January 15, 2014 | LXXIII, No. 42

State proposes land purchase for habitat

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will seek to purchase some 2,100 acres in northeast Douglas County as part of a plan for long-term protection of sharp-tailed grouse, deer hunting and for watchful wildlife experiences.

The 2,100-acre purchase is part of a greater plan that could eventually cover 20,500 acres of shrub steppe habitat.

The WDFW stated that it will not use traditional budget funding, but will seek grants to make the purchase.

The land in question is known as the Grand Coulee Ranch, with most of the acreage owned by private interests.

The purchase, if it occurs, will be in phases, and it isn't clear whether ranchers would still be able to graze cattle in those areas.

A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife web page explains that the purchase of the land would help the department fulfill its legislative mandate of preserving and protecting fish and wildlife "while providing sustainable recreational and commercial opportunities."

Current uses of the land in question include cattle ranching, small scale irrigation, dry farming and deer hunting. The area, when purchased, will become part of the WDFW Sagebrush Flats Wildlife Area.

This area, the department site states, is one of the largest active sharp-tailed grouse leks in the state. The habitat features include basalt cliffs, riparian draws, aspen, ponderosa pine, seasonal wetlands, vernal pools and pothole lakes, talus, caves, snags and logs.

Wildlife in the prescribed area includes Washington ground squirrel, goshawk, burrowing owl, sagebrush lizard, sandhill crane, and Townsend's big eared bat.

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