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 West Branch Little Spokane project has been very successful; 2,765.25 acres have been acquired of highly diverse habitats including streams, Riparian Protection, wetlands, lakes, beaver ponds, cottonwood galleries, aspen groves, meadows and forests. This has been a phased project utilizing two grants, West Branch Little Spokane Ph 1 (1.079.00 acres) and this grant, Ph 2 (1,686.25 acres). The property is called Rustlers Gulch and is located about 30 miles north of Spokane and is about 18 miles southwest of Newport. The property provides access to the West Branch Little Spokane River, Horseshoe Lake, and Fan Lake. The area is relatively unique to Eastern Washington and Pend Oreille County because it provides such a large contiguous area of healthy Riparian Protection and wetlands at low elevation. Rustlers Gulch is home to a variety of wildlife, including many declining populations, such as bald eagles, Townsend’s big-eared bat, northern goshawk, western toad, Columbia spotted frog. Rustlers Gulch provides habitat for many other fish and wildlife species such as pygmy whitefish, white-tailed deer, elk, moose, black bear, and cougar, blue and ruffed grouse, golden eagles, various hawks, owls, reptiles and amphibians. Acquisition of these properties preserve high quality habitat and will also help to protect the water quality of Fan and Horseshoe Lakes, which are popular for fishing, hunting, bird watching; Rustlers Gulch offers many outdoor recreation and educational opportunities – hiking, environmental education, wildlife viewing, snowshoeing, and photography.