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 Columbian sharp-tailed grouse is threatened in Washington and a species at risk throughout most of its North American distribution. In Washington, they currently exist in 8 small, isolated populations, all of which are declining. The major factors contributing to the decline of sharp-tailed grouse populations include conversion, degradation, and isolation of shrub-steppe habitat. Several publications have recommended the acquisition and enhancement of strategically located habitats to ensure the long-term survival of sharp-tailed grouse. The key location for acquisition is the Dyre Hill area of northern Douglas County; 1) the habitat is predominantly shrub-steppe, 2) the topography is suitable, 3) the higher elevation and moist climate are advantageous for restoration and maintenance of habitat, 4) Dyre Hill is bordered on three sides by valleys of native habitat that extend down to the Columbia River, and 5) the area is adjacent to 2 state-owned wildlife areas with small sharp-tailed grouse populations. The proposed acquisition will address all major factors contributing to the declines of sharp-tailed grouse by converting croplands back to shrub-steppe, enhancing existing habitat, and integrating “isolated” areas into a larger sharp-tailed grouse management area. This strategy ultimately will support a larger “meta-population”, rather than the current isolated “sub-populations” which ultimately are faced with extinction.