February 3, 2016
Crucial Wildlife, Riparian Habitat Conserved in Washington
MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation successfully collaborated with Merrill Lake Properties LLC and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to permanently protect and open access to 297 acres of riparian habitat in southwest Washington.
The property sits at the foot of Mount St. Helens and includes Merrill Lake’s northern shoreline. RMEF and partners placed the acreage in the public’s hands with WDFW carrying out its management.
“We are grateful to a landowner that understands and appreciates the conservation value of this area,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “Merrill Lake Properties LLC could have easily offered up these waterfront properties to the highest bidder on the open market which could have led to development, a lack of access and adverse impacts on the fishery and wildlife.”
Merrill Lake formed when prehistoric lava flows from Mount St. Helens blocked nearby streams. The property provides winter range and year-round habitat for elk, black-tailed deer, black bears, cougars, salmon and steelhead. It also features both old growth tree stands, which survived previous volcanic blasts, as well as early seral forest growth.
“This Merrill Lake acquisition is the start of a purchase plan that provides a major benefit for public access and for protecting habitat for several animal species, including winter range for elk. It would not have been possible without our strong partnership with the RMEF. We plan to keep working together to secure the money to purchase the remainder of the property” said Guy Norman, WDFW Region 5 director.
Funding for the first phase of this project came from a nearly $2 million grant from the Washington Recreation and Conservation Funding Board. Work continues to acquire funding to complete the purchase of the remaining 1,150 acres of the property.