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 negotiated on several key properties in the scope of the project; negotiations were unsuccessful. A scope amendment was approved to add the “Miller” property. WDFW was successful in negotiating and acquiring the Miller property, 473.11 acres of prime shrub-steppe habitat. This property lies centrally in Douglas County and is at the heart of shrub-steppe habitats identified in 06-1811A. Since the 2006 RCO process, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has acquired two large blocks of ownership to the north and to the south of the Miller property. Acquisition of the Miller property would ensure connectivity between 8000 plus acres of shrub-steppe and protect critical species habitat. The conservation value represented in the original project is mirrored in the Miller parcel. WDFW ownership of the Miller property will provide protection of critical habitat under the threat of conversion to agriculture, as well as protect and enhance the survival of listed species. Site visits during spring 2010 documented successful nesting by greater sage grouse, Centrocercus urophasianus (federal candidate species and state threatened species), and confirmed at least two active colonies of Washington ground squirrels, Spermophilus washingtoni, (federal and state candidate species) on the property. In addition, the Miller property is at the center of an inactive historic greater sage grouse lek complex. Research in Washington State has found that most nesting by female sage grouse occurs within 5 miles of a lek site, making the Miller property an exceptional conservation acquisition for the species. A map is attached that shows the Miller acquisition and the public ownership relationship, connecting the two BLM blocks of ownership.