State forest land protected for wildlife

ELLENSBURG — More than 10,000 acres of Cascade Range forest has been protected for wildlife habitat and public access with transfer of the land from Plum Creek Timber Co. to the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Heart of the Cascades project east of Ellensburg was completed in phases over four years, with the final phase closing Dec. 15.

The Nature Conservancy and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have also been involved.

The land is now part of the wildlife department’s 47,200-acre Oak Creek Wildlife Management Area.

Wildlife Regional Director Jeff Tayer in Yakima says the project was a priority because it provides critical habitat both for protected species and game animals.

Ranging from 2,500 to 6,000 feet in elevation, the land includes alpine areas home to elk and blue grouse, shrub-steppe habitat and basalt cliffs for golden eagles, peregrine falcon, mule deer and bighorn sheep, and streams used by steelhead, bull trout, and Chinook and coho salmon.

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