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 about 1,300 acres of elk winter range habitat near Mount Saint Helens. This is the first phase of a larger project to ultimately conserve 4,100 acres about 15 miles east of Toutle Lake, between State Route 504 (Spirit Lake Highway) and the Mount Saint Helens Wildlife Area for the Mount Saint Helens elk herd. The land to be purchased is often closed to the public in late summer and early fall because of fire concerns, which in effect closes public access to the wildlife area as well. The project will allow year-round public access to the wildlife area, except from December through April to minimize disturbing the wintering elk. Most of the land is in the 1980 blast zone of Mount Saint Helens and is next to the National Volcanic Monument. Cliffs, talus slopes, and forested wetlands are some of the unique features present on the site. Acquisition of the land will protect habitat for Coho Salmon and steelhead, both of which are listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act.