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 Department of Fish and Wildlife will use this grant to buy 2,900 acres of critical habitat for sharp-tailed grouse within the heart of Washington’s remaining shrub-steppe. The department hopes to protect key plant communities supporting the grouse, which are Washington’s most imperiled wildlife species, and reestablish the connection between grouse on the Colville reservation, Dire Hill, and Okanogan areas. Sharp-tailed grouse represent a keystone species that depend solely on the Riparian Protection communities and the unique and threatened shrub-steppe of Mansfield Plateau. Sage grouse, Washington ground squirrels, burrowing owls, white- and black-tailed jackrabbits, Townsend’s big-eared bats, sage thrashers, loggerhead shrike, and pygmy short-horned lizards are a small representation of the diverse range of species living in the project area. Other benefits of the project are retention of diminishing Riparian Protection winter habitat, expansion of sage grouse back into previously occupied ranges, and increased access to public lands for recreation and education.