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Sunnyside/Snake River Wildlife Area Management Plan

Category: Habitat - Wildlife Area Management

Date Published: November 2006

Number of Pages: 227

Author(s): Rocky Ross and Leray Stream



The Sunnyside/Snake River Wildlife Area (SSWA) is a complex of 21 separate management units, scattered over a 118-mile highway corridor in four counties of southeast and south central Washington. Beginning at the eastern end of the project, the units range from Lowden in Walla Walla County, to Basin City in Franklin County, and all along the lower Yakima River in Benton and Yakima counties. The westernmost parcel lies at the outskirts of Union Gap near Yakima. In all, the Wildlife Area encompasses about 20,836 acres.

The various management units were purchased with a variety of funds over a period of 50 years. The Snake River parcels were purchased to provide partial mitigation for the construction of 4 dams on the Lower Snake River. The Corps of Engineers provided funding for those acquisitions and for initial habitat development. The 5 major management units that make up the original Sunnyside Wildlife Area were state-funded until 1996. At that time the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) negotiated a deal where BPA would fund habitat enhancement and reasonable operation and maintenance activities in return for partial mitigation credit for dam construction on the Columbia River. Some of the units in Franklin County are owned by the Bureau of Reclamation and have historically been managed by WDFW. Although active management is currently minimal on these sites, WDFW has submitted a proposal to the Bureau, requesting funding for a shared, full-time biologist that would allow more proactive land management in Franklin and Walla Walla counties.

Although the lands within the SSWA were purchased with a variety of funds, and to provide habitat for a variety of species, the primary focus is upland wildlife and waterfowl because of their economic and recreational values. Much of the habitat that is managed for these species also benefits a wide array of other wildlife.

The primary management concerns and public issues identified in the Sunnyside/Snake River Wildlife Area Plan are:

  • Control a wide range of noxious weeds, including removal of Russian Olive monocultures.
  • Manage numerous wetlands to maximize wildlife diversity and recreational opportunities.
  • Maintain and/or increase moist soil management areas.
  • Maintain and/or improve floodplain, upland and shrub steppe habitat.
  • Control illegal trespass, littering and dumping.
  • Maintain multiple agricultural leases to benefit migrating waterfowl, upland wildlife and sandhill cranes.
  • Protect and/or enhance habitat for ESA listed species.
  • Protect cultural resources.

In 2006, the Wildlife Area staff performed nearly every task outlined in a statement of work that is annually funded by BPA for all Sunnyside units. Work performed on Snake River sites was limited to basic O&M due to shortage of staff.

Efforts in 2007 will focus on substantial wetland enhancement projects on the Byron and HQ units, with funding from a NAWCA grant that will be shared with the Yakama Nation. This will be a two- year effort. In addition, up to 4 wetland-related projects may be implemented if funding is approved through WDFW’s State Duck Stamp program. Oversight on the construction of a new shop will occur throughout the Spring. Noxious weed control and general operation and maintenance of existing lands and facilities will always be a major emphasis for this Wildlife Area.

Suggested Citation:
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2006. Sunnyside/Snake River Wildlife Area Management Plan. Wildlife Management Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia. 214 pp.