Last Saturday, October 7th, Washington BHA volunteers joined staff and volunteers from WDFW for some boots on the ground conservation efforts in the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Unit. Situated northeast of Ellensburg and northwest of Vantage, the Whiskey Dick Unit is part of the greater LT Murray-Colockum-Quilomene Wildlife Area Complex. These series of interconnected WDFW wildlife areas are a special part of Washington. The miles of dry ridges and drainages that transition from the low elevation sagebrush-covered banks of the Columbia up to the mixed-conifer foothills of the Wenatchee Mountains provide crucial habitat for mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and sensitive sagebrush-steppe flora and fauna.
But landscapes only function as wildlife habitat when animals have access and freedom of movement. Unfortunately, habitat connectivity in these wildlife areas suffers from the presence of miles of legacy livestock fencing that was erected prior to WDFW acquisition and management. While there are still active grazing allotments in parts of the wildlife areas, this legacy fencing no longer serves any function in current grazing management plans. Instead, it acts as a barrier to the free movement of wildlife and is associated with entanglement and mortality.
It was rewarding to lend a hand to our land managers at WDFW in removing old fence. BHA volunteers worked side by side with WDFW volunteers to free barbed wire strands from T-posts, so that the miles of strands will pull easily when Wildlife Area Technicians return later with a mechanical spool. Saturday’s work of pulling fencing off posts tied in to old fencelines that had been previously worked by BHA volunteers in July of this year. Accounting for topography, Wildlife Area Technicians estimate that last Saturday’s work brings the total up to an estimated 8 miles of fence pulled by BHA volunteers and their partners in the Whiskey Dick.
Washington BHA strives to leave the places we cherish better than we found them. When we set out amongst the landscapes that give us inspiration, solace, and sustenance, we look not just for opportunities to take, but also to give. Washington BHA also loves opportunities to bring down metaphorical fences. We love opportunities to build common cause with those who may not hunt or fish, but who also value the land, waters, and wildlife we hold so dear.
Thanks to all who came out and weren’t afraid to get scratched and sweaty! Stay tuned for more stewardship volunteer opportunities in 2024!