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2007: Year of Quiet Success

Conservation Northwest campaigns moved forward for connecting wildlife and wild areas in the Washington Coast to BC Rockies region: for wolves, mountain caribou, and the Columbia Highlands of northeast Washington.

If 2006 was the year of the wolverine, then 2007 was the year of the wolf, at least here in Washington. It was decisively the year of the caribou in British Columbia.

Howling wolf. Photo: Florian Schulz
Howling wolf. Photo: Florian Schulz

This summer, wolves were documented for the first time in decades in the Evergreen State. Photographs of what several experts believe to be a wild wolf were taken where scientists had long suspected to see them: the Columbia Highlands of northeastern Washington.

Solid photo evidence of the return of wolfves to our state is not just a bright spot for reversing the trend of extinction in the West. It poses a new challenge integral to Conservation Northwest’s mission: Now that wolves are here, will they be able to successfully move across the Columbia Highlands and repopulate their habitat in the Cascades?

Your support of Conservation Northwest's work gives wildlife the best possible chance, keeping the old-growth forests and other wild areas of the BC Rockies connected to the Washington Coast.

Gains for habitat

This year, we made several advancements towards our mission, most notably the tremendous gains we made for mountain caribou and their old-growth habitat. The plan laid out for caribou helps keep a network of old-growth forest reserves stitched together across the Columbia Mountains in British Columbia, which in turn helps sustain wildlife populations in adjacent ecosystems (including the Columbia Highlands and the North Cascades).

Ray Kresek receives award
Ray Kresek receives award

Moving further south on the Rockies to Coast landscape, our work in the Columbia Highlands through the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition also took a big leap forward. This spring, the coalition announced that they have identified an agreement in principle for managing the Colville National Forest.

The coalition’s “blueprint” puts into practice the principles that the collaborative coalition has spent years developing, such as the importance of maintaining wild, unroaded habitat on the landscape, protecting and restoring big old trees, and maintaining a local infrastructure to process logs generated from restoration and thinning projects that help reduce the threat of unnaturally large wildfires.

Our collaborative work continues to get results elsewhere, including the Gifford Pinchot and Olympic National Forests and most recently the Wenatchee-Okanogan National Forest.

Collaborative work

More and more public agencies are recognizing that working together is a much better way of doing business. We were encouraged when the Department of Natural Resources convened a working group of diverse interests to forge amanagement plan for Blanchard Mountain in the Chuckanut Range near the Washington Coast. With a lot of hard work and a few sacrifices, the group came up with a plan that protects most of the roadless heart of the mountain from logging while developing a strategy to ensure that adjacent private timberlands remain as forestland, not transform to future subdivisions.

In fact, this year we found ourselves addressing threats to private lands from rapid development more than ever before. Some of the greatest threats from development in the Coast to Rockies landscape are in the Okanogan Valley, a vital habitat bridge for wildlife between the Cascade and Rocky Mountain ecosystems. This year, our executive director Mitch Friedman has been matching conservation buyers with willing sellers and helping ranchers add conservation easements to keep their large ranches intact and prevent them from being subdivided.  In just a few months, he has been able to secure 6,500 acres of land using these market-based approaches.

More on wildlife

Grizzly bear, grazing. Photo: John Hechtel
Grizzly bear, grazing. Photo: John Hechtel

Meanwhile, our wildlife and habitat program is continuing to produce results. In addition to wolf accomplishments, grizzly recovery efforts went bounding forward this year. The state legislature allocated funding to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to assist with recovery efforts, and letters of support have been pouring in from both sides of the Cascades. In one letter for grizzlies, 31 signatories included major business leaders, recreation groups, and scientists. We also received good news about lynx—the US Fish and Wildlife Service will reexamine their decision to disregard most of the cat’s critical habitat, in light of revelations that a top agency official, Julie MacDonald, meddled with scientific findings.

And it wasn’t just the charismatic megafauna that did well. Creatures both great and small saw gains in their recovery efforts. This fall, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, cooperating with Conservation Northwest, finalized a process for reintroducing fisher to the Olympic Peninsula in early 2008.

And the western grey squirrel’s rare oak-woodland prairie habitat on the Fort Lewis Military Base is still intact—one of only three places left in Washington State where the animal is still found—thanks to the many years of work by the Cross-Base Coalition (including Conservation Northwest) as well as voters who at the polls this fall rejected funding for a roads package that included the highway.

Snow Peak. Photo: Jasmine Minbashian
Snow Peak. Photo: Jasmine Minbashian

In all our work, you’ll see us working with a broader cross-section of our state’s interests to implement conservation solutions that work for everyone. And we hope that at this time next year, we can report to you that wolves have come home to the Cascades.

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