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.
WDFW proposes to acquire inholdings and adjacent properties associated with the Asotin Creek Watershed. These sites are adjacent to the 8,500-acre Schlee Ranch, which is comprised of salmonid bearing streams, riparian buffers and steppe habitat located within the Asotin Creek Watershed. The Schlee Ranch is rich in priority species (steelhead, bull trout, Chinook salmon, bald eagle, elk, mule deer) and priority habitats (riverine, riparian, wetlands, steppe, caves and talus slopes). Bordered on 3 sides by public lands, the Ranch provides critical connectivity to fish and wildlife habitats on adjoining public lands. Funds in this project will buy sites adjacent to the Ranch. The entire project would be managed as part of WDFW’s Asotin Creek Wildlife Area. Acquiring and protecting these properties will address watershed problems identified in the Asotin Creek Model Watershed Plan (1995) and protect downstream public lands. Similarly, the Asotin Creek Subbasin Summary (2001), prepared for the NW Power Planning Council, identified acquisition and protection of key private lands as a main goal in ensuring the future for fish and wildlife populations, including federally listed steelhead, Chinook salmon and bull trout. The larger project includes 29 miles of tributary and intermittent streams (5.5 miles of which are anadromous fish bearing; 26 steelhead redds were located on site in 2001). Acquisition protects steppe obligate species, approximately 350 wintering elk and will allow reintroduction of extirpated sharp-tailed grouse. Grant funds may also be used for surveying, fencing and other incidentals associated with all Asotin Creek Watershed acquisitions.