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.
This proposal is for acquisition of privately owned properties located east of Washougal at the western edge of the Columbia River Gorge. It is part of a larger project area that encompasses the largest high-quality native oak woodland remaining in western Washington. This type of ecosystem is of major conservation concern due to historic losses and ongoing degradation. In addition, a fish-bearing stream inside a steep forested ravine runs through the heart of the site. The site supports two state threatened and two sensitive plant species, and four rare or threatened animal species: Larch Mountain Salamander, Peregrine Falcon, Slender-billed Nuthatch, and Lower Columbia Steelhead. The proposed combination of Natural Resource Conservation Area and Natural Area Preserve will complement existing conservation work within the project area by DNR’s partners, which include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge), U.S. Forest Service (Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area), and the Columbia Land Trust. These acquisitions will be the first phase of a multi-phased project with the long-term objective of protecting the oak woodland and associated species from future residential development, other incompatible uses, and exotic plant species.