Department of Fish and Wildlife reaches agreement to purchase, protect land near Yakima

Department of Fish and Wildlife reaches agreement to purchase, protect land near Yakima

The expanded Cowiche Unit will protect more than seven miles of Cowiche Creek, an important spawning and rearing habitat for bull trout, coho, and chinook salmon.

Photo courtesy of WDFW

YAKIMA — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recently finalized an agreement to purchase 4,486 acres of land near Yakima.

WDFW, partnered with Forterra and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, will manage the land in addition to the Cowiche Unit of the Oak Creek Wildlife Area. The department aims to preserve the land, which serves as a vital migration corridor for a number of species including mule deer, elk, bats, and more than 70 butterfly species.

The property also boasts an array of recreational opportunities like hunting, fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing.

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RMEF has been in negotiations with the landowner, the Van Wyk family, since the early 2000s.

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"This is the latest example of RMEF's work with partners to protect a key elk migration route where butterflies are also known to migrate," said Jennifer Doherty, RMEF's director of lands. "While this project was an important step toward protecting this landscape for wildlife and recreationists, we need to recognize and thank Van Wyk family members for their vision to protect this land."

Forterra, a nonprofit organization dedicated to land conservation, met the cost obligations to make the final transaction possible. For the first time on lands overseen by WDFW, the organization will hold a stewardship easement on the property, allowing it to work closely with WDFW to conduct maintenance and restoration work.

A fundraising effort is underway to help Forterra cover costs for the stewardship.

"In the face of climate change, species like the elk and butterfly found here will rely more and more on un-fragmented ecosystems like this one," said Michelle Connor, president and CEO of Forterra. "We're thrilled to help secure this special place, and we look forward to working with the state to protect it for generations to come."

WDFW used a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service habitat grant and funds from a Pacific Power mitigation agreement to cover its portion of the purchase.

WDFW is a state agency that is in charge of preserving and protecting fish, wildlife and ecosystems, as well as providing sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities. It manages approximately 1 million acres of land each year.