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 Mt. Adams Klickitat Canyon Phase III project conserved 4,881.7 acres of critical habitat for multiple federally listed species, species of concern, state listed species, and state priority species. The acquisition completed the 11,000-acre Klickitat Canyon Conservation Area, and included 1.7 miles of conservation on both sides of the main stem Klickitat River, 8.9 miles of tributary streams, and provided connectivity to nearly 27 miles of recently conserved Klickitat River corridor downstream from the project site. It brought nearly the entire upper two thirds of the Klickitat River, the longest undammed tributary to the Columbia River in Washington State, into conservation. The project helped to maintain crucial connectivity for ecosystems and migratory wildlife: it bridges the Yakama Indian Reservation, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, DNR Klickitat Canyon Natural Resources Conservation Area, and WDFW-owned Soda Springs Wildlife Area. The varied landscape, which includes pine forest, oak woodlands, basalt cliffs, and grasslands, provides critical habitat for wildlife such as mule deer, elk, black-tailed deer, sandhill cranes, northern spotted owl, golden eagle, flammulated owl, western gray squirrel, and mountain goats. The river supports one of the strongest wild steelhead runs (federally listed mid-Columbia summer and winter steelhead), and one of the only remaining bull trout populations in the lower Columbia River system. The project also brought together a culturally diverse group of stakeholders because it benefits forest health, fire and climate resilience, jobs and economic opportunity, as well as exceptional wildlife habitat. The forested canyon and surrounding area are the ancestral lands of the Yakama people and have significant culture value. The vision for conservation was developed with support from the Yakama Nation. There were three amendments to the agreement from its original construction, all of which added to the scope and benefit of the project. The first added 992 acres of habitat and 1.7 miles of east-bank shoreline along the Klickitat River. The second added $297,000 of funding from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. The third added in a 40-acre property with the same habitat types that is located downstream from the project site and ensured that the entire White Creek sub-watershed–the most important steelhead spawning stream in the Klickitat Watershed–is entirely within conservation ownership. Together these amendments added $297,000 in funding and 1,032 acres of conservation. RCO funds were used primarily for land acquisition costs but also included incidental transaction costs including staff time for implementing the transaction, writing the stewardship plan, and paying for third party due diligence contractors.