north slope of Ellemeham is excellent quality bunch grass/forb community with bluebunch wheatgrass. The unit is known for good mule deer hunting.