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Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area Management Plan (2006)

Category: Habitat - Wildlife Area Management

Date Published: November 2006

Number of Pages: 50

Author(s): Juli Anderson


The Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area (20,065 acres) was established in 1993 for the purpose of protecting and managing sharp-tailed grouse and other shrub-steppe obligates, and shrub-steppe habitat on the Columbia Plateau. Management of the Wildlife Area is 100% funded through Bonneville Power Administration’s (BPA’s) fish and wildlife mitigation program. The property was acquired through fee title purchases by BPA and WDFW, between 1993 and 2002. Properties purchased by BPA have since been deeded to WDFW.

The primary management emphasis for the property is to provide lekking, nesting, foraging, and winter habitat for the Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, a state-listed threatened species. Prior to WDFW management, the area had been used for agricultural purposes, primarily cattle grazing and production of cereal grains. BPA funded the conversion of several hundred acres of farmland back to grasslands, to improve the quality and quantity of habitat for shrub-steppe obligates.

As of September 30, 2006, the amount of habitat protection and restoration that BPA had agreed to fund had been completed. From that point on forward, BPA is funding only routine operation and maintenance expenses on the Wildlife Area. Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area staff is looking to alternative funding sources, including grants, to implement additional habitat improvements, including establishment of new riparian shrub and tree plantings, and restoration of wetlands along Lake Creek through removal of artificial levees and channelization.

The primary management concerns and public issues identified in the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area Plan are:

  • Protecting remaining shrub-steppe and riparian habitat from further losses.
  • Increasing the quality and quantity of shrub-steppe and riparian habitat in existing areas.
  • Protecting and increasing the population of sharp-tailed grouse on the Wildlife Area and surrounding lands. Activities include augmentation and monitoring.
  • Reducing the impact of public use on shrub-steppe obligates and their habitat, while allowing a multitude of public uses on the Wildlife Area.
  • Controlling noxious weeds.

In 2006 WDFW planted its second and third fenced plot of riparian shrubs and trees, with supplemental watering provided by existing wells, using 80 year-old windmills as well as modern solar pumps. 2006 was also the second year of augmentation of sharp-tailed grouse, from out-of-state populations.

A third round of sharp-tailed grouse augmentation is being coordinated for spring 2007. WDFW is also planning for possible re-introduction of sage grouse to Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area within the next two years, due to greatly improved habitat conditions since the 1980’s, when sage grouse were extirpated from the area. With funding in place, WDFW, in coordination with the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Ducks Unlimited (DU), will begin restoration of wetlands along Lake Creek, on BLM and Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area property, in 2007. This will, over the long term, improve quality and quantity of winter habitat for sharp-tailed grouse.

The Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area Plan complements the WDFW Sage Grouse, and Sharp-tailed Grouse, Management Plans, which provide a more comprehensive review of prairie grouse management in the larger geographic region.

Suggested Citation:
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2006. Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area Management Plan. Wildlife Management Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia. 40 pp.