Big Sheep Creek is an appropriate name for this Columbia River tributary in remote northeast Washington. After flowing out of the Monashee Mountains on the Canadian border, the creek winds through an area known as “the Wedge,” a prime movement corridor for large mammals traveling between the United States and Canada. Caribou, moose, grizzly, Canada lynx, Rocky Mountain elk, wolverine and the creek’s namesake bighorn sheep all inhabit in the area. And they depend on Big Sheep Creek for the excellent habitat it provides.
In an effort to conserve a key stretch of Big Sheep Creek, as well as extensive wetlands and riparian areas around the stream, Western Rivers Conservancy is working to purchase 2,400 acres along and around this unique Washington creek. In early spring, we signed an agreement to purchase 1,200 acres and we are now negotiating on the remaining 1,200 acres. The combined 2,400-acre parcel is known as the Bennett Meadows Tract and lies adjacent to Coleville National Forest.
By acquiring these lands, we will also conserve habitat for rare redband rainbow trout, which inhabit Big Sheep Creek. The stream and its surrounding wetlands also support mountain lion, fox, pygmy shrew, Townsend’s big-eared bat, beaver and pine marten, as well as abundant bird species.
In addition to conserving fish and wildlife habitat, the project will place an important stretch of the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail into public hands. Inaugurated in 2009, this 1,200-mile national scenic trail runs from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean, bisecting the southern sector of the property en route. By purchasing these lands, we will place a unique stretch of the trail into public hands and help ensure this recreational treasure remains accessible for all.
Photo: Big Sheep Creek, by Dave Jensen.