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State purchasing 4,200-acres of ranch in Douglas County for wildlife habitat

WILDLIFE — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved purchasing 4,200 acres of a Douglas County ranch to protect shrub-steppe habitat for wildlife, especially for threatened sharp-tailed grouse, and provide public access for outdoor recreation.

It's the first phase of the state's plan to purchase virtually all 20,500 acres of the Grand Coulee Ranch, which borders 14 miles of the Columbia River including Lake Rufus Woods backed up behind Chief Joseph Dam.

The commission voted on the proposal and supported the long-range plan during its weekend meeting in Pasco.

The Grand Coulee Ranch also provides the potential for building a fishing access on the state side of Lake Rufus Woods across from the Colville Indian Reservation.

While similar huge acquisitions in Asotin County have generated controversy, Douglas County commissioners have formally supported the state's plans to purchase the Grand Coulee Ranch.

The land in the first-phase purchase, located about five miles northwest of the town of Grand Coulee is being sold for the assessed value of $1.8 million. The purchase is possible because of a grant from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

Once the sale is closed, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will manage the land as part of the Wells Wildlife Area.

Montana may curtail hunting of sage grouse

HUNTING — Here's some disturbing news from Montana, which we might have considered to be the "last best place" for sage grouse:

With preliminary results from Montana’s spring surveys showing a continued population decline of the state’s largest native upland game bird, wildlife officials will seek to close sage grouse hunting for the 2014 season.

Read on for the details that will be presented to the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission meeting in Fort Peck on Thursday, May 22.

What do you expect from a sage-land species?

USGS study finds sage grouse like undisturbed areas, quiet 

A new study led by U.S. Geological Survey biologist Steve Knick has confirmed that sage grouse need undisturbed habitat and solitude for successful reproduction.

Researchers found 99 percent of the active 3,000 leks studied in 355,000 square miles of historic sage grouse range in the West found were in areas where no more than 3 percent of the land had been disturbed by human activity. —Idaho Statesman