The State Lands Restoration and Enhancement category provides funding to two state agencies to help repair damaged plant and animal habitat. These grants focus on resource preservation and protection of public lands. Projects in this category help bring important natural areas and resources back to their original functions by improving the self sustaining and ecological functionality of sites.
The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife will use this grant to protect and enhance 150 acres of shrub steppe habitat within the Sagebrush Flat Unit (herein unit) of the Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Area in southern Douglas County. Sagebrush Flat Wildlife Area is managed to promote the recovery of three listed species including the federally listed Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit, state listed sage grouse and sharp tailed grouse. The department will employ a combination of land management strategies including mechanical treatments, invasive plant control, native vegetation seeding, and prescribed burning. The unit’s even-age mature sage coupled with climate forecasts, nearby housing development and agricultural practices present an increasing risk of high-intensity wildfires in a landscape that historically was more resilient to an uncommon fire. Without proactive intervention toward age diversification of sage and habitat enhancement targeting understory composition, pygmy rabbits at the unit face population setbacks and probable extirpation. Shrub steppe habitat will be the primary habitat enhanced in the aim toward a more resilient recovery zone for pygmy rabbit and for the benefit of other shrub steppe obligates and dependent species.