Elk NetworkDigital Open House to Highlight Public Lands in Washington

General | September 22, 2020

Below is a news release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The discussion will center on public lands including a RMEF project that closed in August of 2019 that permanently protected and opened access to 4,486 acres of land near Yakima in the foothills of the eastern Cascade Mountains.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) director Kelly Susewind and South-Central Regional Director Mike Livingston are hosting an online meeting to discuss the vital role of public lands for people and wildlife in Yakima, Kittitas, Franklin, and Benton counties from 7 to 8 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020.

The duo will be joined by representatives from two non-profits: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Senior Lands Manager Bill Richardson and Director of Lands Jennifer Doherty, plus Forterra’s Lands Manager Collette MacLean and President & CEO Michelle Connor.

Leadership from all three organizations will share recent relevant updates and take questions from the public.

While the partner matchup may seem new to some — Forterra is a non-profit more widely known for their work in the Puget Sound Region — one of the topics they’ll discuss is a recent effort to secure land along the South Fork Cowiche Creek in Yakima County. That effort protects an area where up to 2,000 Rocky Mountain Elk migrate.

“Our south-central region is a popular area for hunting, hiking and fishing, and it has unique conservation opportunities,” Susewind said. “This region has also been hit by recent wildfires, so we think it’s timely to have a discussion about how we can achieve greater resilience, while connecting people to the value that lands bring to our quality of life.”

“The land we are working for is more than a stunning stretch of stream, steppe, and forest,” said Michelle Connor, President and CEO of Forterra. “It’s a puzzle piece that connects critical habitat. In the face of climate change, species like the elk and butterfly found here will rely more and more on un-fragmented ecosystems like this one. It’s important for us to work together on behalf of this place, for generations to come.”

“We protect elk by working with partners like WDFW and Forterra to ensure migration routes for the herds and a whole range of species,” said Richardson. “The South Fork Cowiche Creek project is built on a solid history of working with WDFW and partners to secure quality public access along the East Slope of the Cascades and is a major step toward protecting this landscape for wildlife and recreationists.”

Members of the public can participate in the discussion and ask questions from links on the department’s website at wdfw.wa.gov or https://zoom.us/j/92362051075.

Susewind and regional directors held a series of in-person and digital open houses across the state over the last two years. These online open houses have allowed the public to ask questions and get updates on local department activities from the convenience of their own homes.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting, and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing, hunting, and other recreation opportunities.

(Photo source: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)