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.
This acquisition project in Benton County has three objectives: 1) to permanently protect one of the last remaining viable shrub-steppe landscapes in the Columbia Basin, 2) to connect the unprotected south facing slope of Rattlesnake Mountain with the north facing slope protected under the Arid Lands Ecology Reserve unit of the Hanford Reach National Monument, and 3) to leverage protection of biological diversity at the Hanford Reach National Monument by incorporating the south aspect community types and micro-habitats of Rattlesnake Mountain. The project site is a seventeen square mile area on the south side of Rattlesnake Mountain in Benton County that borders the 77,000 acre Arid Lands Ecology Reserve of the Hanford Reach National Monument and the 5,600 acre Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Sunnyside Wildlife Area. Rattlesnake Mountain still supports irreplaceable biological diversity at multiple scales, including the state threatened ferruginous hawk, a top predator requiring diverse prey species for survival. Working at a landscape scale of this magnitude and richness offers a rare chance for reversing shrub-steppe fragmentation. Economy of scale would be achieved in co-management strategies for both areas. An unusual coalition of partners from national conservation groups to local county commissioners have recognized the habitat values of this property and identified it as a priority area both for shrub-steppe conservation and for community enrichment.