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State buys ranch for sharp-tail grouse habitat

— The state Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved the final phase of a 20,000-acre land acquisition to conserve critical wildlife habitat and support public recreation in Douglas County seven miles downstream from Grand Coulee Dam.

The commission approved the land purchase during its Feb. 8-10 meeting in Olympia.

Cynthia Wilkerson, Department of Fish and Wildlife lands division manager, said purchase of the 7,217-acre Grand Coulee Ranch LLC property completes the third and final phase of the larger acquisition by the department to protect sharp-tailed grouse and secure quality recreation access through the Mid-Columbia/Grand Coulee project.

Comprised mostly of native shrub steppe, the property provides critical habitat for the once-common inland bird now listed by the state as a threatened species, the department said.

“This property has special importance, because it connects sharp-tailed grouse populations in Douglas County with those in Okanogan and Lincoln counties,” Wilkerson said. “Securing this habitat could make a real difference in the effort to recover this species.”

Wilkerson said the acquisition will provide public access to hunting and fishing. Anglers will gain access to four more miles of Columbia River frontage. Plans also call for opening thousands of acres to hunting for mule deer, upland birds and waterfowl.

Julie Sandberg, real estate services manager, said the department will pay the appraised value of $3.1 million for the Grand Coulee parcel. Financing comes through grants from the state Recreation and Conservation Office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Once the purchase is finalized, the department plans to combine the entire 20,000-acre acquisition to form the Big Bend Wildlife Area. It would be the 33rd wildlife area owned and managed by the department.


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