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 acquire approximately 300 acres located sixteen miles north of Colville in Stevens County. Onion Ridge supports numerous forest, bald, and wetland communities identified as priorities in the 2018 Natural Heritage Program plan.The priority parcel being targeted with this grant would protect three different Priority 2 elements: (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. It is extremely rare to find high-quality examples of this grassland type. 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 occurs around balds and on shallow soils. This dry forest community is not listed in the 2018 plan but was listed in the original 1991 Onion Ridge NAP proposal as a Priority 2 element. It is not known whether this forest type is protected elsewhere. Protecting the priority parcel would add significant acreage to the NAP and ensure that that the best examples of these bald and and forest communities are protected from logging activities currently being planned for forests immediately outside the approved NAP boundary.