This month, Western Rivers Conservancy completed its second land acquisition on Washington’s Big Sheep Creek, placing 1,440 more acres surrounding this critical stream on the path toward conservation. Now that we own all 2,440 acres of the Bennett Meadows Tract, we can focus on transferring this incredible assemblage of riverland, meadowland, wetlands and conifer forest into the long-term care of a conservation steward.
Initially, our conservation efforts at Big Sheep Creek were primarily about fish. Endangered bull trout and the increasingly rare redside rainbow trout both inhabit the stream, which flows cold and clear from Washington’s Monashee Mountains on the Canadian border. The more we learned about the stream and the landscape around it, however, the more we realized just how important this small river is.
Big Sheep Creek flows through the heart of the so-called “Wedge,” one of the most important travel corridors for large mammals and rare carnivores moving north and south between British Columbia and the United States. Grizzly bear, Canada lynx, wolverine, moose, Rocky Mountain elk, mountain goat and the creek’s namesake bighorn sheep all inhabit the valley. And they all depend on Big Sheep Creek for survival.
Our work at Big Sheep Creek will conserve over four miles of high-quality wetland and riparian habitat within the Big Sheep Creek drainage. It will improve habitat connectivity for imperiled Canada lynx and conserve prime habitat for over half the grizzly population in Washington.
In addition to its importance for fish and wildlife, the land also includes a stretch of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, which runs through the southern sector of the property. This second acquisition will place a unique section of the trail into public hands, improve wildlife viewing opportunities and help ensure this recreational treasure remains intact and open to the public forever.
Photo: Big Sheep Creek, Dave Jensen.
Essential support for the Big Sheep Creek project has been provided by The Vital Ground Foundation, Conservation Northwest, Horizons Foundation, Charlotte Martin Foundation and Totem Ocean, Inc.