EDITORIAL: Thumbs up to McWhorter Ranch, thumbs down to Christmas tree stance
Thumbs up to the state Recreation and Conservation Funding Board for naming the 14,000 McWhorter Ranch on Rattlesnake Mountain as the state's top priority for critical habitat land purchases in 2013.
Most of the ranch is home to endangered ferruginous hawks, burrowing owls, long-billed curlews, Townsend's ground squirrels, American badgers, black- and white-tailed jackrabbits, sage sparrows, sage thrashers, elk and mule deer.
It's one of the largest remaining tracts of Eastern Washington's native shrub steppe habitat, and extends to the top of Rattlesnake Mountain, the Mid-Columbia's highest point.
The state would open the land for hiking, horseback riding, bird watching, some hunting and other uses compatible with the wild nature of the land.
Our community keeps growing and spreading onto former farm and ranch land. Houses have crept up hillsides and onto ridges. Once open spaces are lost, they're gone forever.
The board's recommendation increases the odds this unique opportunity won't be lost.