WILDLIFE -- State agencies and conservation groups have closed a $1.55 million deal to secure 2,893 acres of wildlife habitat especially important to the Yakima elk herd.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Friday that the deal was made to purchase the private land 15 miles northwest of Yakima with help from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Cowiche Canyon Conservancy and Department of Ecology.
The two land parcels serve as habitat to a variety of wildlife and as an important connection between summer and winter range for the Yakima elk herd and have been used historically for grazing, said Mike Livingston, WDFW southcentral region director. The properties will be managed as part of WDFW's Oak Creek Wildlife Area.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation negotiated the deal with the landowner and paid for half of the cost of the land appraisal.
"We need to recognize and thank the private owners, the Tieton Cattle Association, which kept the native grasses and forbs in great condition while grazing their cattle on this same land during the summer," said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of lands and conservation.
The Cowiche Canyon Conservancy paid the other half of the appraisal and will manage the grazing on the property through a grazing easement.
"It's not often you get to protect nearly 3,000 acres of habitat and also protect a sustainable historic grazing operation that produces locally sourced grass-fed beef, " says Betsy Bloomfield, executive director of the conservancy. "The combination of habitat and recreation protection with a cultural legacy makes this a wonderful project."
DOE and the Kennewick Irrigation District provided the funding to acquire the land to mitigate for the loss of shrub-steppe habitat that was converted to agricultural land. Funds also came from the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan through DOE.
See more information in this story by the Yakima Herald-Republic.