Spokane - A new Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) acquisition on the southwest end of Sprague Lake will be dedicated as a "watchable wildlife" site Oct. 2 in a public ceremony and walking tour.
The acquisition, finalized earlier this year by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, is the next advancement in WDFW plans for public use and protection of important fish and wildlife habitat in the Sprague Lake area.
WDFW efforts began in 1998 with the purchase of 40 acres of water access from the Hercules Ranch on the southwest end of the lake. This year the adjacent 636 acres of wetlands and 39 acres of lakeshore buffer were purchased from the Hercules Ranch, and an arrangement was made for a conservation easement on 252 acres of adjacent uplands, all through a Washington Department of Natural Resources Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account (ALEA) grant.
"This lakeshore acreage provides habitat for a diverse and intense concentration of birds and other wildlife, including endangered white pelicans and protected bald eagles," said WDFW northcentral regional director Dennis Beich. "The public access also provides people with a way to view these spectacular animals, and it provides the local community with an opportunity to draw the non-fishing and non-hunting public and their business."
As noted during Washington's first wildlife viewing tourism workshop earlier this month, about 2.5 million wildlife watchers spend almost $1 billion a year on "watchable wildlife" trip-related expenses such as fuel, food, and lodging across the state. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey, that is the seventh highest wildlife-viewing rate of spending in the nation.
The Oct. 2 Sprague Lake dedication ceremony begins at 10 a.m. near the WDFW water access site on the southwest end of the lake. From Interstate 90 westbound, take the Sprague exit and then travel about six miles west out of Sprague on the Max Harder Road; from I-90 eastbound, take the Tokio exit and follow Danekas Road about six miles.
The event will include the unveiling of a "watchable wildlife" interpretive kiosk, explanation of future plans for trails and boardwalks, acknowledgements of project partners and a short walking tour for close-up views of Sprague Lake waterfowl and other wildlife.