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Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Management Plan

Category: Habitat - Wildlife Area Management

Date Published: November 2006

Number of Pages: 140

Author(s): Greg Fitzgerald


In 1952 (and several subsequent supplements) a Memorandum of Understanding was finalized with the Washington Department of Game (WDOG), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) that turned over fish, wildlife and recreational management of much of the USBR lands to the WDOG. The original, 50-year MOU expired and in 2002 a new, 25-year agreement was finalized.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) manages approximately 192,000 acres as the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area (CBWA). The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation owns approximately 71% of the land within the CBWA, WDFW owns approximately 20% and the remaining land is owned by other state and federal agencies. Lands acquired by WDFW were primarily complementary to USBR lands already under WDFW management, with the exception of Lower Crab Creek. As mitigation for habitat inundation after the construction of Wanapum and Priest Rapids Dams, lands along Crab Creek and the Priest Rapids pool were purchased with funds provided by the Grant County Public Utility District (Grant PUD). Adjacent USF&WS, Washington Department of Natural Resource (WDNR), and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) lands were added to form the Lower Crab Creek Unit.

  • Primary management concerns and public issues identified in the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Management Plan are:
  • Balancing recreational activities against wildlife and habitat impacts
  • Manage primarily for migrant waterfowl, upland game birds and priority species.
  • Control noxious weeds and other undesirable vegetation.
  • Maintain enhanced wildlife habitats and preserve native plant communities and important habitats.
  • Restore and preserve shallow water habitat and ponds.

Litter, vandalism and enforcement.
Because the CBWA is located primarily within agricultural lands in Grant and Adams Counties, weed control is a major concern. CBWA lands lie within the jurisdiction of eight different Weed Boards or Weed Districts. Integrated pest management strategies, including mechanical, cultural, biological and chemical controls, are used to accomplish weed and other undesirable vegetation control goals. In 2006, CBWA staff used mowing, tillage, and establishing desirable vegetation for weed control on upland and wetland sites. CBWA staff applied herbicides to 1,922 acres of noxious weeds and invasive plants such as Russian olives and common reed (Phragmites). Seven different species of insects were released throughout the CBWA to aid in the control of noxious weeds such as diffuse knapweed and purple loosestrife. A larger effort is expected for 2007, with increased Phragmites control.

WDFW implemented Northern Leopard Frog management activities that included control of undesirable fish and vegetation from ponds within the Potholes Reservoir Unit. Fish and vegetation control will continue in 2007.

CBWA staff maintained irrigated cover plots and supplied supplemental feed on several of the CBWA units to aid in winter survival of upland game birds.

WDFW excavated ponds in the Desert Unit, performed moist soil management activities and operated water control structures in the Desert and Gloyd Seeps Units to provide shallow ponds attractive to migrant waterfowl. The Frenchman Ponds project is expected to be completed in 2007, management and operations will expand to include this Quality Hunting Area, considerable amounts of staff time and effort will be required.

Ever increasing pressure from both traditional and non-traditional recreation is creating greater challenges to minimize disturbances to wildlife and habitats. CBWA is working toward completion of interpretive trails on the Sprague Lake Unit and in the North Potholes Reserve. Construction on both projects is expected to begin in 2007.

In 2006, considerable WDFW staff time was spent on unplanned activities, including:

  • Determining potential impacts and managing water associated with the Potholes Supplemental Feed Route.
  • Budget development for BPA funding of maintenance of Desert Unit wetland enhancement projects.
  • Activities associated with the development of the North Potholes Reserve Trail conceptual design.
  • Development of a plan and agricultural lease for a potential quality hunting area in the Gloyd Seeps Unit.
  • Major fence repair at the Winchester Quality Hunting Area.

Suggested Citation:
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2006. Columbia Basin Wildlife Area Management Plan. Wildlife Management Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia. 140 pp.