OLYMPIA – After collecting and considering public comments earlier this year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today released the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for managing livestock grazing on wildlife lands in Kittitas County.
The FEIS evaluated the potential impacts of livestock grazing under various alternatives on WDFW’s Quilomene and Whiskey Dick wildlife areas, which lie about 10 miles east of Ellensburg.
The preferred alternative identified in the FEIS would allow controlled grazing for five years on 51,104 acres in those areas.
That option reflects the goals of the Greater Wild Horse Coordinated Resource Management Plan (CRM), developed in 2006 through a collaborative process of state, federal and local partners to ensure healthy wildlife and plant communities across numerous public and private lands.
Jennifer Quan, WDFW lands program manager, said the preferred alternative is consistent with WDFW polices and will help establish partnerships with local landowners to achieve conservation goals throughout the region.
“To best control livestock grazing effects, any grazing will include range improvement projects, forage use standards, pasture rotation and adaptive management practices,” she said.
Unlike previous drafts, the plan will not allow grazing on the Upper Skookumchuck and Skookumchuck pastures or WDFW’s parcel within the Wild Horse Crossing pasture, Quan said. “This will help protect critical fish habitat in Skookumchuck Creek and cultural resources along the Columbia River,” she said.
The FEIS is available on the WDFW State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hab/sepa/sepa.htm. Three alternatives with varying amounts of grazing were analyzed, including one that would eliminate all grazing on WDFW lands in the affected area.
Before the preferred alternative can be implemented, WDFW must draft a permit and develop a grazing plan that meets the approval of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, which sets policy for WDFW.
In addition, Quan said grazing on pastures will be dependent on securing funding to provide adequate monitoring along with mitigation measures such as fencing, water developments and cultural resource protection.
“Working in partnership with private landowners is essential to maintaining shrub-steppe lands for fish and wildlife,” Quan said. “That’s our approach in this proposal and the goal established under the CRM process.”
WDFW is a party to the statewide, multi-agency CRM plan developed in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, Puget Sound Energy, Kittitas County livestock operators, and other groups and individuals.