Federal funds to protect murrelet, owl habitat - Old-growth forests will be purchased in the Olympics, but the Stavis Creek property in Kitsap County must wait
July 15, 2003
More than 1,000 acres of prime old-growth forest on the Olympic Peninsula -- home to threatened spotted owls and marbled murrelets -- will gain protection under a federal grant announced Monday.
The Olympic Peninsula forestland will be purchased from private landowners and transferred to the Washington Department of Natural Resources. The land acquisitions are part of DNR's habitat conservation strategy for protecting wildlife in Western Washington.
Under the new funding, nearly 1,000 acres south and east of Lake Ozette near the Washington coast will be purchased from Rayonier, Inc.
"These are very high-quality stands of old-growth," Brad Pruitt of the DNR said of property called the Butterfly Parcels. "They've never been harvested. Another reason they scored so high is that they are occupied (by old-growth species)."
Northern spotted owls and marbled murrelets, both threatened species, are among a variety of wildlife to be dependent on the unique structure of old-growth forests.
A second area approved for land acquisition lies along the Hoh River in the Olympic Rain Forest. The total area contains more than 2,000 acres, but only about one-third of the requested funding was provided.
That area, called Hoh River Conservation Corridor, contains both old-growth and younger stands of trees. It will become more suitable for old-growth species as time goes on, Pruitt said.
About 348 acres in the Stavis Creek watershed of Kitsap County was proposed for purchase, but didn't make the cut. The DNR can renew its grant request for the next round of funding, Pruitt said.
The Stavis Creek property would complement Kitsap Forest, a "natural area preserve" managed by the DNR for its high-quality habitat.
The size of the $10 million grant proves that the federal government is confident in Washington state's effort to save endangered species, said DNR spokesman Todd Meyers.
The state's plan coordinates with the federal Northwest Forest Plan as well as voluntary plans on private forests, Meyers said.
Once approved by the federal government, habitat conservation plans allow a landowner to damage wildlife habitat, provided that the overall conservation goals of the plan are met.
In announcing the grants Monday, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said: "Today's grant awards recognize the important work that states and their partners are doing to conserve and recover threatened and endangered species."
Other land acquisitions in Washington included $1.5 million for land along the Cedar River in King County, $1.8 million for land along the Yakima River in Kittitas County and $1.5 million for Ebey's Landing on Whidbey Island, one of the last remaining habitats of the golden paintbrush plant.
Other funds were provided for developing habitat conservation plans,
including $1.1 million to help gain federal approval for Washington's
Forest and Fish Law, $121,000 to begin planning for the state's 2.4
million acres of aquatic lands, and $70,000 to complete water-conservation
planning by the irrigation district along the Dungeness River in Jefferson
and Clallam counties.
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