Tag Archives: washington wildlife and recreation program

Critical Central Washington Wildlife Habitat Projects To Receive Funding

The recent approval of the 2017 Washington Capital Budget didn’t just finally shake money loose for salmon restoration work across much of the state.

It also funded critical deer, elk and upland birds projects through the time-tested Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

THE RECENT PASSAGE OF THE 2017 WASHINGTON CAPITAL BUDGET INCLUDED $3 MILLION FOR THE MULTIPHASE ACQUISITION OF THE GRAND COULEE RANCH IN NORTHERN DOUGLAS COUNTY … (WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE)

Four of the acquisitions are occurring in Central Washington, country where there’s still large blocks of land that make sense to bunch together and have manage WDFW them for critters of all sorts as well as hunting and other recreation.

The list includes:

* $1.5 million to acquire another 1,600 acres in the South Fork Manastash Creek watershed, which will “secure the remaining gap in the larger Heart of the Cascades project, which has conserved about 28 square miles of habitat along the mountain range,” according to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition;

* $3 million to buy 7,250 additional acres above the southern shores of Lake Rufus Woods, which will add to the Big Bend Wildlife Area/Grand Coulee Ranch and provide an “important link between sharp-tailed grouse populations in Douglas, Okanogan, and Lincoln Counties,” reports WWRC, not to mention more hunting access;

* $3 million to purchase 3,200 more acres in the Cowiche Creek watershed, the “final phase” of a nearly decade and a half-long bid to “knit together” some 80,000 acres of what WWRC calls “crucial upland wildlife habitat” in the region.

ALONG WITH SECURING WINTER RANGE FOR MULE DEER IN EASTERN KLICKITAT COUNTY, THE SIMCOE MOUNTAINS BUY ALSO SECURES HEADWATERS OF A RARE STEELHEAD STREAM IN THE UPPER COLUMBIA GORGE. (WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE)

The Cowiche buy is particularly notable because it also benefits water quality and streamside habitat for ESA-listed steelhead and bull trout as well as coho and cutthroat, elk migration and winter range, and recreational opportunities, according to WWRC.

Those three projects received full funding, but a request for $4 million for one in Klickitat County fell short of its target. Still, $2.14 million was allocated towards the multi-phase purchase of private timberlands in the Simcoe Mountains, which provides deer habitat and hunting ground in a public-land-poor stretch of countryside.

All totaled, with approval from legislators and Governor Inslee’s signature, the 2017 Capital Budget provided $80 million for 103 WWRP projects, including $5.6 million for riparian protections on the Chehalis, Clearwater and Wenatchee Rivers and Kennedy Creek near Olympia.

A WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE IMAGE SHOWS THE LOCATION OF THE THREE ISLANDS DISABLED ANGLER ACCESS PROJECT NEAR SPOKANE FALLS COMMUNITY COLLEGE. (WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE)

There’s also $1 million for the City of Spokane to put in a fishing access site for disabled anglers in the free-flowing Three Islands area of the Spokane River by Spokane Falls Community College.

Unfortunately, the 7400 Line access project on the Wynoochee isn’t currently funded, a disappointment for drift boaters and other steelheaders who’d looked forward to the purchase of 15 acres and a road easement for a public put-in on the upper river. While listed as an alternate project should others above it fall through, it’s at the bottom of its category.

Besides habitat and recreational access, WWRP funnels funding towards farmland preservation, forest restoration, and park and trail development.

Before grants are awarded via the legislature, projects are evaluated through a rigorous year-and-a-half-long process that includes each being scored and ranked by experts before a board signs off on the order and its sent to the governor for inclusion in the Capital Budget.

Funding comes from the sale of state bonds.

“The WWRP is widely recognized as one of the best outdoor recreation and conservation programs in the nation. The (Washington Wildlife & Recreation Coalition) is pleased that the spirit of bipartisanship eventually won out and that these 103 highly-ranked land acquisition, development, and renovation projects will finally receive their funding,” said WWRC Board Chair Adrian Miller in a press release.

According to WWRC, since its creation nearly three decades ago, WWRP has contributed to the restoration of over 3,100 miles of riverbanks and protected over 400 square miles for critters.

The WWRP is the state’s premier outdoors grant funding program, and has funded over 1,200 projects and contributed $1.3 billion for recreation, wildlife, and working lands since 1990. The WWRP has restored 3,111 miles of stream bank, conserved 260,000 acres of wildlife habitat, and developed over 400 local parks to benefit Washington communities.

Critical Central Washington Fish, Wildlife Projects Left Out Of House Budget

Funding for six projects protecting critical critter and fish habitat in Central Washington has been cut from a state budget proposal, and sportsmen should take note.

Though top-ranked during reviews, the acquisitions in Douglas, Chelan, Kittitas, Yakima and Klickitat Counties were left out of the House Capital Budget, an approach that goes against the grain of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.

Affected projects include — from the top — Grand Coulee Ranch, Wenatchee River floodplain, South Fork Manastash, Cowiche, Simcoe Mountains and Klickitat Canyon.

A WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE IMAGE SHOWS PART OF THE PROPOSED SIMCOE MOUNTAIN PROJECT, FUNDING FOR WHICH WAS LEFT OUT OF A STATE HOUSE CAPITAL BUDGET PROPOSAL DESPITE IT BEING HIGHLY RANKED. (RCO)

All would benefit hunters and the deer, elk and upland game birds we chase, as well as other fish and wildlife and recreationalists.

The projects are all included in the state Senate’s version, so the best hope for sportsmen is that during budget reconciliation talks between the chambers, the House comes around.

Danica Johnson with Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition said the House Capital budget “unfairly targeted” the six as well as and nine other water access, riparian, natural area and park acquisitions, even though “(m)any of these were top-ranked projects that should have received funding under the allocation formula.”

The development follows a bipartisan update of WWRP’s formulas last year meant in part to address concerns over large-scale land buys in Eastern Washington.

Projects are ranked by the state Recreation and Conservation Office under objective criteria and assigned one of several categories, including critical habitat, riparian, natural area, local parks, state parks and others.

Theoretically, lawmakers are supposed to go with the highest-scoring projects, and on the Senate side, they did.

But under critical habitat, the final purchase of 7,250 acres padding WDFW’s Big Bend Wildlife Area — the former Grand Coulee Ranch it has been buying in recent years — 6,700 acres in the Simcoes, 3,200 acres in both the Klickitat Canyon and Cowiche Watershed and 1,600 acres along the South Fork of Manastash Creek were left out of the House budget.

So was a 37-acre riparian buy in the floodplain of the Wenatchee River, potentially putting it at risk of being developed into a subdivision.

Funding for Capital Budget acquisitions comes through the sale of state bonds, not from the General Fund or license dollars. Often they’re matched with private or federal funds to complete deals.

One notable project that was left out of both chambers’ proposals was purchase of land for a boat launch on the middle Wynoochee, the 7400 Line access. Its ranking is apparently very low, though you and I would disagree.

And in Wednesday’s Kitsap Sun, Dave Shorett reports that the long-suffering bid to build a ramp on WDFW land on Lake Tahuyah still can’t “make the cut” for development funding, despite potential high value for Bremerton-area anglers.

As you might imagine, politics were involved in cutting the Central Washington projects. Recent years have seen a lot of pushback in the 509 about state land buys, so it’s not a coincidence that these six particular acquisition projects were sidelined.

That’s unfortunate, because this fantastic part of the Evergreen State represents some of the best land left for wildlife and wildland-based recreation in the state.

This past harsh winter highlights the need for winter range. The tough salmon seasons Pugetropolis was just handed are, in part, a result of compromised habitat reducing productivity and thus constraining opportunity. And the loss of more and more land across Washington to trespass fees highlights the critical and growing need we all have for access.

I hope that the House and Senate come together to fund these six projects, as well as follow the guidelines for allocating state funds, as was agreed to last year.

AW
NWS