As Washington continues to grow, many of our most beautiful areas are threatened with development. In addition, native ecosystems are receding, and important wildlife habitat and migratory pathways are being cut off. The Natural Areas category helps combat this by funding projects that protect wildlife habitat and rare geological features while also preserving public access for back-country recreation.
The Department of Natural Resources will use this funding to purchase approximately 437 acres at Steptoe Butte, adjacent to Steptoe Butte State Park in Whitman County. Once acquired, these parcels will conserve the largest known remaining occurrence of Palouse prairie in Washington. This site includes at least three rare plants (including federally threatened Spalding’s catchfly and state endangered broad-fruit mariposa-lily), four priority plant communities, and one rare species of earthworm listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Concern. This site has been approved by Commissioner’s Order No. 201811 as a Natural Area (Natural Area Preserve and Natural Resources Conservation Area) with final designation pending an open management planning process, which will detail recreation opportunities. The primary purpose of this grant is to provide long-term conservation of Palouse prairie ecosystems and secondarily to provide recreation opportunities.