As Washington continues to grow, many of our most beautiful areas are threatened with development. In addition, native ecosystems are receding, and important wildlife habitat and migratory pathways are being cut off. The Natural Areas category helps combat this by funding projects that protect wildlife habitat and rare geological features while also preserving public access for back-country recreation.
The Department of Natural Resources will use this grant to buy about 585 acres in the Methow Rapids Natural Area Preserve along the Columbia River in Okanogan County. Near U.S. Route 97 with several riverfront parcels, this land is at high risk of residential development. The land includes some of the best and largest remaining intact examples of shrub-steppe habitat in Washington State. According to statewide inventories, more than half of the shrub-steppe habitat in the state has been lost or degraded from historic overgrazing and agricultural and residential development. The project will help to protect these plant communities, enhance the long-term viability of the site for shrub-steppe wildlife, and provide a protected habitat connection to the Columbia River.