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 will use this grant to buy about 1,600 acres of forest and Manastash River habitat on the east slope of the central Cascade Mountains in Kittitas County. The site is about 15 miles southwest of Ellensburg, between the LT Murray Wildlife Area to the east and the national forest to the west. The objective of this project is to conserve critical habitat in a biologically rich and high priority location, protect public access, and improve land management. The site provides breeding and foraging habitat for northern spotted owls, supports large ungulate herds, and contains headwater streams that support steelhead and salmon recovery efforts. Conservation here will implement key elements identified in state and federal management and recovery plans. Longstanding and popular access through these lands to public ownership is under threat, so public support for this project is strong. This grant will secure the remaining gap in the larger Heart of the Cascades project, which has conserved about 28 square miles of habitat along the mountain range.