OLYMPIA—The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will conduct a review under the state Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) on a proposal to allow limited livestock grazing on an 8,200-acre portion of the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area, 15 miles east of Ellensburg.
Public comment on the proposed permit will be collected for two weeks as part of the SEPA review. The review period commences April 23, and details will be posted on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hab/sepa/sepa.htm.
The proposed Whiskey Dick grazing permit is consistent with the Wild Horse Coordinated Resource Management Plan (CRM), said Jeff Tayer, WDFW regional director for south-central Washington. The Wild Horse CRM plan is a volunteer effort that coordinates land management activities involving 62,000 acres and five landowners in eastern Kittitas County. Under the Ecosystems Standards Act, adopted by the 1993 Legislature, development of such CRM plans are encouraged where multiple ownerships and practices are involved.
The Wild Horse CRM plan, which addresses a variety of land management issues, has been under development for over a year by public agencies including WDFW, the state Department of Natural Resources and the federal Bureau of Land Management; ranchers; recreation enthusiasts; and environmental groups.
Tayer said a CRM plan is especially helpful due to the “checkerboard” of land ownership in the area.
“The goal of the Wildlife Coordinated Resource Management Plan— agreed to by all landowners and the many stakeholders who participated in developing the plan— is to achieve healthy ecosystems and abundant wildlife,” Tayer said.
“The complexity of ownership and management issues in the area requires a coordinated approach to achieve our mutual stewardship goals. The grazing plan is a small part of an integrated effort to work with landowners and stakeholders on issues including crop damage by elk, wind power development, public land acquisition, access management and disturbance of wildlife on their winter range.”
Meanwhile, the proposed grazing permit also has been submitted to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for review and comment. Comments collected in the SEPA process will be provided to the commission. Commission members are scheduled to tour the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area tomorrow morning, as part of the commission’s April 6-7 public meeting in Ellensburg. The complete commission meeting agenda is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/com/apr0707.htm
“The proposed Whiskey Dick grazing permit is a far cry from old-style grazing practices,” said Mark Quinn, WDFW lands manager. “This plan includes objectives to benefit wildlife, safeguards to ensure that the habitat is not degraded, and a vigorous monitoring program to be sure those requirements are met,” said Quinn.
The proposed Whiskey Dick grazing permit is specifically intended to improve forage quality for elk, said Quinn. Carefully managed grazing can help control undesirable plants and remove standing plant litter from emerging wildlife forage plants, he added.
Under the proposed permit, WDFW’s Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area manager would set specific time periods when livestock would be allowed on the lands, and would monitor the grazing area regularly, taking photos and measuring the degree of forage use to ensure there is no harm to wildlife species or habitats.
The proposed grazing permit also outlines measures to prevent damage to native shrub-steppe habitat and riparian areas. Details of the proposed grazing permit are available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/wildlife_areas/whiskey_dick/grazing_plan_2007.pdf.