600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091
August 29, 2014
Contact: Mike Livingston, WDFW, (509) 457-9325
Mark Holyoak, RMEF, (406) 523-3481
Betsy Bloomfield, CCC, (509) 969-1110
Derek Sandison, DOE, (509) 457-7120
WDFW, partners protect key wildlife habitat near Yakima
YAKIMA - The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has partnered with Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), Cowiche Canyon Conservancy (CCC), and Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) to secure 2,893 acres of critical wildlife habitat 15 miles northwest of Yakima.
"Conservation of key fish and wildlife habitat and securing public access are top priorities for the Department and working with our partners is essential to achieving those goals," said Mike Livingston, WDFW south central regional director.
The two land parcels serve as habitat to a variety of wildlife and as an important connection between summer and winter range for the Yakima elk herd and have been used historically for grazing. The properties will be managed as part of WDFW's Oak Creek Wildlife Area.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation negotiated the deal with the landowner and paid for half of the cost of the land appraisal.
"We need to recognize and thank the private owners, the Tieton Cattle Association, which kept the native grasses and forbs in great condition while grazing their cattle on this same land during the summer," said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of lands and conservation.
The Cowiche Canyon Conservancy paid the other half of the appraisal and will manage the grazing on the property through a grazing easement.
"It's not often you get to protect nearly 3,000 acres of habitat and also protect a sustainable historic grazing operation that produces locally sourced grass-fed beef, " says Betsy Bloomfield, executive director of the conservancy. "The combination of habitat and recreation protection with a cultural legacy makes this a wonderful project, secured by the collaboration among great partners."
The cost of the acquisition was $1.55 million. DOE and the Kennewick Irrigation District provided the funding to acquire the land to mitigate for the loss of shrub-steppe habitat that was converted to agricultural land. Funds also came from the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan through DOE.
"It's gratifying that the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan partners are so focused on implementing the Plan and are bringing outside resources to achieve our goals," said Derek Sandison, DOE's director of the Office of Columbia River. "This project is a great example of implementing what we said we would do in the plan and working closely with community values and partners regarding how the plan is implemented."