RMEF, Partners Protect and Open 4,010 Acres of Washington Elk Country to Public Access
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation 05.15.14
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation teamed up with a coalition of conservation partners including Chelan County and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to acquire 4,010 acres of forestland overlooking Wenatchee Valley.
“This transaction was seven years in the making and involved a great deal of cooperation,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “The lands acquired from Weyerhaeuser are now permanently protected and transferred to public management thanks to support from the Stemilt Partnership, a group of 25 conservation-minded partners.”
Chelan County and WDFW reached an agreement to manage the land for public use. The county’s 3,370 acres will be managed as a community forest with a focus on forest health and public recreation while the other 640 acres of WDFW ownership are now part of the Colockum Wildlife Management Area.
The high elevation mixed-conifer forests of the project area host a wide variety of wildlife, but are especially important to migrating elk and mule deer and as a calving area for elk.
”This project will not only benefit wildlife, but also protects watersheds for agriculture, and provides recreational opportunities for a multitude of user groups,” said Jim Brown, WDFW regional director for north-central Washington. “These lands were previously targeted for development and the public clearly indicated they had conservation values they wanted protected.”
Due to its high elevation and the 150-plus inches of snowfall it receives every year, runoff feeds several streams and fills more than a dozen irrigation reservoirs below that provide water to more than 5,000 acres of irrigated agricultural lands, primarily orchards. The total economic impact of the orchards is estimated at more than $50 million.
“By bringing this area into public ownership, we’ll be able to protect the local economy, have a long-term county forest asset and work to lower the danger of catastrophic wildfire through modern forest management.” said Ron Walter, Chelan County commissioner.
The lands provide year-around public recreation such as hunting, fishing, horseback riding, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and hiking.