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 main objective of this project is to acquire an additional 42 acres of critical habitat for the western pond turtle, a Washington state endangered species. This site is known as Balch Lake and Sondino Ponds, a part of WDFW’s Klickitat Wildlife Area. This habitat supports one of two known natural populations of the western pond turtle in Washington. Balch Lake and Sondino Ponds have the best remaining habitat in the state and have the largest of two natural western pond turtle populations. In addition, this site contains some of the best remaining oak-pine savannah/grassland habitat in Klickitat County. This acquisition will provide an additional 42 acres of habitat to the existing western pond turtle habitat area. This area will provide additional grassy savannah for turtle nesting, cliffs and talus for raptors and reptiles, and nesting habitat for neotropical migrant birds. The large oaks and pines on this site provide critical habitat for several cavity nesting species and the western gray squirrel, a Washington threatened species. The additional acreage provides a buffer to further land divisions and development adjacent to the critical wildlife habitat.