OUTSTANDING – Washington has acquired 7,711 acres in the Cascades after years of support and negotiations facilitated by the purchase of private timber lands by The Nature Conservancy and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission recently approved the acquisition of wildlife habitat in Kittitas County. The purchase was funded primarily by federal grants and a grant from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which had been proposed for huge cuts by last year’s Washington Legislature.
The acquisition concludes the second phase of the “Heart of the Cascades” project that adds more than 10,000 acres to the state Fish and Wildlife Department’s 47,200-acre Oak Creek Wildlife Area.
The plan helps “block up” public land to protect big game habitat from winter ranges all the way up to summer ranges.
Last year, 2,675 acres were acquired in the Bald Mountain/Rock Creek area, about 25 miles northwest of Yakima on the east slope of the Cascade Mountains. This year’s acquisition involves purchase of 3,807 acres from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for $2,325,000 and 3,904 acres from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) for $2,317,000.
The property will be managed with support from TNC, RMEF and the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative – a coalition of public, nonprofit and tribal land managers – to share the estimated $123,500 annual operation and maintenance costs.
Season may be over for highway
OUTPASS – The North Cascades Highway closed Tuesday evening as the first serious snowstorms of the season began to dump on the scenic route between Winthrop and Marblemount.
State Transportation Department officials say they will reassess road conditions, avalanche danger and weather forecasts on Monday to determine whether the Highway 20 pass can be reopened.
The highway between Winthrop west to Marblemount closed for the winter on Dec. 1 last year
Farther south in the Cascades, Chinook and Cayuse passes – mountain gateways to Mount Rainier – already have closed for the season.
NW Avalanche Center gets into gear
OUTFIELD – The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center ( nwac.us) began daily avalanche forecasting last week, as snow piled deep in the high mountains throughout Washington.
The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center is posting updates at fs.usda.gov/goto/ipnf/ac as well as schedules for regional avalanche awareness classes for all backcountry travelers, including snowmobilers.
However, it will be a couple of weeks before the Panhandle center will be issuing its official weekly avalanche forecasts, according to Kevin Davis in Sandpoint.