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 South Sound Prairie project is located in the historic Violet and Rock Prairie region of south Thurston County in a landscape of large agricultural parcels and forest management lands. This project will acquire the final phase of a former ranch. When this final phase is completed, the entire project will have conserved 175 acres of prairie/ oak woodlands and 725 acres of mixed conifer forest, wetland, and riparian habitat. This project includes designated federal critical habitat for Taylors checkerspot butterfly and the Mazama Pocket Gopher, and four WDFW Ecological Systems of ConcernÍ¾ Willamette Valley Upland Prairie, Willamette Valley Wet Prairie, North Pacific Oak Woodland, and Temperate Pacific Freshwater Marsh. One key objective of this project is to protect viable, self-sustaining populations of Mazama Pocket Gopher and Puget Blue butterfly. Additionally, there is high habitat restoration potential for many WDFW Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including Taylors checkerspot, Oregon vesper sparrow, Mardon skipper, Hoary elfin, Puget Sound fritillary, and Valley silverspot. Acquisition of this land would provide compatible quality recreation including hiking, hunting, horseback riding . The target property is both fenced and gated which offers practical options for fish and wildlife protection, habitat management, access, and recreation. Many partners are supporting of this effort for conservation of this ranch.