OLYMPIA – A public scoping meeting concerning livestock grazing on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) lands in Kittitas County is scheduled 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, July 15, in Ellensburg.
The public meeting will be held at the Kittitas Valley Event Center, Building #13, Manastash Room, 512 N. Poplar St.
The scoping process is the first step in WDFW’s effort to develop an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that addresses the potential effects of managed livestock grazing on the Quilomene and Whiskey Dick Wildlife Areas.
The department is developing the EIS consistent with provisions of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).
Starting July 15, information about the scoping process also will be available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hab/sepa/sepa.htm. Interested parties who cannot attend the Ellensburg meeting will be able to submit comments on scoping issues July 15 through Aug. 5 via e-mail (SEPAdesk@dfw.wa.gov) or by post, addressed to WDFW – SEPA desk, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.
A final 30-day public review of the specifics of a draft EIS will be scheduled later this year.
The wildlife areas lie about 15 miles east of Ellensburg and are part of the Wild Horse Coordinated Resource Management (CRM) plan. The CRM includes about 62,000 acres of private and public lands of which 55 percent (34,409 acres) are in WDFW ownership.
The CRM is a volunteer process that began in January 2006 to improve management of plant communities across the state. A goal of the plan is to utilize properly managed and sustainable livestock grazing to wildlife and livestock use and improve the condition of upland and riparian areas.
Jeff Tayer, WDFW southcentral regional director, said the CRM process can be used to reduce grazing intensity and increase recovery of grazed areas, because it spreads grazing across a large landscape with multiple ownership.
Tayer noted that WDFW recently withdrew its environmental review on proposed grazing on a portion of the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area after acquiring additional lands within the CRM.
“The scoping period and the whole EIS process for this new effort will examine grazing options on our holdings within the entire CRM,” Tayer said.
Although grazing on wildlife lands has been controversial, Tayer noted that controlled grazing meets ecosystem standards consistent with recovery needs for state threatened sage grouse. WDFW’s Sage Grouse Recovery Plan calls for acquisition of key sage grouse habitat and cooperative management of grazing with other landowners through the CRM process.
“Working with private landowners is essential to maintaining shrub-steppe lands for fish and wildlife that could otherwise be lost to development,” Tayer said. “We’ve already lost two-thirds of Washington’s native shrub-steppe.”