The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), approved the acquisition during its meeting in Spokane on Sept. 18-19.
The acquisition is the second phase of a multi-year plan to secure the 20,571-acre Grand Coulee Ranch. In last year’s first phase, WDFW acquired about 4,200 acres of the ranch property. The phase two purchase includes 14 miles of river frontage and critical habitat for the state endangered Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit and state threatened greater sage-grouse and Columbian sharp-tailed grouse, and other wildlife.
Located on the south side of Rufus Woods Reservoir on the Columbia River, WDFW secured an option to purchase the 9,123-acre property for an assessed value of $3.9 million with grants from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the federal Dingell-Johnson Act (funds from excise taxes on fishing equipment).
WDFW received support for the acquisition from the Douglas County Commission. Once the sale is finalized, the land will be managed as WDFW’s new Big Bend Wildlife Area.
The commission also took comment on proposed amendments to state wildlife interaction rules addressing predation on livestock, crop damage and other sources of conflict between humans and wildlife. The proposed amendments have been under a public review process since June 2014 and are scheduled for commission adoption at their Nov. 13-14 meeting in Olympia. For details on the amendments, visit WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/regulations/2015/wsr_15-16-134.pdf.
The commission was also briefed on proposed changes to sportfishing rules in the freshwater areas of Puget Sound and the coast. Detailed information on those proposals, and an online comment form, are available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/rule_proposals/. Comments will be accepted through Nov. 4 and the commission will take comment at their Nov. 13-14 meeting in Olympia. Commission rule adoption is scheduled for their Dec. 11-12 meeting in Port Townsend.