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State agency awarded $3 million for conservation land near Grand Coulee


A spring view from the project toward Barry in Douglas County and the Columbia River.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has been awarded $3 million to buy about 7,250 acres of shrub-steppe habitat six miles west of Grand Coulee for sharp-tailed grouse, the department announced last week.

The grant is from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

It is the final phase of a three-phase project to buy more than 20,500 acres, with previous purchases making up the department's Big Bend Wildlife Area. The land is an important link between sharp-tailed grouse populations in Douglas, Okanogan, and Lincoln Counties and a strategic component in the department's ongoing efforts to maintain and recover sharp-tailed grouse in these counties, the Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

One of the largest active sharp-tailed grouse lek sites in the state is on the land, with other lek sites within 2.5 miles. Sharp-tailed grouse are a state threatened species and a federal species of concern.

Located on the south shore of the Columbia River, the land has elevation ranges from 950 to 2,620 feet and a variety of plants, such as bunchgrass dominated expanses, aspen and ponderosa pine, seasonal wetlands, and pothole lakes. Other habitat features include basalt cliffs, caves, talus, and snags.

The land is used by a variety of priority species, including Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, greater sage-grouse, sage thrasher, golden eagle, and mule deer, the agency says.

Recreational use will provide an important regional community value. The size, location, quality, and diversity of habitats allow the department to address factors limiting growth of the sharp-tailed grouse population, such as lack of winter and breeding habitats and not enough habitat in general.

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