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600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

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October 30, 2017
Contact: Commission Office, 360-902-2267

Commission adds 1,300 acres
of wildlife land east of Cascades

OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the purchase of approximately 1,300 acres of land to protect wildlife habitat and support outdoor recreation east of the Cascade crest at a public meeting here Oct. 27-28.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), also took action on issues ranging from a land transfer at Wells Hatchery to new rules for commercially caught seafood.

The Simcoe Mountains property, the largest of two land acquisitions approved at the meeting, includes 1,150 acres off Highway 97 near Goldendale in Klickitat County. Reaching an elevation of 3,500 feet, the property includes stands of Oregon white oak and ponderosa pine, and supports a variety of species including mule deer, burrowing owls, and threatened western gray squirrels.

WDFW will pay Western Pacific Timber, LLC the assessed market value of $851,000 for the property, which is part of a multi-phased plan to acquire 18,745 acres from the company in the Simcoe Mountains area.

"This addition to the Klickitat Wildlife Area will permanently protect prime wildlife habitat and provide public access to hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities for the people of our state," said Cynthia Wilkerson, WDFW land manager.

Wilkerson said the department is also working with area conservation districts to ensure that the land will continue to include compatible timber and grazing activities that benefit the local community.

Farther north, the commission also approved the purchase of 142 acres in Kittitas County as part of the "Heart of the Cascades" project, a partnership formed in 2007 by WDFW and the Nature Conservancy to restore timberlands in central Washington for wildlife and outdoor recreation.

The department will pay the private owner $142,000 for the wooded parcel, which is part of a migration corridor for elk and includes a forest road that provides public access to thousands of acres previously acquired through the partnership.

In other action, the commission authorized WDFW to:

  • Transfer two acres of land, including three employee housing units, at Wells Fish Hatchery to Douglas County PUD in transitioning to a new management structure at the facility. 
  • Align WDFW rules for buying and selling seafood with new state legislation scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2018.
  • Move forward on a forest restoration plan at the Scatter Creek Wildlife Area in Thurston County, where a wildfire burned across 345 acres in August.

In addition, commissioners received an update on state and tribal efforts to control the spread of invasive northern pike into the upper Columbia Basin. They also received a briefing on the results of a two-year study by the Wild Fish Conservancy (WFC) on the operation of an experimental fish trap in the lower Columbia near Cathlamet.

Banned in Washington state since 1934, fish traps can play an important role in future fisheries, said Adrian Tuohy, a WFC biologist involved in the study. Preliminary results presented to the commission showed that the experimental trap was highly effective in catching fall-run salmon and steelhead and releasing them unharmed.

Commissioners expressed a high degree of interest in the study, but agreed that additional feasibility studies – and policy deliberations – would be needed before they could consider supporting the return of fish traps to Washington waters.

"There's a lot to think about," said Commission Chair Brad Smith.

Minutes and audio recordings of the meeting will be available on WDFW's website at