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.
Few opportunities remain to protect healthy runs of wild salmon in the Columbia Basin. The goal of this project is to secure the last of the best salmon spawning habitat in central Washington. Sockeye salmon, once widespread east of the Cascades, survive as viable runs only in the Canadian Okanogan and Wenatchee River watersheds. Fed by melting glaciers and draining to a deep, cold lake, the White River tributary is the factory of the Wenatchee basin, producing genetically distinct runs of sockeye and spring chinook, as well as steelhead and bull trout. Although protected by a wilderness area at its source and surrounded by national forest, the critical spawning & rearing habitat for sockeye, chinook and steelhead in the White River lies within multiple private ownerships. WDFW proposes to acquire title and conservation easements on 600 acres of Riparian Protection corridor, currently threatened by development interests. This proposal is a recommendation of the Mid-Columbia Habitat Conservation Plan, stating that in order to secure the future of these species, “the principle means is to secure Riparian Protection habitat either in conservation agreements, easements or direct purchases.” Acquisition and maintenance costs will be shared with HCP partners and the USFS. Volunteers from the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust are committed to the project. Recreational opportunities, now limited by private ownership, will be expanded in phases to include river access, interpretive trails and day use facilities. The legal description of the properties to be acquired is described as follows: Upper Phase – T28N, R16 EWM Lower Phase – T27N, R16 EWM