Category: Wildlife Area Management
Published: September 2015
Swanson Lakes and Revere wildlife areas, which include the Reardan Audubon Lake wildlife area unit, encompass roughly 25,000 acres of shrubsteppe, grasslands and wetlands habitat in eastern Washington. These areas support mule deer, reptiles and more than 200 bird species including Columbian sharp-tailed and greater sage-grouse, which are listed by the state as threatened species.
All three landscapes are managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The department developed this management plan "with input from a stakeholder-based advisory group" to address the status of wildlife species and their habitat, restoration efforts and public recreation on the wildlife areas.
The loss of natural habitat poses the greatest single threat to Washington's native fish and wildlife. Washington's wildlife areas play a critical role in maintaining the state's natural heritage and providing habitat for fish and wildlife species listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Like other wildlife areas across the state, Swanson Lakes and Revere not only provide key habitat for fish and wildlife but also offer recreational opportunities for wildlife area visitors. Habitat restoration activities take place across Swanson Lakes and Revere wildlife areas.
Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area Unit, in the Swanson Wildlife Area, consists of approximately 21,000 acres in Lincoln County, about 10 miles south of the town of Creston. Within the channeled scablands of the Columbia Plateau, Swanson contains shrubsteppe and riparian area habitats. Much of the area is rangeland and several hundred acres of restored grassland habitat.
Swanson Lakes was acquired in the 1990s as a Bonneville Power Administration wildlife mitigation project, primarily for Columbian sharp-tailed grouse. The area also supports mule deer, upland game birds, raptors, songbirds, and several reptiles and amphibians.
Swanson Lakes lies within one of the last remaining large areas of shrub-steppe habitat in the Columbia Plateau and is a priority for protection of imperiled species. Agriculture, development, wildfires, fire suppression, grazing and spread of exotic plants have all contributed to shrub-steppe degradation.
Reardan Audubon Lake Unit, within the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area, includes an 80-acre lake, wetlands, grasslands and channeled scablands all set on a 277-acre property north of the town of Reardan. The wildlife area, located in northeast Lincoln County, supports more than 200 bird and other wildlife species.
Birds, especially migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, are drawn to Reardan Audubon Lake's shallow basin for its food-rich alkaline mudflats. So many birdwatchers have been coming to this site since the 1950's that it became known simply as "Audubon Lake." The wildlife unit is part of the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail and the Great Washington State Birding Trail.
The Revere Wildlife Area encompasses 2,291 acres in northwest Whitman County, nine miles southeast of the town of Lamont. It was acquired in 1992 to replace habitat lost to inundation from dams on the Snake River.
Revere consists of Palouse grassland, shrub-steppe and scabland terrain with seeps and springs in the Rock Creek drainage. It supports mule deer, coyotes, badgers, various raptors and upland game birds including pheasants and quail.
In recent years, WDFW has restored 1,685 acres of shrub-steppe and grassland on the Swanson Lakes unit. Restoration activities include weed control, replanting and monitoring. Shrub-steppe habitat is essential for species such as white-tailed jack rabbit, Columbian sharp-tailed grouse and greater sage-grouse.
In Washington, both sharp-tailed and greater sage-grouse are listed as state threatened species. Greater sage-grouse are being considered by the federal government for protection under the ESA.
WDFW and its partners have worked to build the population of both grouse species at Swanson Lakes Wildlife unit. Through 2014, WDFW had released 240 greater sage-grouse on the wildlife unit. A new breeding site, called a lek, had also been established. About 205 sharp-tailed grouse were released on the wildlife area and a lek was established.
Restoring shrub-steppe also means more habitat for mule deer and upland birds. Hunting for mule deer, as well as wildlife watching, is a popular activity on both Swanson and Revere wildlife areas. Birdwatching has also been enhanced across the three units by the restoration of more than 600 acres of riparian and wetlands.
Over the next eight-10 years, WDFW will continue its efforts to recover Columbian sharp-tailed and greater sage-grouse species and enhance mule deer and upland game populations. This plan provides details on management goals and strategies. It also explains management challenges - such as limited funding and increased recreational use - to accomplishing those goals.