12 Months of WWRP: Critical Habitat

April 3, 2017

This month, we focus our attention on the Critical Habitat category of WWRP.

Critical Habitat projects are our state’s primary tool for conserving important fish and wildlife habitat. These projects protect the rich and diverse habitats in our forests, prairies, and wetlands. These funds help maintain our state’s biodiversity and protect species that are popular for hunting, birding, and other outdoor recreation, and are critical for the health of our salmon and fish populations.

The Critical Habitat project we have chosen to highlight this month is Mt. Adams Klickitat Canyon Phase II, which is the proposed acquisition of 3,200 acres on the east side of the Cascade Mountains.

The Columbia Land Trust would use this $2.4 million grant to acquire and protect valuable habitat land that straddles the wild and scenic Klickitat River and includes 1.7 miles of two major tributaries—Summit and White Creeks. The land is a vital wildlife corridor and connects protected lands owned by tribes, state and federal agencies, and the Trust itself. Its unusual topographic and ecological diversity includes a mosaic of dry and moist mixed conifer forests, oak woodlands, aspen, freshwater wetlands, steep canyons, talus slopes, and shoreline and river habitats.

The land is used by a diverse array of wildlife including at least 15 species listed by the federal government as a species of concern or under the Endangered Species Act and 21 species either listed or considered a candidate for listing by state government, such as western gray squirrel and northern spotted owl. Many types of migratory game species—including elk, mountain goat, black-tailed deer, mule deer, and big-horned sheep—also call this land their home.

The project is the second phase of an effort to preserve 5,600 acres of land threatened by development. Supporters of the project include the Yakama Nation, Klickitat County commissioners, state agencies, forestry owners, and local community partners. The Columbia Land Trust, which would manage the land for public access and habitat preservation, will also contribute $2.4 million in a private match.

This project has been funded in the proposed Senate capital construction budget, which was released on March 28. The House budget will be released on Wednesday, April 5—meaning, there is still time to advocate for the WWRP and the projects you care about.

Land acquisitions like this project are a crucial part of protecting Critical Habitat across Washington—in turn, allowing more opportunities for hunters and anglers to recreate; more chances for hikers to seek out adventure; and healthy ecosystems in which wildlife can thrive. To find out more about why land acquisition is a vital part of WWRP, check out this recent blog post and contact your Representatives to let them know that you support acquisition projects like this one!