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 approximately 400 acres which constitutes the first acquisition at Onion Ridge Natural Area Preserve. Onion Ridge is located sixteen miles north of Colville in Stevens County and supports numerous forest, bald, and wetland communities identified as priorities in the 2018 Natural Heritage Program plan. Mid-Elevation Freshwater Wetlands is a Priority 1 element found in the site and is currently not protected within the Okanogan Highlands ecoregion but is protected within six established and two proposed Natural Areas across the state. There are three different Priority 2 elements in this site: (1) Idaho fescue / Parsnip-flowered Buckwheat grassland; (2) Western Redcedar / Wild Sarsaparilla forest; and, (3) Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir / Bluebunch wheatgrass Woodland. The Idaho fescue / Parsnip-flowered Buckwheat grassland is found on ridgetops or around rock outcrops. These grasslands are not currently protected within Okanogan Highlands ecoregions but are protected in one established and one proposed natural area across the state. The Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir / Bluebunch wheatgrass Woodland is found near the Idaho fescue / Parsnip-flowered Buckwheat grassland on shallow soils and/or rocky areas.