MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation teamed up with the Cowiche Canyon Conservancy (CCC) and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to permanently protect and secure access to 2,893 acres of elk habitat in south-central Washington.
“This is an important step toward conserving crucial habitat in a key elk migration corridor between higher elevation summer range and winter range on Cowiche Mountain,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “This also thwarts significant development pressure taking place on nearby lands from occurring on this key corridor.”
Located about 15 miles northwest of Yakima on the east slope of the Cascade Mountains, as many as 2,800 elk migrate across the property that is also home to mule deer, bighorn sheep and other species of wildlife. The project also encompasses the North Fork Cowiche Creek headwaters where WDFW plans to re-introduce steelhead.
“Conservation of key fish and wildlife habitat and securing public access are top priorities for the Department and working with our partners is essential to achieving those goals,” said Mike Livingston, WDFW south central regional director.
"It's not often you get to protect nearly 3,000 acres of habitat and also protect a sustainable historic grazing operation that produces locally sourced grass fed beef," said Betsy Bloomfield, CCC executive director. "The combination of habitat and recreation protection with a cultural legacy makes this a wonderful project, secured by the collaboration among great partners."
For a century, the landscape has been shared between the elk moving across it in the spring and fall, and during the summer by cattle belonging to the homesteading Rightmire and Decoto families, who later combined to form the Tieton Cattle Association.
“We need to recognize and thank the Tieton Cattle Association which kept the native grasses and forbs in great condition while grazing their cattle on this same land during the summer,” added Henning.
Since 1985, RMEF and its partners completed 521 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Washington that positively affected more than 427,000 acres with a combined value of more than $110.6 million.