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 Tieton River Canyon project In Yakima County seeks to protect 3,200 acres of imperiled ponderosa pine forests and other diverse habitats on the east slope of the Cascades. This is phase 2 of a larger project that covers an entire township (36 square miles, T14N R15E) of checkerboard public/private ownership within the Wenatchee National Forest, adjacent to the Oak Creek Wildlife Area. Critical habitat exists here for ponderosa pine dependent species, such as white-headed woodpecker and flammulated owl. Other habitats and species present include: Oregon White Oak, with Lewis’ woodpecker and habitat for the extirpated western gray squirrel; mixed conifer forests with goshawk, spotted owl and pileated woodpecker; basalt cliffs with nesting golden eagles; dense riparian with neotropical migrants; streams, particularly Oak Creek, with federally-listed steelhead and bull trout, and shrub-steppe with bighorn sheep, wintering mule deer, elk and bald eagles. The Tieton Canyon area is popular for hiking, bird watching, fishing, hunting, antler and mushroom gathering, camping, and rafting. Highway 12 follows the Tieton Canyon in a spectacular corridor where basalt formations framed by tall trees tower above the river. Partners working on this project include WDFW, The Nature Conservancy, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Cascades Conservation Partnership, local conservation and recreation groups, and the Yakima County Commission.