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 Department of Fish and Wildlife’s goal was to acquire approximately 1,560 contiguous acres of ecologically unique shrub steppe on the south side of Rattlesnake Mountain in Benton County. The property WDFW was negotiating to acqurie borders the Hanford Reach National Monument and the Sunnyside Wildlife Area. Rattlesnake Mountain supports biological diversity at multiple levels – from an intact cryptobiotic crust soil layer to the state-threatened ferruginous hawk, a top predator requiring a large home range with diverse and abundant prey. Fewer than 40 breeding pairs remain and their once far-ranging territory is now concentrated in the southeast area of the state. Other listed/priority species that will benefit from this acquisition include burrowing owl, long-billed curlew, Townsend’s ground squirrel, American badger, black- and white-tailed jackrabbit, sage sparrow, sage thrasher, elk and mule deer. The property was sold to another party; negotiations continued with the new land owner. The new land owner was not willing to sell all or part of the property.