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 purchase about 569 acres of shrub-steppe to expand the Methow Rapids Natural Area Preserve in southwestern Okanogan County. This project will ensure protection of shrub-steppe communities and associated species and will increase the long-term viability of this natural area which is located along the Columbia River, just downstream from its confluence with the Methow River. Statewide, this site supports the largest of only nine remaining intact examples of the antelope bitterbrush/bluebunch wheatgrass community. The smooth sumac/bluebunch wheatgrass community on this site is the largest of only three intact examples remaining. Several bird species at this site are listed as Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife State Wildlife Action Plan. The sage thrasher (state candidate) is highly dependent on healthy shrub-steppe communities comprised of tall, dense shrubs (typically sagebrush and bitterbrush) and native bunchgrasses. The loggerhead shrike (state candidate) is most abundant in lowland communities dominated by various shrub species (most commonly big sagebrush and bitterbrush). This project will improve public access at this site and provides opportunities for environmental education and research.