State agency buys 4,486 acres in Yakima County

Roger Harnack

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed today that it has purchased 4,486 acres of land adjacent to the Cowiche Unit of Oak Creek Wildlife Area.
Agency officials said the land is "key habitat" and a migration corridor for mule deer, elk, birds, bats and more than 70 butterfly species. The land is also adjacent to Cowiche Creek, spawning habitat for bull trout and Coho and Chinook salmon.
Officials said the purchase will allow for hunting, fishing, hiking and wildlife-viewing opportunities.
"This property is an important link to surrounding state, federal, and private conservation lands," agency South-Central Regional Director Mike Livingston said in a press release issued by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a partner in the purchase. "With the help of our partners RMEF and Forterra, we’re able to permanently protect the area where up to 2,000 Rocky Mountain elk migrate between their summer and winter ranges, and where elk calves are born each year."
Forterra is a Seattle-based environmental group. Its leadership includes Nicole Marcotte and attorney Andrea Ostrovsky, both of Green Seattle Partnership; Ruth True of NuBe Green, energy conservation author Gigi Coe, environmental attorney Linda Larson, and environmental activist and CEO Michelle Connor, among others.
Forterra will hold a stewardship easement on the land.
"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," Connor said. "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."
The land purchase included funds from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant and money from a Pacific Power mitigation agreement.
State officials did not return calls seeking comment on the actual cost of the purchase or the breakdown in funding sources.