Easement Support for Sage Grouse Habitat Protection
This project will support Chelan Douglas Land Trust staff time and costs of transactions involved in purchasing three agricultural land easements to protect 10,000 acres of sage grouse habitat on Badger Mountain in Douglas County, Washington. This area of Douglas County lies within a Priority Conservation Area for the sage grouse and has experienced recent solar development interest. While all the partners associated with this proposal recognize the importance of renewable energy development, the location of a proposed solar development (Badger Mountain Solar Project- BMSP) and the implications for its approval relative to other areas of Badger Mountain are of great concern to the conservation of Washington’s sage grouse population.
Due to the conversion of natural habitat to human development, sage grouse occupy only 8% of their historic range in Washington. This was prior to the catastrophic fires in recent years that significantly impacted a large percentage of previously occupied sage-grouse habitat in Douglas County to the east of the Badger Mountain Plateau. As a result, any remaining habitat (largely the Badger Mountain Plateau) is vital to sustaining and recovering this State Endangered bird, particularly because Douglas County contains the last stronghold of sage grouse in the state. This area is home to the largest lek in Washington, more than twice the size of the average lek in the state. Any loss of habitat in such proximity to the largest lek in the state and within critical sage-grouse habitat and movement corridors will negatively impact sage-grouse use on the Badger Mountain Plateau. Loss and fragmentation of sage-grouse habitat is not consistent with sage-grouse population stabilization and population recovery.
Perpetual protection of 10,000 acres on the Badger Mountain Plateau represents a tremendous conservation gain and development risk reduction for Washington sage grouse. These 10,000 acres would not only protect habitat into perpetuity they would also act as connecting acres among other easements already established and Bureau of Land Management lands and Washington Department of Natural Resource lands in an area with willing landowners eager to protect sage grouse habitat and prevent development.
The Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Chelan Douglas Land Trust