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The Columbia Highlands Campaign

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The Columbia Highlands of northeastern Washington: where it is, why it's worth protecting.

Bald Snow by Eric Zamora
Bald Snow by Eric Zamora

Connecting the Cascades to the Rockies

Between the Cascades and Rocky Mountains, northeast Washington’s Columbia Highlands is a rare Northwest landscape where the mystique of the American West lives on. Wildlands teem with abundant and diverse wildlife and locally owned timber mills provide family-wage jobs and wood products. Historic valley-bottom ranches maintain habitat and open space.

Learn more about a capital campaign to protect key ranches and recover wildlife.

This mix of wildlands, ranches, and working forests has preserved a network of wildlife habitat, keeping the Cascades and the Rockies biologically connected for wide-ranging species like wolverine, wolves, lynx, bears, and other wildlife as they move between blocks of habitat.

The Columbia Highlands ranges from  the subalpine peaks and pine forests of proposed wilderness along the Kettle Crest, Abercrombie Mountain, and the Salmo-Priest to adjacent low-elevation forest and ranch lands.

The Columbia Highlands include diverse habitat sustaining rich wildlife, from imperiled wolverine, grizzly bears and caribou to populations of elk, moose, whitetail and mule deer, bighorn sheep, and dozens of species of migratory birds and other native species.

Selkirks mountain caribou
Selkirks mountain caribou

As climate changes and additional habitat is lost to development, maintaining connected paths between habitats in the Columbia Highlands becomes even more essential.

Columbia Highlands Initiative

Protecting wilderness, restoring forests, and connecting habitats for the future

Today, the Colville National Forest sustains local timber jobs and mills, recreation opportunities, and a diversity of wildlife found nowhere else in the state. Yet the rural, primitive character and wildness of the Columbia Highlands won’t stay that way forever without planning for the future. Ecological and economic changes threaten to disrupt the wildlife habitat and way of life. Our Columbia Highlands Campaign is an innovative effort that seeks to work with local communities to move forward cooperative conservation solutions, balancing the needs of people, the economy and wildlife.

In 2010 Conservation Northwest put forward our Columbia Highlands Initiative legislative proposal intended to engage local stakeholders and elected officials to work together and come up with a balanced plan that included restoring forests and creating jobs, protecting working ranches and wildlife habitat, and designating new wilderness, recreation and conservation areas. We continue to rally public support for forest plan wilderness recommendations for the Kettle Crest and other wild areas and look for opportunities to engage local elected officials and stakeholders to find common ground around wilderness and other forest management issues.

Working with local communities to restore forests

The Columbia Highlands Campaign also seeks to continue working with timber industry, Forest Service, and other collaborative partners to advance cutting-edge, science-based forest restoration on the Colville National Forest that benefits forest health, wildlife, and local communities. The Campaign also includes a major capital fundraising effort to secure conservation easements for several working ranchlands that provide habitat and safe passage for wildlife.

Since 2002 we've worked in a unique partnership with timber industry leaders, private landowners, small business owners, public agencies, conservation and recreation groups, and community leaders to conserve thousands of acres of wildlife habitat in the Columbia Highlands on both public and private lands. Conservation Northwest's Columbia Highlands Initiative is putting that balanced plan to action, to protect wilderness and working forests in the region.

Explore the Columbia Highlands with us!

We invite you to explore these pages. See "In the Section" on the left, or click the links below to learn more about this unique and multifaceted effort. We also call upon Congress to do its part by designating wilderness and improving forest management on federal land and providing funds to keep intact large working ranches that are rich in habitat. Together, we can protect a vital and often overlooked wildlife heritage in our state.

Get involved!

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